Learning the vi Editor/Vim/Vim on Windows

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Learning the vi Editor: Getting acquaintedBasic tasksMaking your work easierAdvanced tasksDetailsVi clones (VimBasic navigationModesTips and TricksUseful things for programmers to knowEnhancing VimVim on WindowsVimL Script language, Vile, BB vi)vi Reference

Vim is available for Microsoft Windows, but there are many issues attendant to that platform that make effective use of Vim quite challenging. This section deals with some of the issues relevant to users who are using or considering Vim for use on Windows systems.

Installation[edit | edit source]

There are a variety of installation options for users who wish to install Vim on Windows.

These include:

  • Self-installing executable
  • Win32s GUI executable
  • Windows 3.1 GUI executable
  • Win32 console executable
  • Win64 binaries for x64

Moreover, if desired, a user may compile Vim from source. This may be useful or even necessary if the user wants to add support for additional options that are not compiled into one of the pre-existing binaries by default. Perhaps the most common scenario for compiling on Windows is when the user wishes to add support for a programming language (either a specific language, or a specific version of the language) that is not included in the Windows binaries by default.

When installing Vim, the user has to accommodate for any required elements that do not come with Windows by default, such as a compiler and make.

General usage[edit | edit source]

Users who are not well-acquainted with how Vim works, and the general "vi way of doing things", may find Vim especially challenging. This is especially so, if they are already comfortable with the workflow of most other text editors on Windows. Because of this, there's actually more than one way of doing things if you want to use Vim on Windows. One way of using Vim on Windows can be called standard vim workflow (Vim); another way would be the windows vim workflow (WinVim).

Using the "WinVim" style definitely has advantages for those users who are not amenable to the steep learning curve commonly associated with Vim; however, there are many features within Vim that are difficult to use when working from the "WinVim" paradigm. Whether one chooses one usage pattern over the other, or some combination of the two, is largely a matter of personal preference.

WinVim behaviour levels[edit | edit source]

The :behave mswin configuration allows a user to set the editor behavior to reflect some aspects of the "WinVim" working style. This enables a 'scaled-down' version of the WinVim style; users who want a very detailed emulation of WinVim style, will have to do more than just set 'behave mswin'. See :help behave for more details.

Cream editor[edit | edit source]

The Cream editor is an example of a Vim configuration that is designed for users who prefer the "WinVim" style of working.

Compatibility[edit | edit source]

For those who are familiar with UNIX-like operating systems, and leverage such systems to enhance and extend Vim, the Windows operating system may present some unexpected differences and limitations.

Path separators[edit | edit source]

Windows (by default) uses the backslash character to delimit path-steps in file paths. This can be challenging for users who are not used to this. See :help shellslash for more details.

Command piping[edit | edit source]

The Windows command shell does not support command piping and redirection in the same way as UNIX systems. Some users may find this especially challenging, because it significantly limits the way Vim can interact with other programs external to the editor. There are workarounds, however, that allow a user to approximate some of the power that comes natively from piping and redirection.

Temporary text transport file[edit | edit source]

A temporary text transport file is one workaround that allows Vim to interact with other programs on Windows without requiring use of pipes and redirection. The basic approach is to specify one or more temporary files on the local file system that Vim and external programs use to "transport" text between each other.

Fonts and language support[edit | edit source]

In Windows XP, gVim 7.4 (7.4.280) has issues displaying non-Western characters. Even if a character is not visible, gVim retains the characters, and the same text should appear ok in a program that supports more fonts, such as an office package or a web browser.

The displayable font can be changed via Edit menu > Select Font..., where a font can be selected for a particular language. The Font window contains a font list of only monospace fonts, which makes the font selection scarce. An existing non-Western font can be selected, and depending on which script a font supports, the Sample area for a selected script (at Script:) will show a non-Western script sample alongside Western characters. To confirm, whether a certain language script is supported, open the Script: drop-down menu. For example, fonts that support Korean, have Hangul in the Script: drop-down menu.

For most Western scripts, the following table shows a non-exhaustive selection of open-source monospaced fonts visible to gVim that offer the most language support and best legibility. The fonts must be downloaded separately, but can come with a dedicated software package. The Windows-default Lucida is displayed for comparison. (Font size requirements may differ user-by-user.)

Font name License Ver. Came with Scripts supported Notes
DejaVu Sans Mono FOSS: various licenses 2.35 8: Western, Greek, Turkish, Baltic, Central European, Cyrillic, Vietnamese, Arabic Based on Bitstream Vera.
Wikipedia article: DejaVu fonts.
Liberation Mono FOSS: SIL Open Font License 2.00.1 LibreOffice 5.0 8: Western, Hebrew, Greek, Turkish, Baltic, Central European, Cyrillic, Vietnamese Metrically compatible with Courier New. OFL since version 2+.
Wikipedia: Liberation fonts.
Lucida Console non-free 1.60 Windows XP SP3, MS Office 2007 5: Western, Greek, Turkish, Central European, Cyrillic This is the default console font from Windows 2000 on, and the default Notepad font from Windows 2000 till Windows 8.
Ubuntu Mono FOSS: Ubuntu Font License 0.80 6: Western, Greek, Turkish, Central European, Cyrillic Wikipedia: Ubuntu (typeface).

Comparison with CUA-style editors[edit | edit source]

The following table shows a comparison of some basic Vim functionality as viewed from the perspective of CUA-style editors.

This is intended as a starting place for those who may be unfamiliar with Vim, but familiar with Windows-based editors that use a standard "File :: Edit :: Help" style menu, such as Notepad.exe, which is available on most Windows installations by default.

### --------------------
file                           ;;   :h files                                ;;  blank___
file                           ;;   :h buffers                              ;;  blank___
file.exit                      ;;   :qa                                     ;;  close all files and quit
file.explore                   ;;   :Vexplore .                             ;;  (:h :Vexplore)
file.explore                   ;;   vim .                                   ;;  startup on a directory
file.open                      ;;   :e .                                    ;;  open directory
file.open                      ;;   :e /foo                                 ;;  open directory
file.open                      ;;   :e /foo/bar.txt                         ;;  open file
file.open.hyperlink            ;;    <c-w>f	                                ;;  open in a new window (Ctrl-w f)
file.open.hyperlink            ;;   gf                                      ;;  open in same window
file.open.hyperlink            ;;   <c-w>gf                                 ;;  open in a new tab (Ctrl-w gf)
file.reload                    ;;   :edit                                   ;;  reload to last-saved version of the file
file.revert                    ;;   :edit                                   ;;  revert to last-saved version of the file
file.save                      ;;   :w                                      ;;  write the current buffer to file
file.save_all                  ;;   :wa                                     ;;  save all modified buffers
file.save_and_quit             ;;   ZZ                                      ;;  :help ZZ "write the current file and quit

### --------------------
autocorrect                    ;;  :help abbreviations                      ;;  blank___

### --------------------
cursor                         ;;  :help motion.txt                         ;;  cursor motions and selections
cursor.back                    ;;  ''                                       ;;  :help ''
cursor.move                    ;;  arrow keys                               ;;  the CUA way
cursor.move                    ;;  hjkl                                     ;;  the vim way
cursor.top_of_file             ;;  gg                                       ;;  compare to c-home in CUA editors
cursor.top_of_file             ;;  :normal gg                               ;;  blank___

### --------------------
edit                           ;;   blank___                                ;;  blank___
edit.cut                       ;;   blank___                                ;;  blank___
edit.copy                      ;;   blank___                                ;;  blank___
edit.copy_line                 ;;   yy                                      ;;  copy (yank) the entire line
edit.cut.by_pattern            ;;   :g/pattern/y A                          ;;  "./try-basicops-edit.txt.txt"
edit.find                      ;;   /                                       ;;  blank___
edit.find_in_files             ;;   vimgrep                                 ;;  "./try-basicops-find-replace.txt"
edit.find_results              ;;   :g//                                    ;;  href="C:/sm/docs/mydaydirs/2013/week11/vim-cua-learnbit.txt"
edit.paste                     ;;   blank___                                ;;  blank___
edit.select.line               ;;   blank___                                ;;  blank___
edit.select.all                ;;   blank___                                ;;  blank___
edit.select.pargraph           ;;   blank___                                ;;  blank___
edit.preferences               ;;   see preferences                         ;;  blank___
edit.currentfile.prefs         ;;   see preferences                         ;;  blank___

### --------------------
edit.change.uppercase           ;;                                          ;; change text to uppercase

### --------------------
edit.delete_blank_lines        ;; :g/^\s*$/:delete
edit.slash_forward             ;;   :{range}s/\\/\//                        ;;  | echo "slash forward"
edit.slash_back                ;;   :{range}s/\//\\/                        ;;  | echo "slash back"
edit.slash_forward             ;;   :s=\\=/=g                               ;;  | echo "slash forward"
edit.slash_back                ;;   :s=/=\\=g                               ;;  | echo "slash back"
edit.sort.file                 ;;   :sort                                   ;;  :h sort
edit.sort.range                ;;   :{range}sort                            ;;  :h sort   :h range
edit.sort.paragraph            ;;   blank___                                ;;  blank___
edit.sort.unique               ;;   :{range}sort u                          ;;  blank___
edit.ws_trim                   ;;   :%s=\s\+$==                             ;;  trim trailing whitespace

### --------------------
insert                         ;;   :help insert                            ;;  insert is a separate "mode" in vim
insert.autocomplete            ;;   ctrl-x // ctrl-n // ctrl-p              ;;  blank___
insert.date                    ;;   google://vim insert date                ;;  insert current system date. there are multiple ways to do this
insert.date (linux  )          ;;   :r !date                                ;;  blank___
insert.date (windows)          ;;   blank___                                ;;  blank___
insert.directory_list          ;;   :r ! ls -al;                            ;;  blank___

### --------------------
search                         ;;   blank___                                ;;  blank___
search.matching lines          ;;   :g/{pattern}/:print                     ;;  print all lines matching pattern
search.matching lines          ;;   :g/{pattern}/:print                     ;;  print all lines matching pattern

### --------------------
code.syntax_coloring           ;;   :set ft=php                             ;;  blank___

### --------------------
navigate.home                   ;; 1G                                       ;; go to top of file
navigate.home                   ;; gg                                       ;; go to top of file
navigate.home                   ;; 1gg                                      ;; go to top of file
navigate.end                    ;; 9999gg                                   ;; go to end of file (assumes file is shorter than 9999 lines)
navigate.end                    ;; G                                        ;; go to end of file

### --------------------
preferences                    ;;   vim ~/.vimrc                            ;;  easy editing of preferences
preferences.komodo             ;;   compare preferences pane in komodo      ;;  "C:\sm\docs\mydaydirs\2012\week36\editor-preferences-pane-001.png"
preferences.komodo             ;;   current file preferences in komodo      ;;  "C:\sm\docs\mydaydirs\2012\week36\editor-preferences-pane-001.png"
preferences.appearance         ;;   :set showcmd                            ;;  show keystrokes that you have typed in normal mode
preferences.cursor_position    ;;   :set ruler?                             ;;  blank___
preferences.line_num           ;;   :set number // :set nonumber            ;;  blank___
preferences.filetype           ;;   :set ft=php                             ;;  blank___
preferences.setting_change     ;;   :set ft=                                ;;  blank___
preferences.setting_view       ;;   :set ft?                                ;;  blank___
preferences.syntax_coloring    ;;   :set ft=php                             ;;  blank___
preferences.keyboard           ;;   :map                                    ;;  display key mappings

### --------------------
tools.interop                  ;;   :helpgrep away and come back            ;;  blank___
tools.python                   ;;   :echo has("python")                     ;;  blank___
tools.external                 ;;   :! drush cc all;                        ;;  example running drush
tools.external                 ;;   :! git commit -a -m "%:t"               ;;  example running git with interpolated current filename
tools.run                      ;;   :! git commit -a -m "%:t"               ;;  run the current file in another program
tools.run                      ;;   :! git commit -a -m "%:t"               ;;  run the current file as a script
tools.macro                    ;;   :helpgrep big changes                   ;;  "./try-basicops-tools.txt"
tools.repeat_command           ;;   <up>                                    ;;  "./try-basicops-tools.txt"
tools.normal_command           ;;   :normal                                 ;;  blank___

### --------------------
tools.scripting                ;;     :help user-function                   ;;  creating custom functions in vim
tools.scripting                ;;     :help vim-script-intro                ;;  creating custom functions in vim

### --------------------
window                         ;;    :help window                           ;;  "./try-basicops-windows.txt"
window.close_others            ;;    :only                                  ;;  blank___
window.equalize                ;;    ctrl-w =                               ;;  equalize the size of all windows
window.history.navigate        ;;    :pop :tag                              ;;  :h tag
window.history.forward         ;;    :ta[g]                                 ;;  :h ctrl-]
window.history.back            ;;    ctrl-O                                 ;;  :helpgrep tutorial // :help usr_01 //
window.history.back            ;;    :po[p]                                 ;;  blank___
window.rotate                  ;;    ctrl-w ctrl-r                          ;;  :help window-moving
window.rotate                  ;;    ctrl-w r                               ;;  
window.reshuffle               ;;    ctrl-w H                               ;;  two_handed_cmd
window.reshuffle               ;;    ctrl-w J                               ;;  two_handed_cmd
window.reshuffle               ;;    ctrl-w K                               ;;  two_handed_cmd
window.reshuffle               ;;    ctrl-w L                               ;;  two_handed_cmd
window.resize                  ;;    :resize +10                            ;;  height increase current window size
window.resize                  ;;    :resize -10                            ;;  height decrease current window size
window.resize                  ;;    :vertical resize -10                   ;;  width decrease current window size
window.resize                  ;;    :vertical resize +10                   ;;  width increase current window size
window.resize                  ;;    ctrl-w =                               ;;  (aka window.equalize)
window.split                   ;;    :split                                 ;;  blank___
window.split                   ;;    ctrl-w s                               ;;  blank___
window.navigate                ;;    ctrl-w + ctrl-w                        ;;  move cursor cycle thru all windows
window.scrolling               ;;    :set scrollbind                        ;;  dual pane windows scroll together
window.split.vertical          ;;    ctrl-w v                               ;;  blank___
window.split.vertical          ;;    :vsplit                                ;;  blank___
window.split.close             ;;    :close                                 ;;  closes the currently focused split
window.split.close             ;;    ctrl-w q                               ;;  closes the currently focused split
window.navigate                ;;    ctrl-w + arrow keys                    ;;  move cursor around between split windows (mouse_alternative)
window.tabs                    ;;    :h tabs                                ;;  blank___
window.tabprevious             ;;    :tabprevious                           ;;  blank___
window.tabnext                 ;;    :tabnext                               ;;  blank___
window.tabnext                 ;;    gt                                     ;;  blank___
window.tabmove                 ;;    <ctrl-arrow> (windows)                 ;;  requires MyVim_MoveTabPage
window.tabmove                 ;;    :tabmove N                             ;;  :tabmove 0 makes it the first tab // :help :tabm

### --------------------
help                           ;;   :help // :h // :help help               ;;  overview of the help system
help.find                      ;;   :helpgrep /pattern/                     ;;  search for a term in the help system (see also :copen)
help.context_specific          ;;   :helpgrep help-context                  ;;  shows the different contexts for which you can get help
help.autocomplete              ;;   ctrl-d                                  ;;  shows completions for vim help

### --------------------
### [cross-reference: influx_either_kevin_pay]

Learning the vi Editor: Getting acquaintedBasic tasksMaking your work easierAdvanced tasksDetailsVi clones (VimBasic navigationModesTips and TricksUseful things for programmers to knowEnhancing VimVim on WindowsVimL Script language, Vile, BB vi)vi Reference