Getting Started with Vim: A Beginner’s Guide to the Powerful Text Editor

Kacper Bąk
3 min readMar 4, 2023
Photo by Rostyslav Savchyn on Unsplash

Vim is a powerful and popular text editor that has been around for more than 30 years. It is widely used by programmers, system administrators and other professionals who work with text.

Recently, it was brought to my attention while working that I was using the mouse too much, so I started learning this tool to increase my productivity. Starting to work with it was overwhelming for me, but after a few hours I was already able to get around without any problems.

Vim is a modal text editor, which means that it has different modes for different tasks. The two main modes are:

  • Normal mode: This is the default mode in Vim. In this mode, I can use various commands to navigate, edit, and manipulate text.
  • Insert mode: This mode is used to insert text into the document.

To enter insert mode, press the “i” key. To return to normal mode, press the “Esc” key.

Understand Vim Commands Vim commands are used to navigate, edit, and manipulate text. In normal mode, I can use various commands to perform these tasks. Here are some basic Vim commands:

  • Moving the cursor: Use the “h”, “j”, “k”, and “l” keys to move the cursor left, down, up, and right, respectively.
  • Inserting text: Press “i” to enter insert mode and start typing.
  • Deleting text: Press “x” to delete the character under the cursor. Press “dd” to delete the entire line.
  • Saving and quitting: Press “:w” to save the document and “:q” to quit Vim. Press “:wq” to save and quit.

One of the great things about Vim is that you can customize it to suit your needs. I can change the look, add new commands and much more. Here are some basic ways to customize Vim:

  • Configuration files: Vim uses configuration files to store your settings. I can create a .vimrc file in my home directory to store my custom settings.
  • Plugins: Vim has a large ecosystem of plugins that I can use to add new features and functionality. I can install plugins using a plugin manager such as Vundle or Pathogen.
  • Themes: I can change the look of Vim using a different color scheme. I can find many themes on the Vim website or on GitHub.

Practice, practice, practice, the best way to get started with Vim is to practice. The more I use Vim, the more comfortable I become with it. I started learning Vim and it took me about 4 hours to get used to the tool and learn to type at a normal pace without using the mouse. I tried to use Vim for my daily tasks, writing a simple application in Go and editing configuration and test files. I also looked to find tutorials and online exercises to help me improve my skills. In my opinion, it’s also a good idea at the initial stage of using Vim to keep a cheat sheet somewhere around with the most useful combinations to make learning easier.

In summary, Vim is a powerful text editor that can be intimidating for beginners. However, not everyone was born with a keyboard in hand and a terminal instead of a GUI, by slowly practicing you can become proficient in Vim and take advantage of its many features and customizations.

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