Getting Down with ...

by ...

Lesson n:

Like GNU nano, Vim is a text editor. It is has many more features than nano and is thus much more powerful, but it is also more challenging to learn.


VIM operates with three different modes:

  1. Command mode: issue vi commands to insert, append, delete, copy, paste, and navigate within the file. Vim begins in command mode when it starts. To get to command mode from insert mode, press the <Esc> (escape) key.
  2. Insert mode: type text into your file. There are numerous ways to switch to insert mode from command mode. Typing any of the following keys: i, I, a, A, o, and O will each move from command mode to insert, each in a different place in the file relative to the cursor.
  3. Last line mode: write the file (save), quit vim, read in an external file into the current one, use the set to change vim's appearance. Last line mode is only accessible from command mode, by typing the : (colon) character.

One of the easiest ways to begin learning to use vim is with the built-in VIM Tutor. This little program copies a large text file to the /tmp directory and opens it in vim. It contains lessons for learning vim which you can edit as you read through the tutorial. You can quit without saving, and get a clean copy of the lesson file the next time you restart the tutorial.


  1. Type the following at the unix command prompt:
      $ vim another_word.txt
    This will create the text file, another_word.txt, in a vim edit session. When vim first launches it is in command mode. To put it into insert mode, type the character i. The type the following word:
    Save the file and exit vim, you first have to get back into command mode. Press the Esc (escape) key to get back into command mode. Then type a colon (:), and the letters w and q. This will write to the file and quit vim. Run the ls command and confirm that you see another_word.txt among the listing.
  2. Type the following at the unix command prompt:
      $ vimtutor

    A file will open that looks like this:

    Vim Tutor

    Complete the first 4 lessons from the tutorial.

  3. Redo each of the exercises from Lesson 3: Editing files with GNU nano using vim.