Last year, I made the switch from Sublime to Vim as my text editor. Between matching the tools I had in Sublime, and learning the keyboard, navigation, the learning curve was steep; However, I’m moving faster now than I ever have. Below are some general setup tools I used to get going, as well as keyboard shortcuts I have used the most. Disclaimer: I’m still a Vim noob; I’d love any suggestions!

My vim
My Vim configuration in action.

A Good Starting Point

As a longtime Sublime user, I had grown accustomed to some of the amazing tools it provided, such as the file tree, linting, advanced searches, and snippets with tools like Emmet. I needed to at least match these if Vim was to be a viable option for me.

After some research, I found YADR, a vim-centric dotfile repo. It proved to be an amazing starting point for me, giving me much of the above, and further configuration for the command line. I highly recommend trying it out, even if you only use vi on a limited basis. The updates to the Vim keymaps, theme, searching, git integration are just a few. You can find a rundown here.

I forked the repo and made my own tweaks, based on tools I liked. The added bonus is that this gives me a good starting point on any new machine.

A Note on Setup

Vim’s config lives in the ~/.vimrc file. YADR symlinks their own config file from the root of the repo. If you make a change, it’s a good idea to commit it to your YADR repo so you’ll have it for later.

Remapping Keys

Two keys you use often in Vim are Escape and Control. To make things a bit easier on my hands, I remapped them.

First I remapped pressing jj quickly to escape. This way when I need to switch between modes I can do so without removing my hands from the home row on the keyboard. Just add this to your .vimrc:

:inoremap jj <Esc>

Secondly, I remapped my Caps Lock key to Control. To do this on a Mac, go to System Preferences>Keyboard>Modifier Keys
Keyboard Settings

Vim Commands

By no means is this an exhaustive list, but I find these to be the commands I’ve used the most in my first year as a Vim user.


There are more than four modes in Vim, but these are the ones I used mostly.

i insert mode (for typing)
v visual mode (for selecting areas of text)
V visual line mode (for selecting multiple lines of text)
: command line mode (for entering commands, such as saving a file)

General commands

. repeat last event
h left
j down
k up
l right
w go to end of next word
b go to start of previous word
0 go to start of line
$ go to end of line
gg to start of file
G go to end of file

File navigation

,+t File search
,+b Recently opened files
:windo do command to all windows
:e reload current file
:windo e reload all windows
:q quit file
:w save file
:wa save all files
:explore file navigation in current split

// These are specific to the NERDtree file navigator, with comes with YADR and I use frequently

ctrl+\ Show File tree in left split
ctrl+$ Show current file in left split
m show menu
r refresh current directory
R refresh root directory


These let you split the vim pane into smaller panes, like in the screenshot above.

vv Vertical split
ss horizontal split
ctrl + w _ Max out the height of the current split
ctrl + w | Max out the width of the current split
ctrl + w = Normalize all split sizes, which is very handy when resizing terminal
ctrl + w + arrow keys resize one line at a time
Ctrl+W R Swap top/bottom or left/right split
Ctrl+W T Break out current window into a new tabview
Ctrl+W o Close every window in the current tabview but the current one

Clipboard stuff

:%y+ copy all
dd cut current line
yy copy current line
yw copy current word
dw cut current word
x cut current letter
viwp replace current word with yanked content


gcc toggle comment line
gcp toggle comment block


== auto indent line
=G auto indent to end of file
=5 auto indent next 5 lines


yss<div> surround current line with div
ysiwt<div> surround next word with div
cs"<q> change surround from " to q tag
,# ," ,' ,] ,) ,} surround a word in these wrappers
ds  delete a surrounding
cs  change a surrounding
ys  add a surrounding
yS  add a surrounding and place the surrounded text on a new line + indent it
yss add a surrounding to the whole line
ySs add a surrounding to the whole line, place it on a new line + indent it
cit delete inside html tag and enter insert mode
ci" same, but inside quotes


:%s/a/b/g find all occurances of a in file and replace with b
:%s/a/b/gc same, but ask for confirmation on each
/ search on page
n next result
N previous result
// clear search
:Ag search in all files
:Ag -C 5 print 5 lines of context before and after a match
k search in all files for current word
Ag --python search only Python files
e open search file and close search split
h open in horizontal split
v open in vertical split

Marks (can set from a-z)

Mark lines in the code for quick navigation later.

ma set mark for letter a
'a go to mark for letter a


Edit multiple lines at once.

,mc multi cursor mode (can be used in visual-line mode to edit each line)
ctrl-n next occurance
ctrl-p previous
ctrl-x skip

Code Folding

zR open all folds
zC close all folds
za toggle current fold

Toggling paste mode

This sets inline to paste mode, which lets you pasted in code with cleaner indents.

:set paste
:set nopaste

Saving Sessions

:mks my-session.vim
vim -S my-session.vim

In Conclusion

I hope this helps anyone out there who wants to start with Vim. It looks daunting, but the payoff is a big one. I am more productive now than ever. Let me know in the comments any thoughts!