Vim Basics

Learn the basics of Vim in Spacemacs by following the built-in Evil tutorial:


If you use vim all day and make an effort to use it well, you’ll be editing code faster than you did in your old editor within two weeks. A couple tips to help you on your way: keep a cheat sheet of commands you’re trying to commit to memory, find a friend that’s an experienced vim user or ask in #vim for the many questions that you’ll have in the beginning.

Other learning resource for Vim include:

Below is a brief summary of the most common commands from the Evil Tutorial, for your quick reference

Insert to Normal mode

Rather than reach all the way up to ESC you can press f d keys in extremely quick succession.

I found pressing both f and d together works if you lead ever so slightly with the f key. If you type the characters instead, I suggest you keep trying as once in normal mode you can use u to undo and f d characters inserted.

Moving around

To move the cursor, press the h,j,k,l keys as indicated.

             k              Hint:  The h key is at the left and moves left.
       < h       l >               The l key is at the right and moves right.
             j                     The j key looks like a down arrow

Using Ctrl in front of the keys jumps to next sections

Jumping the cursor

Command Action
w jump to start of next word
e jump to end of current word
$ jump to end of current line
gg go to start of buffer
G go to end of buffer
: 4 go to line 4
% jump to matching parentheses


Spacemacs provides an easy way to search in a file or in all the projects of a file

Spacemacs Evil Emacs Description
/ C-s C-s search in file
SPC / SPC / M-m / search files in project

Helm & similar buffers

Use Ctrl in front of the usual move keys, eg Ctrl-j. Works for helm, magit, etc

Quit Emacs / Save your work

Buffers are typically associated with files, so when you write a buffer you are saving all your changes to the associated file.

Command Action
:w Write current buffer
wqa Write current buffer and quit
:q Quit (unless buffer not saved)
:qa! Quit without saving

Buffers such as scratch do not have files associated. If you attempt to save them they should prompt you to provide a file name.

Text Editing

The following commands put you into the Evil Insert mode

Command Action
i edit at cursor
a append - edit after cursor
o new line after cursor
O new line before cursor

Press ESC to return to normal state from insert mode

Cut, paste, undo, redo

Command Action
x delete character and add to kill ring
p paste (put)
u undo
Ctrl-r redo

Changing text

Replace, change

Command Action
r replace the character under cursor
R replace multiple characters until ESC
cw change word from cursor to end
4 c w change 4 words

Delete commands

Command Action
de delete to end of word, not including space
dw delete to end of word, including space
d$ delete to end of line
dd delete the current line
4 d w delete 4 words
4 d $ delete 4 lines to end

Search commands

Command Action
/ search forwards
n search forward again
? search backwards
N search backwards again

Search will wrap around a buffer when it reaches the end


Command Action
:s/old/new substitute new for the first old pattern
:s/old/new/g substitute new for all 'old's on a line
:#,#s/old/new/g substitute phrases between two line #'s type
:%s/old/new/g substitute all occurrences in the file
:%s/old/new/gc as above, asking for confirmation each time


SPC f f is the Spacemacs way of opening files. You can create a file that does not currently exist by entering the file name and confirming you want to create the file when prompted.

External commands

You can run external commands using :! followed by a command. For example:

:!ls - run the ls command

Spacemacs shell can be configured to pop-up a shell buffer to run commands from the directory of the current buffer.

evil-escape Back to Vim command mode

Typing quickly fd takes you out of insert state back to normal state, rather than having to move your hands to press ESC.

This sequence of characters can be customized.

Deactivate this feature by adding evil-escape to dotspacemacs-excluded-packages in the ~/.spacemacs configuration file.

Useful Spacemacs commands

SPC q q - quit SPC w / - split window vertically SPC w - - split window horizontally SPC 1 - switch to window 1 SPC 2 - switch to window 2 SPC w c - delete current window SPC TAB - switch to previous buffer SPC b b - switch buffers SPC f f - find a file SPC f s - save a file (:w also works) SPC p p - open project SPC p h - find a file in current project SPC b d - kill current buffer SPC b M - move buffer to another window SPC v - enter expand-region mode

Useful Vim key bindings


0 - beginning of line ^ - beginning of non-whitespace $ - end of line 9j - move down 9 lines w - move forward by word b - move backward by word gg - first line G - last line C-u - up half page C-d - down half page f/ - move forward to first "/" character t/ = move forward right before the first "/" character ; - repeat that command again H - head of the screen M - middle of the screen L - last of the screen } - move forward by paragraph or block { - move backwards by paragraph or block

    • search for word under the cursor n - search again forward N - search again backwards

      - search backwards for word under cursor

      / - search forward ? - search backward % - find matching brace, paren, etc ma - mark a line in a file with marker "a" `a - after moving around, go back to the exact position of marker "a" 'a - after moving around, go back to line of marker "a" :marks - view all the marks '' - go to the last place you were [{ - jump back to the "{" at the beginning of the current code block


x - delete char under cursor X - delete char before cursor A - add to end of line I - insert at the beginning of the line dd - delete line D - delete from cursor to end of line di' - delete text inside single quotes yy - copy line Y - copy from cursor to end of line cc - change line C - change from cursor to end of line cit - change text inside html tag ci' - change text inside single quotes ci{ - change text inside curly brackets. ci... - etc p - paste after cursor P = paste before cursor o - add line below O - add line above . = repeat last comment r - replace character R - replace. (overwrite) (good for columns of text) J - join line (cursor can be anywhere on line)

visual mode

v - visual char mode V - visual line mode C-v - block visual mode

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