I’ve been using Vim for a long time and I’m familiar with many of its commands but I’ve never had a good understanding of the underlying components of commands and their composition. Although there are many good Vim references, I felt that I was still not seeing the full picture. So, to try and dig a little deeper and educate myself, I’ve put together this reference, which details a subset of the command language. The approach I’ve taken was inspired by the grammar rules outlined in this blog post, and should be useful for anyone who is familiar with Vim.

A Vim command can be constructed from different rules, and below each rule is specified with a EBNF-style syntax, where <...> is another rule. {...} represents some key presses, | is an alternative and [...] is an optional component. Be warned that since there are many special cases to Vim commands and I’ve not checked all the combinations, some of the rules below may yield invalid compositions! As such, these rules are better viewed as a way of remembering commands. For an exhaustive treatment of the command language, please check the Vim documentation, or use the :help tags that I’ve given.

## Motions

Motions change the position of the cursor and can be combined with a count to repeat the motion.

count := {digits}
motion := [<count>] <motion-keys>
command := <motion>


Examples:

• 2fx - move to the second right-hand occurrence of x in the line (inclusive)
• 2Tx - move to the second left-hand occurrence of x in the line (exclusive)
• w - move to the next word
• 10j or 10_ - move down 10 lines
• 10k - move up 10 lines
• 6w - move to start of the sixth word forwards
• 6E - move to end of sixth word forwards
• 4b - move to start of the fourth word backwards
• 2{ - move two paragraphs down
• 3/foo - move to the third occurrence of foo later in the buffer
• 3?foo - move to the third occurrence of foo earlier in the buffer

## Text objects

Text objects are a collection of characters relative to the position of the cursor. Compared to motions, text objects on a whole object, regardless of the specific cursor position. The a and i modifiers augment text objects, specifying whether the surrounding context should be included. The context may be whitespace or delimiting characters.

text-object := <text-object-keys>
| <modifier> <text-object-keys>


Examples:

• aw - around word (includes surrounding whitespace)
• iw - inner word (excludes surrounding whitespace)
• aW - around WORD (where word is delimited by whitespace)
• as - around sentence
• is - inner sentence
• ap - around paragraph
• ip - inner paragraph
• a' - a single-quoted string
• i' - inside a single-quoted string
• a( = a)= ab - a parenthesised block, from ( to )
• i( = i)= ib - inside a parenthesised block, contents of (...)
• a< = a> - a tag, from < to >
• at - around tag block, including matching start and end tags <tag>...</tag>
• it - inside tag block, excluding tags
• aB = a{ = a} - around a {...} block
• iB = i{ = i} - inside a {...} block

## Operators on text objects

Operators can be applied to text objects. In some circumstances, a count can be applied to the text object to repeat its effect.

command := [<count>] <operator> <text-object>
text-object := <count> <modifier> <text-object-keys>


Examples:

• cw - change word from cursor
• ciw - change word under cursor
• dw - delete until end of word
• 5dw = d5w - delete until end of right-hand sixth word
• caw - change around word under cursor
• 2d3w - delete six words
• 5gUw - make the next five words uppercase
• dgg - delete lines from cursor to beginning of buffer
• dG - delete lines from cursor to end of buffer
• 3d_ - delete three lines
• d$ = D - delete until end of line • d0 - delete until beginning of line • d^ - delete until first non-blank character in line • c{ - change from current line to beginning of paragraph • gU} - make paragraph uppercase • c{ - change paragraph (same as cap operator-text object) • >} - indent paragraph • y% - yank the entire {...} block • cgg - change lines from cursor to top of buffer • ggdG - delete contents of buffer ## Duplicate operators Operators applied twice affect the entire line, a synonym for <operator>_, command := [<count>] <operator> <operator>  Examples: • dd = d_ - delete line • cc = c_ - change line • yy = y_ - yank line • >> = >_ = >l - indent line • << = <_ = >l - unindent line Note: duplication does not apply to ~ or two-character operators. ## Aliases Some commonly-used commands have aliases. • x = dl - delete next character • C = c$ - change until the end of the line
• D = d$ - delete until the end of the line • Y = yy - yank the line • S = cc - change the line • A = $a - append text to end of the line
• s = cl - substitute character (delete and insert)
• S = cc - substitute line

## Filtering

Text lines can be filtered through an external program (see :help filter).

command := ! <motion> <filter>


Examples, using some basic utilities found on Unix platforms:

• !8jsort - sort the next 8 lines
• !apsort - sort lines in paragraph
• !apwc -l - replace paragraph with word count
• !apfmt -s - collapse whitespace in paragraph into single spaces
• !apfmt -c - centre lines in paragraph
• !i(grep foo - remove all lines in (...) block that don’t contain foo (similar to the Ex command :%v/foo/d)
• gg!Gsort - sort all lines in buffer
• gg!Guniq -c - remove all duplicate lines in buffer and prefix remaining with duplicate counts

## Visual selection

Visual selection, character-wise v, line-wise V or block-wise Ctrl+v (all referred to below by {visual}, see :help visual-start), followed by a motion or text object can be used to specify a character range. An operator can then be used to transform the text. Note the operators gu, gU and g@ can’t be used in visual mode and text objects in visual mode, however, there are additional ones that can (see :help visual-operators). A visual block is created by entering a visual mode, then providing a motion or text object to set the selection, or alternatively by any sequence of movement commands (referred to by {move-around}).

visual-block := {visual} {move-around}
| {visual} <motion>
| {visual} <text-object>
command := <visual-block> <operator>
| <visual-block> <visual-operator>
| <visual-block> ! <filter>


Examples:

• vtxd = dtx - delete until x
• vt.rx - replace all characters with x until .
• v3as~ - make next three sentences uppercase
• vapU - make paragraph uppercase
• vapd - delete paragraph
• {Ctrl+v}{move-around}sfoo{Esc} - replace each line of blockwise selection with foo
• {Ctrl+v}{move-around}Ifoo{Esc} - prepend foo to each line of blockwise selection
• {Ctrl+v}{move-around}Afoo{Esc} - append foo to each line of blockwise selection
• vap!sort - sort the lines of the current paragraph
• vap!fmt - use the fmt command-line tool to format selection into lines of 75 characters (similar to the gqap command)
• ggvG!indent - use the indent command-line tool to apply automatic indentation all lines of a C-code buffer
• {visual}J - join the highlighted lines on the current line
• {visual}gJ - join the highlighted lines on the current line (removing whitespace)

## Other command combinations

Beyond the above rules, there are further command keys and more restricted combination with motions, operators and text objects.

The . command repeats the last change that was made.

command := [<count>] .

• db. - delete the previous two words
• db4. - delete the previous five words
• {insert text...} then /{pattern}. - insert text again before next text matching {pattern}

The gn and gN motions can be used with operators to move between matching search patterns.

command := [<count>] <operator> gn
| [<count>] <operator> gN

• cgn - change the next search match
• 3cgn - change the third search match
• cgN - change the previous search match

Here are some other interesting and potentially useful commands that I’ve found in the Vim help:

• gf - goto file (when cursor is on a valid filesystem path)
• gF - goto file and line number (line number following path)
• J - Join the current line with the next one (with space in between)
• gJ - Join the current line with the next one (without space in between)
• 3J - join the next three lines on the current line (removing indent)
• 3gJ - join the next three lines on the current line
• gv - reselect previous visual area
• g~~ = g~g~ - switch case of line
• gUU = gUgU - make line uppercase
• guu = gugu - make line lowercase
• r{char} - replace character under cursor with {char}
• 10r{char} - replace the next 10 characters with {char}

## Motions

<motion-keys>

References: :help motion :help various-motions

Action Effect
l,h,j,k right, left, down, up
w / W start of next word / start of next WORD
b / B start of pevious word / start of previous WORD
e / E end of next word / end of next WORD
0 / $ start / end of line ^ / g_ first / last non-blank character in line { / } start / end of paragraph t{char} till - move to next character (inclusive) f{char} find - move to next character (exclusive) T{char} till - move to previous character (inclusive) F{char} find - move to previous character (exclusive) % move to matching character (default pairs: (), {}, []) [(, [) move to matching parenthesis [{, [} move to matching curly brace /{pattern} search forward (must be followed by {CR}) ?{pattern} search backwards (must be followed by {CR}) gg / G move to first / last line in buffer ## Operators <operators> Reference: :help operator Key Operator c change d delete y yank ~ swap case (or g~) > shift right (always linewise) < shift left (always linewise) gu make lowercase gU make uppercase gq format text g@ apply function (set by operatorfunc) ## Visual operators <visual-operators> References: :help visual-operators Key Operator r{char} replace every character in selection with {char} s, c substitute (inserted text replicated on each line for blockwise) J / gJ join / join (remove whitespace) p put (replace selection with contents of register) U make uppercase u make lowercase I insert (prepend, only on blockwise selection) A insert (append, only on blockwise selection) ## Text objects <text-object-keys> References: :help text-objects, :help objects Key Text object w word (delimited by non-keyword characters, see :help iskeyword) W WORD (delimited by whitespace, includes empy line) s sentence p paragraph t tag [, ] text block between square brackets {, } text block between curly braces (, ) text block between parethesises ', ' text block between single quotes ", " text block between double quotes <, > text block between angle braces ,  text block between back ticks b text block between ( and ) B text block between { and } ## Modifiers <modifiers> References: :help text-objects Key Movement a a or around i inner count := {digits} text-object := <text-object-keys> | <modifier> <text-object-keys> | <count> <modifier> <text-object-keys> motion := [<count>] <motion-keys> visual-block := {visual} {move-around} | {visual} <motion> | {visual} <text-object> command := <motion> | [<count>] <operator> <text-object> | [<count>] <operator> <motion> | [<count>] <operator> <operator> | ! <motion> <filter> | <visual-block> <operator> | <visual-block> <visual-operator> | <visual-block> ! <filter> | [<count>] . | [<count>] <operator> gn | [<count>] <operator> gN  ## Some random commands Just for fun, here are some random commands using the above rules to show the variety of actions you can perform. Some might not make sense or not work, but they might give you some ideas. ### Motions ### Text objects ### Operators on text objects ### Operators on motions F{ch} /{pat} [} t{ch} 9B 3/{pat} b T{ch} { j w [} l g_ 5[( % { 0F{ch} w T{ch} [} 10 k [} % 1G [{ 5k 0 /{pat} 1/{pat} 2l ?{pat} g_ 1h h t{ch} 4F{ch} 0$
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