Moving Around in Vim

I’ve written a couple of beginning UNIX for OS X entries, such as creating a .bash_profile and .bashrc file using vim.  Here is another vim tutorial for moving around in the screen editor, so you can see just how powerful it’s commands can be.

This post will deal with mostly command mode, the default mode when you open vim (or an existing file with it.)  To move the command marker around the file without entering INSERT mode consists of four basic keys.  Moving to the next/previous word, to the beginning of a paragraph, etc. will require a bit more memorization.

You want to first familiarize yourself with the h, j, k, and l keys.  The outer two (on a standard keyboard) move your cursor left or right one-character;  h, to the left, and l to the right.  j will move your cursor up to the next line, while k moves it down one line.  The fact that you are in command mode means no changes are made to your text at this point.  You can use the arrow keys for the same functionality, but getting used to the keys will help you keep your hands where they belong–typing and editing text.

Moving to the beginning of the current line is done by pressing O (zero).  To move to the end of the current line press $+ moves your cursor to the beginning of the next line, and – moves you to the beginning of the previous line.

Next are some basic ideas for commands.  Some will take a number argument, followed by a command.  Some can be written with a number argument followed by another command.  For example, x in command mode means delete a character.  To delete a word, or the rest of a word if you are in the middle of one, you type dw.  If you precede x with a number, n, vim will delete the following n characters from the line.  The command to delete the next four characters would be written, simply, as 4x. To delete the next four words, you would type 4dw.

Vim is a very capable text editor once you learn more about its commands, and get used to bouncing between INSERT and command modes.  Below you can find a table of common commands and their function, at least enough to get you on your way as a skilled vim user.

Movement Command



Move Left One Character


Move Down One Line


Move Up One Line


Move Right One Character


Move to First Character Of Current Line


Move to Last Character Of Current Line


Move to First Character Of Next Line


Move to Next Word or Punctuation Mark


Move to Next Word


Move to End of Current Word


Move to End of Next Word


Move Back to Beginning of Word or Closest Punctuation


Move Back to Beginning of Word


Move to End of Current Sentence


Move to Beginning of Current Sentence


Move to Start if Next Paragraph


Move to Start of Previous Paragraph

Delete Command



Delete Current Character


Delete Character Immediately Left Of Cursor


Delete Current Word


Delete Ten Words


Delete To End of Current Line (also d$)


Deletes Current Line


Deletes Twenty Lines


Deletes From Cursor to End


Undo (doesn’t work for single character deletion)