vi Complete Key Binding List

This is not intended as a tutorial. It is a reference on what every vi key binding does, followed by some useful vi tricks and tips. An expert will probably know most of these already, but an intermediate vi user will find valuable information, and even an expert may learn a thing or two.

complete key binding reference

KeyActionFollowed by
aenter insertion mode after current charactertext, ESC
bback word
cchange commandcursor motion command
ddelete commandcursor motion command
eend of word
ffind character after cursor in current linecharacter to find
hmove left one character
ienter insertion mode before current charactertext, ESC
jmove down one line
kmove up one line
lmove right one character
mmark current line and positionmark character tag (a-z)
nrepeat last search
oopen line below and enter insertion modetext, ESC
pput buffer after cursor
rreplace single character at cursorreplacement character expected
ssubstitute single character with new texttext, ESC
tsame as "f" but cursor moves to just before found charactercharacter to find
wmove foreward one word
xdelete single character
yyank commandcursor motion command
zposition current lineCR = top; "." = center; "-"=bottom
Aenter insertion mode after end of linetext, ESC
Bmove back one Word
Cchange to end of linetext, ESC
Ddelete to end of line
Emove to end of Word
Fbackwards version of "f"character to find
Ggoto line number prefixed, or goto end if none
Hhome cursor - goto first line on screen
Ienter insertion mode before first non-whitespace charactertext, ESC
Jjoin current line with next line
Lgoto last line on screen
Mgoto middle line on screen
Nrepeat last search, but in opposite direction of original search
Oopen line above and enter insertion modetext, ESC
Pput buffer before cursor
Qleave visual mode (go into "ex" mode)
Rreplace mode - replaces through end of current line, then insertstext, ESC
Ssubstitute entire line - deletes line, enters insertion modetext, ESC
Tbackwards version of "t"character to find
Urestores line to state when cursor was moved into it
Wforeward Word
Xdelete backwards single character
Yyank entire line
Zfirst half of quick save-and-exit"Z"
0move to column zero
1-9numeric precursor to other commands[additional numbers (0-9)] command
 (SPACE) move right one character
!shell command filtercursor motion command, shell command
@vi evalbuffer name (a-z)
$move to end of line
%match nearest [],(),{} on line, to its match (same line or others)
^move to first non-whitespace character of line
&repeat last ex substitution (":s ...") not including modifiers
(move to previous sentence
)move to next sentence
|move to column zero
-move to first non-whitespace of previous line
_similar to "^" but uses numeric prefix oddly
+move to first non-whitespace of next line
[move to previous "{...}" section"["
]move to next "{...}" section"]"
{move to previous blank-line separated section"{"
}move to next blank-line separated section"}"
;repeat last "f", "F", "t", or "T" command
'move to marked line, first non-whitespacecharacter tag (a-z)
`move to marked line, memorized columncharacter tag (a-z)
:ex-submodeex command
"access numbered buffer; load or access lettered buffer1-9,a-z
~reverse case of current character and move cursor forward
,reverse direction of last "f", "F", "t", or "T" command
.repeat last text-changing command
/search forwardsearch string, ESC or CR
<unindent commandcursor motion command
>indent commandcursor motion command
?search backwardsearch string, ESC or CR
^Bback (up) one screen
^Ddown half screen
^Escroll text up (cursor doesn't move unless it has to)
^Fforeward (down) one screen
^Gshow status
^Jline down
^Lrefresh screen
^M(CR) move to first non-whitespace of next line
^Nmove down one line
^Pmove up one line
^Rdoes nothing (variants: redraw; multiple-redo)
^Tgo to the file/code you were editing before the last tag jump
^Uup half screen
^Yscroll text down (cursor doesn't move unless it has to)
^Zsuspend program
^[(ESC) cancel started command; otherwise UNBOUND
^\leave visual mode (go into "ex" mode)
^]use word at cursor to lookup function in tags file, edit that file/code
^^switch file buffers


Key Bindings in Editing Modes

While in any edit mode (insert, replace, etc.) there are some keys that are used to adjust behaviour, rather than just to insert text.

Repitition Counts

Most commands can be prefixed with a multidigit number, that influences the way the command works.
zposition nth line number
Ggoto nth line number
|goto nth column number
rreplace next n characters
ssubstitute for next n characters
<<shift n lines left one shiftwidth
_advance n-1 lines
Need to differentiate between such things as 5yj vs. y5j?


Standard vi does have an ability to toggle between two different files. These will be the last two edited files (edit new files with :efilename) To switch files, use control-^.

These filenames can be reffered to in ex commands, and subshell filters, using two special characters: "%" refers to the current file, and "#" refers to the previous file. Here's some handy things you can do with this feature:

:map v :!chmod 644 %^[                make world-readable
:map q :!ci -l %^[                    RCS checkin
:map V :!diff # %^[                   compare previous and current files


Tags are cool, but I don't use them. Go figure. Maybe I'll write something up here someday.

Mappings and Abbreviations

:map lets you bind a list of keystrokes to a shortcut in command-mode. This shortcut can be a multiple-key sequence (with limitations), and the commands within can enter and exit edit-mode. Some examples of :map can be found above, in the multibuffer section. Below is a list of all the normally unbound keys in vi command-mode.
g q v K V # * \ = ^A ^C ^I ^K ^O ^V ^W ^X ^[ ^_
When you try to map multiple key sequences, you won't be able to start them with lower or upper case letters ("Too dangerous to map that"), but the punctuation and control characters are fair game. In addition, : can't be mapped, and sometimes a few other keys. Multiple key sequences can also be very useful with terminal-generated sequences, which is why the escape key is bindable. I have my xterm set to generate =f1 for function key one, and so on, so all the function keys are easier to use with bindings.

If you use multiple key shortcuts, you'll want to know about the timeout variable. With :se timeout, you have a limited time to generate the key sequence. This is useful if the key sequences are terminal generated. With :se notimeout, it just keeps waiting until the next character does or doesn't match any possible current sequences.

:map! lets you bind a list of keystrokes to a shortcut in edit-mode. This is useful for adding editing commands to edit mode. One popular trick is to bind the arrow keys to move up and down while (apparently) staying in edit-mode, as in the last four lines below.

:map! ^? ^H                         Make delete act like backspace
:map! ^[OA ^[ka                     xterm arrow sequences will 
:map! ^[OB ^[ja                       exit edit-mode, move the
:map! ^[OC ^[la                       cursor, and re-enter edit-mode.
:map! ^[OD ^[ha
If you use the above trick for arrow-keys in edit-mode, you'll want to set timeout, because otherwise you won't get beeps at all when you hit escape, only when you use the next keystroke. With timeout, you get the beep, but after the timeout. Since both of these are annoying, it may be a useful choice to avoid multikey sequences that involve escape, as a matter of taste. Also, many systems now set up command-mode arrow keys in vi by default, which also leads to the same problem.

:ab lets you bind a key sequence to an abbreviation, for use in edit-mode. Abbreviations don't fire until vi decides that you've typed the shortcut as a whole word. So if taf is a shortcut for Thomas A. Fine, and I type taffy, it won't substitute because I didn't enter taf as a word by itself. (If I'd used :map!, then taffy would do the replacement before I got to the second "f".)

Abbreviations are echoed normally until complete, therefore the abbreviation can't contain escape (you'd leave edit-mode before completing the abbreviation), but the replacement expression can contain escape, and can leave and return to edit-mode.

:ab teh the
:ab #d #define
:ab #i #include
:ab cmain main(argc,argv)^Mint argc;^Mchar **argv;^M{^M}^[O
:ab cmmap mmap(NULL,st.st_size,PROT_READ,MAP_SHARED,fd,0);
:ab readsig ^[G:r ~/misc/sig^M
To keep a live abbreviation from going off in your hands, use ^V. For instance, if I want to type teh but have the the abbreviation above, I can let it "fix" it, then back up and unfix it; or I can type "teh^V..." and it won't expand the abbreviatoin.

vi macros document

Repeating with .

Commands can be repeated with the redo command, normally bound to ".", but I've found this to be occasionally unpredictable. If you use multiple key sequences in a macro, and vi is waiting to see if one of those sequences might complete, and you start a new command here, it won't be noticed by the redo. (Solaris, HPUX at least).

System Differences

VI Reference Manual from the University of Michigan at Dearborn


I've seen various replacements for the fmt command that you can use to format paragraphs almost automatically. Mine's better:

:map v 0ma}b:'a,.j<ctrl-v><return>070 ?  *<ctrl-v><escape>dwi<ctrl-v><return><ctrl-v><escape>

Note the control-v's are there to enter the following characters, which would otherwise terminate the map command. The above was written as you have to enter the special characters in traditional vi. In vim, you can use the four literal characters "<CR>" for a carriage return, and also "<Esc>" for Escape. So it may be easier to type this, and it can also go into your .vimrc) more readibly (with thanks to Bart Van den Broeck):

:map v 0ma}b:'a,.j<CR>070 ?  *<Esc>dwi<CR><Esc>

It's better because you don't have to prejoin the paragraph by hitting J an arbitrary number of times. Just hit v (or whatever you've mapped it to) starting at the beginning or in the middle of the paragraph, and it joines the rest of the paragraph together, formats one line, and moves the cursor down again. Just keep hitting v and it will keep formatting. You have to stop one before the end or you'll end up with an extra short line. It also does not leave spaces at the end of the line. vi Powered!

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