Vim Books

Learn Vim with these Great Free Books

Vim

Vim is a highly configurable, powerful, console-based, open source text editor. It’s efficient, letting users edit files with a minimum of keystrokes.

Vim is an enhanced version of the vi editor, with development dating back to 1976.

Why learn Vim?

  • It’s ubiquitous. Once you’ve learn how to use Vim, you’ll be able to edit text whatever computer you are accessing, locally or remotely. Vi(m) is a standard editor on the vast majority of UNIX-derived systems including Linux, Solaris, Mac OS X, and the various BSD distributions. Even embedded software in home routers typically include the editor.
  • Scalability – the software can be an entire writing platform or used to occasionally edit a configuration file.
  • Powerful.
  • Efficient, extensible, fast, and terminal friendly.

Vim has received considerable notoriety arising from the conflict between Emacs and Vim users. Best stay away from editor wars.

When getting started with Vim, users face a steep learning curve. It’s true the software is simple. It’s simple in the sense that its minimal interface focuses the user on their main task. But Vim is very powerful. To learn how to use Vim and master that power, we recommend the following free books. Each book is released under an open source license, just like Vim.

The Vim Tutorial and Reference

The Vim Tutorial and Reference

By Steve Oualline (804 pages)

The goal of this book is to provide a tutorial to show the reader how to use the power of Vim to solve common problems. Also the book attempts to show you visually the operation of very major command and option, and to fully document the rest.

Chapters cover:

  • Basic Editing – edit text in Vim.
  • Editing a Little Faster – covers additional commands to edit more efficiently.
  • Searching – introduction to Vim’s search commands.
  • Text Blocks and Multiple Files – deal with larger text blocks.
  • Windows and Tabs – split the screen into multiple windows and edit multiple files simultaneously. Also discusses using editing buffers.
  • Basic Visual Mode – highlight a block of text and execute a command on it.
  • Commands for Programmers – learn about syntax colouring, automatic indentation, indentation commands, commands to navigate through the source code, getting information from the man command, use tags to go up and down a call stack, make programs with the :make command, search files with :vimgrep.
  • Basic Abbreviations, Keyboard Mapping, and Initialization Files – ways to automate repetitive tasks.
  • Basic Command-Mode Commands – covers how ex-mode commands are structured including printing text lines, substitution, and shell escapes.
  • Basic GUI Usage – how to start Vim in GUI mode and make use of the special GUI features.
  • Dealing with Text Files – learn about automatic text wrapping, text formatting command, text formatting options, basic spell checking, dealing with different file formats, troff-related commands, and the rot13 algorithm.
  • Automation Completion – discusses automatic completion, customize the automatic completion feature, and how to use different types of completions.
  • Autocommands – learn about basic autocommands, autocommand groups, and listing and removing autocommands.
  • File Recovery and Command-Line Arguments – learn about command-line arguments for file recovery, encryption, batch files and scripts, additional command-line arguments, backup file options, how to do file recovery, and advanced swap file management.
  • Miscellaneous Commands – discusses getting character number information, how to go to a specific type in the file, redrawing the screen, sleeping, terminal control, suspending the editor, and reshowing the introduction screen.
  • Cookbook – presents a cookbook full of short recipes for common (and not so common) Vim editing.
  • Topics Not Covered – describes commands not covered by the book.
  • Complete Basic Editing – teaches you everything about basic editing.
  • Advanced Searching Using Regular Expressions – learn about turning on and off case sensitivity, search options, instant word searching, how to specify a search offset, and a complete description of regular expressions.
  • Advanced Text Blocks and Multiple Files – learn everything about dealing with text blocks and multiple files.
  • All About Windows, Tabs, and Sessions -discusses many different commands for selecting and arranging windows, and how to customize the appearance of the windows.
  • Advanced Visual Mode – looks at many of the other visual-related commands.
  • Advanced Commands for Programmers – removing autoindents, inserting registers and indent, indentation programs options, and more.
  • All About Abbreviations and Keyboard Mapping – explains abbreviations and keyboard mapping in complete detail.
  • Complete Command-Mode (:) Commands
  • Advanced GUI Commands – shows you how to customize the GUI.
  • Expressions and Functions – covers basic variables and expressions, the :echo statement Control statements, user-defined functions, and a complete list of built-in functions.
  • Customizing the Editor – thorough treatment of the :set command, local initialization files, customizing keyboard usage, customizing messages and the appearance of the screen, and other miscellaneous commands.
  • Language-Dependent Syntax Options.
  • How to Write a Syntax File.

The content of this book is published under the Open Publication License.

Use Vim Like a Pro

Use Vim Like a Pro

By Tim Ottinger (255 pages)

This is an intentionally small micro-book, not a comprehensive guide to all the features of this powerful editor.

Chapters include:

  • Master the basics.
  • Gain efficiency.
  • Take cut-n-paste to the next level.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Vim Recipes

Vim Recipes

By Run Paint Run Run (185 pages)

Vim Recipes seeks to complement Vim’s built-in documentation. It sets out a common problem, offers a solution, and then elaborates with discussion notes.

Chapters cover:

  • Basics.
  • Editing.
  • Typing.
  • Navigation.
  • GUI.
  • Searching.
  • Display.
  • Extending.
  • Other Uses of Vim.

The book’s cover depicts Bram Moolenaar, the creator of Vim.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Vim User Manual

VIM User Manual

By Bram Moolenaar (258 pages)

No roundup of the best free VIM books could be complete without the official VIM User Manual. It offers task oriented explanations, from simple to complex. Reads from start to end like a book.

It’s available with the standard Vim distribution.

Unix Text Processing

UNIX Text Processing

By Dale Dougherty, Tim O’Reilly (680 pages)

This book shows the reader how to effectively prepare written documents, especially in the process of producing book-length documents. The authors demonstrate popular tools available to meet this task. It also examines text processing in terms of problems and solutions: the problems faced by a writer undertaking a large writing project and the solutions offered by using the resources and power of a computer system.

Chapters cover:

  • UNIX Fundamentals.
  • Learning vi.
  • nroff and troff.
  • The ms Macros.
  • The mm Macros.
  • Advanced Editing.
  • Formatting with tbl.
  • Typesetting Equations with eqn.
  • Drawing Pictures.
  • A Miscellany of UNIX Commands.
  • Let the Computer Do the Dirty Work.
  • The awk Programming Language.
  • Writing nroff and troff Macros.
  • Figures and Special Effects.
  • What’s in a Macro Package?
  • An Extended ms Macro Package.
  • Putting It All Together.

While this book was published way back in 1997, it still provides a wealth of relevant information.

The book is published under the Creative Commons’ Attribution License.

A Byte of Vim

A Byte of Vim

By Swaroop C H (100 pages)

“A Byte of Vim” is a book which aims to help you to learn how to use the Vim editor (version 7), even if all you know is how to use the computer keyboard.

The first part of this book is meant for new users who want to understand what Vim is and learn how to use it.

The second part of this book is for people who already know how to use Vim and want to learn about features that make Vim so powerful, such as windows and tabs, personal information management, making it a programmer’s editor, how to extend Vim with your own plugins, and more.

This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The Woodnotes Guide to Vim for Writers

The Woodnotes Guide to Vim for Writers

By Randall Wood (13 pages)

Chapters include:

  • Why Vim for Writers?
  • Gvim vs Vim.
  • Line Wrapping and Text Width.
  • Files (Opening, Savings, etc.)
  • General Editing of Text.
  • Getting Around with the Cursor.
  • Scrolling.
  • Bookmarks (“Marks”).
  • Selecting Text, Cutting and Pasting.
  • Searching and Replacing.
  • Using Ranges.
  • Multiple Windows, Buffers, and Tabs.
  • Inserting Special Characters.
  • Dealing with DOS, UNIX conversion problems.
  • Spell Checking.
  • Macros.
  • Learning more about Vim.

This document is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 licence.

Vi IMproved – Vim: The Tutorial

By Steve Oualline (572 pages)

This is a complete reference text to the Vim text editor. The material in this book is incorporated into The Vim Tutorial and Reference.

This book is published under the Open Publication License (OPL).

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