Navigating files, lines and blocks in Vim

(Note that this was written after I spent a few months learning Vim. If you’re just stuck in Vim and want to get out, see What to do when you get stuck in a Vim editor).

I’m publishing my notes on the things that are useful in Vim but that I keep forgetting. My notes are split into four sections, so I’ll publish four posts:

This is the third post, and it’s about navigating files, lines and blocks in Vim.

Navigating lines

Navigating files

  • Go to top of file: gg
  • Go to end of file: shift + g
  • Go to line number: line-number + shift + g
  • Navigation within chars / lines: j = down, k = up, h = left, l = right

Navigating blocks delineated by {}, (), [], <> or “”

  • The diff between % and [{ always confuses me cos it’s not explained well in Vim Adventures:
    • % will take you to the matching bracket if you are already ON a bracket. It only works on {}, () and [] (not <>)
    • [{ will search backwards for the enclosing { if you are already IN a {} block – so it takes you to the start of your current scope
      • ]} will move forwards and take you to the end of your current scope
      • ]{ is meaningless (I think)
      • [( and )] will also work in the same way
      • [< does not work, [“ does not work, and [[ does something totally different
      • If you want to move back to blocks that enclose your current block, use numbers
        • So for instance, 3[{ will take you to the beginning of this snippet of code if your cursor is in the innermost scope:
        • {
          • {
            • {I am here}
          • }
        • }
      • In Vim Adventures type :help [{

If you want to navigate inside a block delineated by [], <> or “”

  • You can use % to find the matching brace if you are on [ or ] but not < or >
  • You can use visual mode to select the contents of {}, [], (), <> or “”
    • Use a to select the contents AND the delineators
    • Use i to select the inner contents (ie without the delineators)
    • Use the OPENING delineator to indicate what your scope is
    • These are all the possible commands: va{, vi{, va[, vi[, va(, vi(, va<, vi<, va”, vi”
    • If you want to select blocks that enclose your current block, use numbers
      • So for instance, v3a{ will select this whole snippet of code if your cursor is in the innermost scope:
      • {
        • {
          • {I am here}
        • }
      • }
    • Once you’re in visual mode you can use commands like i, p, c, a, s
    • In Vim Adventures type :help a{ or help i{
      • You can use c to select the contents of {}, [], (), <> or “” and then it will put you into Insert mode to replace what was there
        • Same principles as with v (see above)
        • These are all the possible commands: ca{, ci{, ca[, ci[, ca(, ci(, ca<, ci<, ca”, ci”
        • As with v you can use numbers to select multiple enclosing blocks (see above) but the number comes BEFORE c, like this: 3ca{
        • (There are others too, like caw and ciw for words – in Vim Adventures type :help aw and :help iw)

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