.vimrc and Customization

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This is an old page from Jonathan McPherson’s website (now long offline), and it contains a lot of useful information about customizing vim (vi) with .vimrc. This is aimed mostly towards folks who use a flavor of UNIX (a discussion topic about vi/vim on FreeBSD is where this customization was linked from originally to make vi work more like it does on Linux distros). I copied this from the February 11, 2010 snapshot. Enjoy.


vim is extremely customizable. It will read the file .vimrc in your home directory before it starts. This file can contain settings and even scripts. The below settings are ones I’ve found helpful — give them a try!

set nocompatible
This setting prevents vim from emulating the original vi’s bugs and limitations.
set autoindent
set smartindent
The first setting tells vim to use “autoindent” (that is, use the current line’s indent level to set the indent level of new lines). The second makes vim attempt to intelligently guess the indent level of any new line based on the previous line, assuming the source file is in a C-like language. Combined, they are very useful in writing well-formatted source code.
set tabstop=4
set shiftwidth=4
I prefer 4-space tabs to 8-space tabs. The first setting sets up 4-space tabs, and the second tells vi to use 4 spaces when text is indented (auto or with the manual indent adjustmenters.)
set showmatch
This setting will cause the cursor to very briefly jump to a brace/parenthese/bracket’s “match” whenever you type a closing or opening brace/parenthese/bracket. I’ve had almost no mismatched-punctuation errors since I started using this setting.
set guioptions-=T
I find the toolbar in the GUI version of vim (gvim) to be somewhat useless visual clutter. This option gets rid of the toolbar.
set vb t_vb=
This setting prevents vi from making its annoying beeps when a command doesn’t work. Instead, it briefly flashes the screen — much less annoying.
set ruler
This setting ensures that each window contains a statusline that displays the current cursor position.
set nohls
By default, search matches are highlighted. I find this annoying most of the time. This option turns off search highlighting. You can always turn it back on with :set hls.
set incsearch
With this nifty option, vim will search for text as you enter it. For instance, if you type /bob to search for bob, vi will go to the first “b” after you type the “b,” to the first “bo” after you type the “o,” and so on. It makes searching much faster, since if you pay attention you never have to enter more than the minimum number of characters to find your target location. Make sure that you press Enter to accept the match after vim finds the location you want.
set virtualedit=all
By default, vim doesn’t let the cursor stray beyond the defined text. This setting allows the cursor to freely roam anywhere it likes in command mode. It feels weird at first but is quite useful.

Type :help options within vim to get a complete list of options.

Many more advanced techniques, options, and mappings are available on the official vim site.

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