Buffers, Windows, Tabs... Oh My! Part 2: Vim Windows

Doug Yun

In the second part of this series, we'll be covering Vim windows. Windows are simply the viewports into buffers and I'm 110% sure that they are a huge part of your daily workflow.

Yes, there are numerous plugins that make our lives a lot easier, but let's dive into a powerful defaults that Vim offers us.

We'll first cover the basics, and then learn some neat window management commands.

Starting a Vim Session

One File

Vim windows are not complicated to use; if you want to open a file, file_one.txt, simply:

$ vim file_one.txt

Multiple Files

If you want to open multiple files, file_one.txt, file_two.txt, and file_three.txt, you can do the following:

$ vim file_one.txt file_two.txt file_three.txt

This opens the first file, file_one.txt, into a window. Files file_two.txt and file_three.txt are opened as inactive buffers.

Multiple Horizontal Splits

Say you want to view multiple files at once. Good news! You can open all files and place them into horizontal splits.

$ vim -o file_one.txt file_two.txt file_three.txt

Multiple Vertical Splits

Don't like horizontal splits? Better news! You can open them all as vertical splits.

$ vim -O file_one.txt file_two.txt file_three.txt

Within a Vim Session

There are two main arrangements for splitting windows, vertical and horizontal. Let's say we're editing a file and want to open up another file. We can do the following:

Horizontal Splits

This will open another_file.txt as horizontal split.

:split another_file.txt

You can use this abbreviation:

:sp another_file.txt

In addition, you can specify how large the new split will be by passing in a numerical value. This value will represent the line numbers shown within the split.

For example, this will reveal 25 lines of another_file.txt.

:25sp another_file.txt

Lastly, you can open a split window with CTRL-W s.

Vertical Splits

You can open files as vertical splits as well.

:vsplit another_file.txt

Which is abbreviated as:

:vsp another_file.txt

Vertical splits can also take in a numerical value, which corresponds to the character width of the column.

:30vsp another_file.txt

Finally, you can open a vertical split with CTRL-W v.

New Files

Let's create a new file.

Use, :new to create a new file inside the current window. After you save the file, it will be created within your current directory. You can also use the abbreviation :n.

:n new_file.txt

If we specify the path, we can also create files inside existing directories.

:n ../existing_dir/new_file.txt

Use :vnew or :vne to create a new file inside a new vertical split.

:vne new_file.txt

Lastly, we can use CTRL-w n to create a new file inside a horizontal split. Note that we have not specified a file name. Upon saving the file with :w, we can give the file a name. Such that:

# CTRL-w n

:w this_is_a_new_file.txt

Switching Windows

Switching windows ain't hard either!

Moving Windows

I've realized that window placement is incredibly useful when pairing with another person. Here's are a some ways to adjust the windows.

Resizing Windows

Sometimes windows open up funny or are rendered incorrectly after separating from an external monitor. Or maybe you want to make more room for an important file.

We can easily solve those problems with the following:

Wrapping Up

That was a lot to cover, but I do believe incorporating these commands into your workflow will prove pretty helpful. Thanks for reading!