My all-time favourite commands for vim. Check out these classic hits.


Format/indent/pretty-print an XML document:

:%!xmllint --format %

Change the language/filetype/syntax of a document, for highlighting:

:set syntax=groovy

Insert spaces instead of tabs (expandtab) when pressing the Tab key - how to switch on and off:

:set expandtab
:set noexpandtab

Change the indent level to 4 spaces:

:set shiftwidth=4

To insert 4 spaces when pressing the Tab key:

:set tabstop=8 softtabstop=0 expandtab shiftwidth=4 smarttab

Line manipulation

Append “some text” at the front of every line from here to the end of a file:

i "some text \n"


Search multiple words:


Search and highlight multiple phrases (this uses the built-in highlight groups “Search” and “Todo”; to see more groups, type :highlight):

:match Search /Server is now live/
:2match Todo /backup announced/
:3match Title /another string/


How I set up my Vim ready to use:

  1. Install Vundle for managing Vim plugins

To install/manage plugins with Vundle:

  1. Add any plugins required into /.vimrc
  2. From Vim, type :PluginInstall.

To configure syntax highlighting for a file type/extension, add the following to your ~/.vimrc file:

au BufRead,BufNewFile *.adoc set filetype=asciidoc

Using Vim as a Java IDE

Install SpaceVim.


  • Install using the instructions at
  • If you installed vim using Homebrew, then the SpaceVim install script will install itself into your Homebrew install of Vim, so use that by setting an alias, e.g. alias vim="/usr/local/Cellar/vim/8.0.0604/bin/vim"
  • If colours don’t work on Mac, you need to disable “true colours” (??) - add this line to ~/.SpaceVim.d/init.vim: let g:spacevim_enable_guicolors = 0


  • Toggle file explorer (VimFiler) - F3