IntelliJ IDEA 2017.2 Help

Using IntelliJ IDEA as the Vim Editor

This feature is supported in the Ultimate edition only.

The following is only valid when IdeaVim Plugin is installed and enabled!

Before you start

Make sure that:

  • You are working with IntelliJ IDEA version 15.0.0 or higher. If you still do not have IntelliJ IDEA, download it from this page. To install IntelliJ IDEA, follow the instructions, depending on your platform.

Downloading and installing IdeaVim plugin

On the toolbar of the IntelliJ IDEA main window, press Ctrl+Alt+S to open the Settings/Preferences dialog, and then click Plugins.

You see the list of plugins currently installed on you computer. However, the IdeaVim plugin is not among them. Click the button Browse JetBrains plugins. IntelliJ IDEA shows the contents of the huge JetBrains repository... you can type the word "vim" in the search field to narrow down the list:

install vim

After installing the plugin, it actually becomes available after IntelliJ IDEA restart.

ij vim restart

What happens to IntelliJ IDEA's UI after restart?

First, on the Tools menu, a check command Vim Emulator appears:

ij vim emulator

After IntelliJ IDEA restart, this check command is selected. You can disable Vim by clearing this check command.

Second, in Settings/Preferences dialog, an additional page Vim Emulation appears after restart.

Configuring shortcuts

Both Vim and IntelliJ IDEA are keyboard-centric. With IdeaVim plugin, it is quite possible that IntelliJ IDEA's keymap runs into a conflict with the Vim keymap. That's why IntelliJ IDEA allows you choosing which keyboard shortcut you prefer for a certain action. This is how it's done.

Open Settings/Preferences dialog, and click Vim emulation:

vim emulation page

In the Shortcut column, select the shortcut you want to configure. Next, in the Handler column, click the corresponding cell, and see the drop-down list of three possible options (Undefined, IDE, Vim):

vim emulation shortcut

If you choose IDE, it means that the IntelliJ IDEA's shortcut for this particular action is enabled. When you press, say, Ctrl+Z, IntelliJ IDEA silently performs its action.

If you leave the handler undefined, then, on pressing the shortcut, say, Ctrl+B, IntelliJ IDEA shows the banner.

You can choose to redefine this shortcut as an IDE shortcut and thus accept the IntelliJ IDEA's keymap. To do so, click the link IDE shortcut.

If you click the down arrow and then the link Vim Emulation, then IntelliJ IDEA will show the Vim Emulation page of the Settings/Preferences dialog.

For the purposes of this tutorial, click the link Vim Emulation. Then, when you press Ctrl+B, IntelliJ IDEA will perform the Vim action for this keyboard shortcut.

Editing modes

OK, now that you have Vim enabled, you see that the cursor has changed its shape - now it is a block, which means that you are in the Normal mode :

ij vim normal

If you want to enter the Insert mode, press i, and the cursor will turn into a line:

ij vim insert

In this mode you can type new or change the existing code. Same way, you can enter the various Vim modes: for example, press r for the Replace mode.

By the way, as soon as you enter Vim emulation, it is also reported in the Status bar.

ps vim status bar

To return to the Normal mode, press Escape.

Last modified: 29 November 2017

See Also