CLI options

This chapter discusses some of the options you can use when starting Vim from the command line. Examples given are based on Unix/Linux system. Syntax and features might vary for other platforms like Windows.

Documentation links:

info Recall that you need to add - prefix for built-in help on CLI options, :h -y for example.


  • gvim opens a new unnamed buffer when filename is not specified
  • gvim opens
    • creates a blank buffer if doesn't exist, file will be created only after you explicitly issue write commands
  • gvim report.log power.log area.log opens the specified files
    • first file (report.log here) will be the current buffer
  • gvim -- *.txt if filenames can start with -, use -- to prevent such files from being treated as an option


  • gvim -h brief description of the options
    • not all options are discussed in this chapter, so you can use this to view the full list

Tabs and Splits

  • gvim -p *.log opens specified files as separate tab pages
    • by default, you can open a maximum of 10 pages, use the tabpagemax setting if you want to change this number
  • gvim -o *.log opens specified files as horizontal splits
  • gvim -O *.log opens specified files as vertical splits

info You can append a number to each of these options to specify how many tabs or splits you want. For example, gvim -p3 *.py opens three tabs irrespective of the number of input files. Empty buffers will be used if there aren't enough input files to satisfy the given number.

Easy mode

  • gvim -y opens in Insert mode and behaves like a click-and-type editor
    • useful for those who just want a simple text editor that works like notepad, gedit, etc
    • or, perhaps you can prank Vim users by setting alias vim='vim -y'
    • use Ctrl+l or Ctrl+o if you want to use Normal mode commands

info See also novim-mode plugin, which aims to make Vim behave more like a 'normal' editor.

Readonly and Restricted modes

  • gvim -R Readonly mode
    • changes can still be made and saved despite warning messages shown
    • for example, by using :w!
  • gvim -M stricter Readonly mode
    • changes cannot be made unless :set modifiable is used
    • file cannot be saved until :set write is used
  • gvim -Z Restricted mode
    • commands using external shell are not allowed
    • for example, you won't be able to use :!ls

Cursor position

  • gvim + opens and the cursor is placed on the last line
  • gvim +25 opens and the cursor is placed on the 25th line
    • if the number goes beyond the available lines in the file, the cursor will be placed on the last line
  • gvim +/while opens and the cursor is placed on the first line containing the given pattern
    • if the pattern is not found, the cursor will be placed on the last line
    • use gvim +1 +/pattern to force the search to start from the first line, otherwise cursor position stored in viminfo will be used (if applicable)

Execute command

  • gvim -c allows you to execute the Command-line mode command passed as an argument
  • gvim -c '%s/search/replace/g' opens and performs the given substitute operation
  • gvim -c 'normal =G' opens and auto indents the entire file content

info As per :h -c, "You can use up to 10 + or -c arguments in a Vim command. They are executed in the order given. A -S argument counts as a -c argument as well"

info --cmd option is similar to the -c option, but executes the command before loading any vimrc files.


  • gvim -q <(grep -Hn 'search' *.py) interactively edit the matching lines from grep output
    • -H and -n options ensure filename and line number prefix for the matching lines
    • use :cn and :cp to navigate to the next and previous occurrences respectively
    • Command-line area at the bottom will show number of matches and filenames
    • you can also use gvim -q file if you save the grep output to that file
  • gvim -q error.log edit source code based on compiler output containing filenames and line numbers for the error locations
    • here, the error.log is assumed to be the filename used to save the error messages

info See Vim and the quickfix list and stackoverflow: How do you use Vim's quickfix feature? to learn more about this feature.

info See :h quickfix for documentation.

Vimrc and Plugins

  • gvim -u file uses the given file for initialization instead of vimrc files
    • useful to test plugins, apply different vimrc based on which project you are working on, etc
  • gvim -u NONE all initializations are skipped
  • gvim -u DEFAULTS similar to NONE, but defaults.vim is loaded
  • gvim -u NORC similar to NONE, but plugins are loaded
  • gvim --noplugin only plugins are not loaded

Here's a neat table from :h --noplugin:

-u NONEnonono
-u DEFAULTSnonoyes
-u NORCnoyesno

Session and Viminfo

  • gvim -S proj.vim restore a session using the previously saved session file
  • gvim -i proj.viminfo restore Viminfo from the given file
    • this file will also be used instead of the default viminfo file to save information
    • see :h viminfo-read-write for more details