Archive for April, 2010

UPDATE: With respect to terminology, check out Drew Neil’s comment below.

In Vim, I’ve been using splits for years. Splits are great:

  • view 2 files at the same time
  • view 2 parts of the same file at the same time
  • dump bits of text into a new split
  • dump command outputs into a new split
  • and so on…

However, I’ve been using the subset of splits that I understood while shying away from advanced use cases. Somewhere down my TODO list, there was an item called “understand Vim splits”. This blog post is an attempt to document what I discovered.

3 Questions

When it comes to splitting, there are, thankfully, only 3 questions:

  • are you splitting the buffer or the window?
  • are you splitting horizontal or vertical?
  • do you want to send the split left, right, up or down?

3 questions

When you type:


You are using the defaults: buffer, horizontal, up.

There are 8 combinations:

window  horizontal  up      -->   :topleft    split
window  horizontal  down    -->   :botright   split
window  vertical    left    -->   :topleft    vsplit
window  vertical    right   -->   :botright   vsplit
buffer  horizontal  up      -->   :leftabove  split
buffer  horizontal  down    -->   :rightbelow split
buffer  vertical    left    -->   :leftabove  vsplit
buffer  vertical    right   -->   :rightbelow vsplit

What were they thinking?! Good time to give up? :-D


Look at the following picture. Starting from a initial state, follow what happens when you invoke these commands. (click to enlarge)

  • for this example, it doesn’t matter whether you’re using split/vsplit or new/vnew
  • the blue buffer is where your cursor is
  • the buffers are numbered to help locate them before and after

Even though I spent a few hours thinking about splits and studying the commands to eventually come up with that summary graph, I can’t say it’s the most intuitive set of commands around. If I stop everything I’m doing, I can mentally come up with the right command but it’s very taxing.

Here’s a list of mappings I just added to my .vimrc

" window
nmap <leader>sw<left>  :topleft  vnew<CR>
nmap <leader>sw<right> :botright vnew<CR>
nmap <leader>sw<up>    :topleft  new<CR>
nmap <leader>sw<down>  :botright new<CR>

" buffer
nmap <leader>s<left>   :leftabove  vnew<CR>
nmap <leader>s<right>  :rightbelow vnew<CR>
nmap <leader>s<up>     :leftabove  new<CR>
nmap <leader>s<down>   :rightbelow new<CR>

Feel free to replace the arrow keys (up, down, left, right) with k, j, h, l if you’re more comfortable with those bindings.

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