The iconic text editor Vim celebrates 25 years

The iconic text editor celebrates 25 years.
467 readers like this
467 readers like this
Happy birthday

Image by Oscar Cortez. Modified by CC BY-SA 2.0.

Turn back the dial of time a bit. No, keep turning... a little more... there! Over 25 years ago, when some of your professional colleagues were still toddlers, Bram Moolenaar started working on a text editor for his Amiga. He was a user of vi on Unix, but the Amiga didn't have anything quite like it. On November 2, 1991, after three years in development, he released the first version of the "Vi IMitation" editor, or Vim.

Two years later, with the 2.0 release, Vim's feature set had exceeded that of vi, so the acronym was changed to "Vi IMproved," Today, having just marked its 25th birthday, Vim is available on a wide array of platforms—Windows, OS/2, OpenVMS, BSD, Android, iOS—and it comes shipped standard with OS X and many Linux distros. It is praised by many, reviled by many, and is a central player in the ongoing conflicts between groups of developers. Interview questions have even been asked: "Emacs or Vim?" Vim is licensed freely, under a charityware license compatible with the GPL.

Vim is a flexible, extensible text editor with a powerful plugin system, rock-solid integration with many development tools, and support for hundreds of programming languages and file formats. Twenty-five years after its creation, Bram Moolenaar still leads development and maintenance of the project—a feat in itself! Vim had been chugging along in maintenance mode for more than a decade, but in September 2016 version 8.0 was released, adding new features to the editor of use to modern programmers. For many years now, sales of T-shirts and other Vim logo gear on the website has supported ICCF, a Dutch charity that supports children in Uganda. It's a favorite project of Moolenaar, who has made trips to Uganda to volunteer at the children's center in Kibaale.

Vim is one of the interesting tidbits of open source history: a project that, for 25 years, has kept the same core contributor and is used by vast numbers of people, many without ever knowing its history. If you'd like to learn a little more about Vim, check out the website, or you can read some tips for getting started with Vim or the story of a Vim convert right here on

Ruth Holloway has been a system administrator and software developer for a long, long time, getting her professional start on a VAX 11/780, way back when. She spent a lot of her career (so far) serving the technology needs of libraries, and has been a contributor since 2008 to the Koha open source library automation suite. Ruth is currently a Perl developer and project lead at Clearbuilt.


Emacs > Vim.

I had to do it.

:-) You mean emacs is bigger than vim? I guess that's true (about 6x on my system). Or does the ">" indicate a direction of movement, away from emacs, towards vim? If so, congratulations!

In reply to by Emacs (not verified)

I have two favors to ask of Vim users.

1. Launch your copy and type ":help uganda" without the quotes. You use vim every day. Send a few bucks to that orphanage/school/hospital.

2. Get a copy of "An Introduction to Display Editing in vi" by Bill Joy. It's not hard to find. Skip the parts about coping with slow terminals, weird modems, and termcaps for terminals nobody has seen in twenty years. Read the parts about the visual command set. It's probably a lot more regular than you thought. The next time someone tells you Vim makes no sense, give them your copy. Vim makes sense.

It's a great tool. Comes with everything, runs on everything. I especially like the way the mouse support is integrated orthogonally into the visual command set. (A feature I suggested to the author of Elvis, that Vim adopted about a year later. Elvis was another "vi clone.") Thank you Bram!

@Celyle: I think I'm looking at "An Introduction to Display Editing in vi" here:

The contents do not contain any occurrences of the word 'visual'. Which sections are you recommending in particular? Thanks very much.

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