Vim text editor turns 25

The iconic text editor Vim celebrates 25 years

Happy birthday!
Image by : 
Image by Oscar Cortez. Modified by CC BY-SA 2.0.

Subscribe now

Get the highlights in your inbox every week.

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

About the author

Ruth Holloway - 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. You can find out more about Ruth's passions and career...