Bram's advice (on one of the PDFs on his home site) is to read the
whole "user manual" at one sitting (or that's how I understood it).
Mine (which is not The Word From On High but just my own point of
view) is to go even more slowly but more steadily:
1. Subscribe to the vim_use list (but if you're here, you probably
already did that). If you are on a Mac, subscribe also to the vim_mac
list: these two are not about the same subjects. Later, but maybe not
immediately, you may want to add the vim_dev list which is more
technical than the other two.
2. Do all the Vimtutor lessons one after another — but not without
breaks: take a break whenever you feel you've got enough for one
sitting, and if possible before it gives you a headache. Then clear
your head: play with your children if you have any, walk your dog (if
you have any) around the block, take a walk in the park, do some
shopping, whatever. But come back later.
3. Hit <F1> to start reading help, and after reading that very
elementary help (you may skip fast over the table of contents, you'll
come back to it later), do ":help helphelp" without the quotes but
with <Enter> at the end (yes, "I tell you three times") which will
tell you how to find your way around in Vim's help (and how to find
what you want to know when you want to know it).
4. Read the rest of the help (including, but not limited to, the user
manual), no more than one helpfile at a time (and probably less)
whenever you find a help subject which is relevant to the kind of
editing you are doing at that time; and once you've understood the
part you need, use it immediately. Come back if the new commands you
use don't do what you want, it just might mean that you skipped over
one important sentence.
5. If you happen to have a free hour or so with nothing better to do,
it is "not forbidden" to read any random part of the help which looks
like it might be interesting (this is where you might want to come
back to the table of contents); but don't forget to stop before you
get bored, or as soon as some more urgent duty calls you, whichever
Where I agree with Bram is that there are two errors to avoid: (a) not
reading any of the help, and staying forever with a very few extremely
elementary commands, maybe using Vim as one would Notepad; and (b)
wanting to know everything at once, and never getting started on real
editing. Vim's help is so complete — so encyclopædic — that it might
take someone forever to know it all, especially since it is constantly
being added to, whenever Vim gets a new feature. (Well, maybe Bram
knows it all but he had a head start ;-) ). I won't pretend I know all
about Vim — I don't — but I'm beginning to know a fair bit of it. I
started in the way described above at some point between Vim 6.0 and
6.1 IIRC (at a time when Unicode support was new and tabpages didn't
yet exist), and I still discover new things about Vim every day. Like
Socrates, "the more I know, and the better I realize how little I
That's all — oh, I almost forgot one more thing, and a very important
one at that: Have fun!
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