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1 *os_win32.txt* For Vim version 7.2a. Last change: 2008 May 02
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7 *win32* *Win32* *MS-Windows*
8 This file documents the idiosyncrasies of the Win32 version of Vim.
10 The Win32 version of Vim works on both Windows NT and Windows 95. There are
11 both console and GUI versions. There is GUI version for use in the Win32s
12 subsystem in Windows 3.1[1]. You can also use the 32-bit DOS version of Vim
13 instead. See |os_msdos.txt|.
15 1. Known problems |win32-problems|
16 2. Startup |win32-startup|
17 3. Restore screen contents |win32-restore|
18 4. Using the mouse |win32-mouse|
19 5. Running under Windows 3.1 |win32-win3.1|
20 6. Win32 mini FAQ |win32-faq|
22 Additionally, there are a number of common Win32 and DOS items:
23 File locations |dos-locations|
24 Using backslashes |dos-backslash|
25 Standard mappings |dos-standard-mappings|
26 Screen output and colors |dos-colors|
27 File formats |dos-file-formats|
28 :cd command |dos-:cd|
29 Interrupting |dos-CTRL-Break|
30 Temp files |dos-temp-files|
31 Shell option default |dos-shell|
33 Win32 GUI |gui-w32|
35 Credits:
36 The Win32 version was written by George V. Reilly <>.
37 The original Windows NT port was done by Roger Knobbe <>.
38 The GUI version was made by George V. Reilly and Robert Webb.
40 For compiling see "src/INSTALL.pc". *win32-compiling*
42 ==============================================================================
43 1. Known problems *windows95* *win32-problems*
45 There are a few known problems with running in a console on Windows 95. As
46 far as we know, this is the same in Windows 98 and Windows ME.
48 Comments from somebody working at Microsoft: "Win95 console support has always
49 been and will always be flaky".
50 1. Dead key support doesn't work.
51 2. Resizing the window with ":set columns=nn lines=nn" works, but executing
53 3. Screen updating is slow, unless you change 'columns' or 'lines' to a
54 non-DOS value. But then the second problem applies!
56 If this bothers you, use the 32 bit MS-DOS version or the Win32 GUI version.
58 When doing file name completion, Vim also finds matches for the short file
59 name. But Vim will still find and use the corresponding long file name. For
60 example, if you have the long file name "this_is_a_test" with the short file
61 name "this_i~1", the command ":e *1" will start editing "this_is_a_test".
63 ==============================================================================
64 2. Startup *win32-startup*
66 Current directory *win32-curdir*
68 If Vim is started with a single file name argument, and it has a full path
69 (starts with "x:\"), Vim assumes it was started from the file explorer and
70 will set the current directory to where that file is. To avoid this when
71 typing a command to start Vim, use a forward slash instead of a backslash.
72 Example: >
74 vim c:\text\files\foo.txt
76 Will change to the "C:\text\files" directory. >
78 vim c:/text\files\foo.txt
80 Will use the current directory.
83 Term option *win32-term*
85 The only kind of terminal type that the Win32 version of Vim understands is
86 "win32", which is built-in. If you set 'term' to anything else, you will
87 probably get very strange behavior from Vim. Therefore Vim does not obtain
88 the default value of 'term' from the environment variable "TERM".
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90 $PATH *win32-PATH*
92 The directory of the Vim executable is appended to $PATH. This is mostly to
93 make "!xxd' work, as it is in the Tools menu. And it also means that when
94 executable() returns 1 the executable can actually be executed.
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96 ==============================================================================
97 3. Restore screen contents *win32-restore*
99 When 'restorescreen' is set (which is the default), Vim will restore the
100 original contents of the console when exiting or when executing external
101 commands. If you don't want this, use ":set nors". |'restorescreen'|
103 ==============================================================================
104 4. Using the mouse *win32-mouse*
106 The Win32 version of Vim supports using the mouse. If you have a two-button
107 mouse, the middle button can be emulated by pressing both left and right
108 buttons simultaneously - but note that in the Win32 GUI, if you have the right
109 mouse button pop-up menu enabled (see 'mouse'), you should err on the side of
110 pressing the left button first. |mouse-using|
112 When the mouse doesn't work, try disabling the "Quick Edit Mode" feature of
113 the console.
115 ==============================================================================
116 5. Running under Windows 3.1 *win32-win3.1*
118 *win32s* *windows-3.1*
119 There is a special version of Gvim that runs under Windows 3.1 and 3.11. You
120 need the gvim.exe that was compiled with Visual C++ 4.1.
122 To run the Win32 version under Windows 3.1, you need to install Win32s. You
123 might have it already from another Win32 application which you have installed.
124 If Vim doesn't seem to be running properly, get the latest version: 1.30c.
125 You can find it at:
129 (Microsoft moved it again, we don't know where it is now :-( ).
131 The reason for having two versions of gvim.exe is that the Win32s version was
132 compiled with VC++ 4.1. This is the last version of VC++ that supports Win32s
133 programs. VC++ 5.0 is better, so that one was used for the Win32 version.
134 Apart from that, there is no difference between the programs. If you are in a
135 mixed environment, you can use the gvim.exe for Win32s on both.
137 The Win32s version works the same way as the Win32 version under 95/NT. When
138 running under Win32s the following differences apply:
139 - You cannot use long file names, because Windows 3.1 doesn't support them!
140 - When executing an external command, it doesn't return an exit code. After
141 doing ":make" you have to do ":cn" yourself.
143 ==============================================================================
144 6. Win32 mini FAQ *win32-faq*
146 Q. Why does the Win32 version of Vim update the screen so slowly on Windows 95?
147 A. The support for Win32 console mode applications is very buggy in Win95.
148 For some unknown reason, the screen updates very slowly when Vim is run at
149 one of the standard resolutions (80x25, 80x43, or 80x50) and the 16-bit DOS
150 version updates the screen much more quickly than the Win32 version.
151 However, if the screen is set to some other resolution, such as by ":set
152 columns=100" or ":set lines=40", screen updating becomes about as fast as
153 it is with the 16-bit version.
155 WARNING: Changing 'columns' may make Windows 95 crash while updating the
156 window (complaints --> Microsoft). Since this mostly works, this has not
157 been disabled, but be careful with changing 'columns'.
159 Changing the screen resolution makes updates faster, but it brings
160 additional problems. External commands (e.g., ":!dir") can cause Vim to
161 freeze when the screen is set to a non-standard resolution, particularly
162 when 'columns' is not equal to 80. It is not possible for Vim to reliably
163 set the screen resolution back to the value it had upon startup before
164 running external commands, so if you change the number of 'lines' or
165 'columns', be very, very careful. In fact, Vim will not allow you to
166 execute external commands when 'columns' is not equal to 80, because it is
167 so likely to freeze up afterwards.
169 None of the above applies on Windows NT. Screen updates are fast, no
170 matter how many 'lines' or 'columns' the window has, and external commands
171 do not cause Vim to freeze.
173 Q. So if the Win32 version updates the screen so slowly on Windows 95 and the
174 16-bit DOS version updates the screen quickly, why would I want to run the
175 Win32 version?
176 A. Firstly, the Win32 version isn't that slow, especially when the screen is
177 set to some non-standard number of 'lines' or 'columns'. Secondly, the
178 16-bit DOS version has some severe limitations: It can't do big changes and
179 it doesn't know about long file names. The Win32 version doesn't have these
180 limitations and it's faster overall (the same is true for the 32-bit DJGPP
181 DOS version of Vim). The Win32 version is smarter about handling the
182 screen, the mouse, and the keyboard than the DJGPP version is.
184 Q. And what about the 16-bit DOS version versus the Win32 version on NT?
185 A. There are no good reasons to run the 16-bit DOS version on NT. The Win32
186 version updates the screen just as fast as the 16-bit version does when
187 running on NT. All of the above disadvantages apply. Finally, DOS
188 applications can take a long time to start up and will run more slowly. On
189 non-Intel NT platforms, the DOS version is almost unusably slow, because it
190 runs on top of an 80x86 emulator.
192 Q. How do I change the font?
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193 A. In the GUI version, you can use the 'guifont' option. Example: >
194 :set guifont=Lucida_Console:h15:cDEFAULT
195 < In the console version, you need to set the font of the console itself.
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196 You cannot do this from within Vim.
198 Q. When I change the size of the console window with ':set lines=xx' or
199 similar, the font changes! (Win95)
200 A. You have the console font set to 'Auto' in Vim's (or your MS-DOS prompt's)
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201 properties. This makes W95 guess (badly!) what font is best. Set an explicit
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202 font instead.
204 Q. Why can't I paste into Vim when running Windows 95?
205 A. In the properties dialog box for the MS-DOS window, go to "MS-DOS
206 Prompt/Misc/Fast pasting" and make sure that it is NOT checked. You should
207 also do ":set paste" in Vim to avoid unexpected effects. |'paste'|
209 Q. How do I type dead keys on Windows 95, in the console version?
210 (A dead key is an accent key, such as acute, grave, or umlaut, that doesn't
211 produce a character by itself, but when followed by another key, produces
212 an accented character, such as a-acute, e-grave, u-umlaut, n-tilde, and so
213 on. Very useful for most European languages. English-language keyboard
214 layouts don't use dead keys, as far as we know.)
215 A. You don't. The console mode input routines simply do not work correctly in
216 Windows 95, and I have not been able to work around them. In the words
217 of a senior developer at Microsoft:
218 Win95 console support has always been and will always be flaky.
220 The flakiness is unavoidable because we are stuck between the world of
221 MS-DOS keyboard TSRs like KEYB (which wants to cook the data;
222 important for international) and the world of Win32.
224 So keys that don't "exist" in MS-DOS land (like dead keys) have a
225 very tenuous existence in Win32 console land. Keys that act
226 differently between MS-DOS land and Win32 console land (like
227 capslock) will act flaky.
229 Don't even _mention_ the problems with multiple language keyboard
230 layouts...
232 You may be able to fashion some sort of workaround with the digraphs
233 mechanism. |digraphs|
235 The best solution is to use the Win32 GUI version gvim.exe. Alternatively,
236 you can try one of the DOS versions of Vim where dead keys reportedly do
237 work.
239 Q. How do I type dead keys on Windows NT?
240 A. Dead keys work on NT 3.51. Just type them as you would in any other
241 application.
242 On NT 4.0, you need to make sure that the default locale (set in the
243 Keyboard part of the Control Panel) is the same as the currently active
244 locale. Otherwise the NT code will get confused and crash! This is a NT
245 4.0 problem, not really a Vim problem.
247 Q. I'm using Vim to edit a symbolically linked file on a Unix NFS file server.
248 When I write the file, Vim does not "write through" the symlink. Instead,
249 it deletes the symbolic link and creates a new file in its place. Why?
250 A. On Unix, Vim is prepared for links (symbolic or hard). A backup copy of
251 the original file is made and then the original file is overwritten. This
252 assures that all properties of the file remain the same. On non-Unix
253 systems, the original file is renamed and a new file is written. Only the
254 protection bits are set like the original file. However, this doesn't work
255 properly when working on an NFS-mounted file system where links and other
256 things exist. The only way to fix this in the current version is not
257 making a backup file, by ":set nobackup nowritebackup" |'writebackup'|
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259 Q. I'm using Vim to edit a file on a Unix file server through Samba. When I
260 write the file, the owner of the file is changed. Why?
261 A. When writing a file Vim renames the original file, this is a backup (in
262 case writing the file fails halfway). Then the file is written as a new
263 file. Samba then gives it the default owner for the file system, which may
264 differ from the original owner.
265 To avoid this set the 'backupcopy' option to "yes". Vim will then make a
266 copy of the file for the backup, and overwrite the original file. The
267 owner isn't changed then.
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269 Q. How do I get to see the output of ":make" while it's running?
270 A. Basically what you need is to put a tee program that will copy its input
271 (the output from make) to both stdout and to the errorfile. You can find a
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272 copy of tee (and a number of other GNU tools) at
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273 or
274 Alternatively, try the more recent Cygnus version of the GNU tools at
275 Other Unix-style tools for Win32 are listed at
277 When you do get a copy of tee, you'll need to add >
278 :set shellpipe=\|\ tee
279 < to your _vimrc.
281 Q. I'm storing files on a remote machine that works with VisionFS, and files
282 disappear!
283 A. VisionFS can't handle certain dot (.) three letter extension file names.
284 SCO declares this behavior required for backwards compatibility with 16bit
285 DOS/Windows environments. The two commands below demonstrate the behavior:
286 >
287 echo Hello > file.bat~
288 dir > file.bat
289 <
290 The result is that the "dir" command updates the "file.bat~" file, instead
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291 of creating a new "file.bat" file. This same behavior is exhibited in Vim
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292 when editing an existing file named "foo.bat" because the default behavior
293 of Vim is to create a temporary file with a '~' character appended to the
294 name. When the file is written, it winds up being deleted.
296 Solution: Add this command to your _vimrc file: >
297 :set backupext=.temporary
299 Q. How do I change the blink rate of the cursor?
300 A. You can't! This is a limitation of the NT console. NT 5.0 is reported to
301 be able to set the blink rate for all console windows at the same time.
303 *:!start*
304 Q. How can I run an external command or program asynchronously?
305 A. When using :! to run an external command, you can run it with "start": >
306 :!start winfile.exe<CR>
307 < Using "start" stops Vim switching to another screen, opening a new console,
308 or waiting for the program to complete; it indicates that you are running a
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309 program that does not affect the files you are editing. Programs begun
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310 with :!start do not get passed Vim's open file handles, which means they do
311 not have to be closed before Vim.
312 To avoid this special treatment, use ":! start".
314 Q. I'm using Win32s, and when I try to run an external command like "make",
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315 Vim doesn't wait for it to finish! Help!
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316 A. The problem is that a 32-bit application (Vim) can't get notification from
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317 Windows that a 16-bit application (your DOS session) has finished. Vim
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318 includes a work-around for this, but you must set up your DOS commands to
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319 run in a window, not full-screen. Unfortunately the default when you
320 install Windows is full-screen. To change this:
321 1) Start PIF editor (in the Main program group).
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322 2) Open the file "_DEFAULT.PIF" in your Windows directory.
323 3) Changes the display option from "Full Screen" to "Windowed".
324 4) Save and exit.
326 To test, start Vim and type >
327 :!dir C:\<CR>".
328 < You should see a DOS box window appear briefly with the directory listing.
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330 Q. I use Vim under Win32s and NT. In NT, I can define the console to default to
331 50 lines, so that I get a 80x50 shell when I ':sh'. Can I do the same in
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332 W3.1x, or am I stuck with 80x25?
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333 A. Edit SYSTEM.INI and add 'ScreenLines=50' to the [NonWindowsApp] section. DOS
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334 prompts and external DOS commands will now run in a 50-line window.
336 vim:tw=78:fo=tcq2:ts=8:ft=help:norl:
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