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1 *os_win32.txt* For Vim version 7.3. Last change: 2012 May 18
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7 *win32* *Win32* *MS-Windows*
8 This file documents the idiosyncrasies of the Win32 version of Vim.
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10 The Win32 version of Vim works on Windows NT, 95, 98, ME, XP, Vista and
11 Windows 7. There are both console and GUI versions.
13 The 32 bit version also runs on 64 bit MS-Windows systems.
15 There is GUI version for use in the Win32s subsystem in Windows 3.1[1]. You
16 can also use the 32-bit DOS version of Vim instead. See |os_msdos.txt|.
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18 1. Known problems |win32-problems|
19 2. Startup |win32-startup|
20 3. Restore screen contents |win32-restore|
21 4. Using the mouse |win32-mouse|
22 5. Running under Windows 3.1 |win32-win3.1|
23 6. Win32 mini FAQ |win32-faq|
25 Additionally, there are a number of common Win32 and DOS items:
26 File locations |dos-locations|
27 Using backslashes |dos-backslash|
28 Standard mappings |dos-standard-mappings|
29 Screen output and colors |dos-colors|
30 File formats |dos-file-formats|
31 :cd command |dos-:cd|
32 Interrupting |dos-CTRL-Break|
33 Temp files |dos-temp-files|
34 Shell option default |dos-shell|
36 Win32 GUI |gui-w32|
38 Credits:
39 The Win32 version was written by George V. Reilly <>.
40 The original Windows NT port was done by Roger Knobbe <>.
41 The GUI version was made by George V. Reilly and Robert Webb.
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43 For compiling see "src/INSTALLpc.txt". *win32-compiling*
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45 ==============================================================================
46 1. Known problems *windows95* *win32-problems*
48 There are a few known problems with running in a console on Windows 95. As
49 far as we know, this is the same in Windows 98 and Windows ME.
51 Comments from somebody working at Microsoft: "Win95 console support has always
52 been and will always be flaky".
53 1. Dead key support doesn't work.
54 2. Resizing the window with ":set columns=nn lines=nn" works, but executing
56 3. Screen updating is slow, unless you change 'columns' or 'lines' to a
57 non-DOS value. But then the second problem applies!
59 If this bothers you, use the 32 bit MS-DOS version or the Win32 GUI version.
61 When doing file name completion, Vim also finds matches for the short file
62 name. But Vim will still find and use the corresponding long file name. For
63 example, if you have the long file name "this_is_a_test" with the short file
64 name "this_i~1", the command ":e *1" will start editing "this_is_a_test".
66 ==============================================================================
67 2. Startup *win32-startup*
69 Current directory *win32-curdir*
71 If Vim is started with a single file name argument, and it has a full path
72 (starts with "x:\"), Vim assumes it was started from the file explorer and
73 will set the current directory to where that file is. To avoid this when
74 typing a command to start Vim, use a forward slash instead of a backslash.
75 Example: >
77 vim c:\text\files\foo.txt
79 Will change to the "C:\text\files" directory. >
81 vim c:/text\files\foo.txt
83 Will use the current directory.
86 Term option *win32-term*
88 The only kind of terminal type that the Win32 version of Vim understands is
89 "win32", which is built-in. If you set 'term' to anything else, you will
90 probably get very strange behavior from Vim. Therefore Vim does not obtain
91 the default value of 'term' from the environment variable "TERM".
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93 $PATH *win32-PATH*
95 The directory of the Vim executable is appended to $PATH. This is mostly to
96 make "!xxd' work, as it is in the Tools menu. And it also means that when
97 executable() returns 1 the executable can actually be executed.
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99 ==============================================================================
100 3. Restore screen contents *win32-restore*
102 When 'restorescreen' is set (which is the default), Vim will restore the
103 original contents of the console when exiting or when executing external
104 commands. If you don't want this, use ":set nors". |'restorescreen'|
106 ==============================================================================
107 4. Using the mouse *win32-mouse*
109 The Win32 version of Vim supports using the mouse. If you have a two-button
110 mouse, the middle button can be emulated by pressing both left and right
111 buttons simultaneously - but note that in the Win32 GUI, if you have the right
112 mouse button pop-up menu enabled (see 'mouse'), you should err on the side of
113 pressing the left button first. |mouse-using|
115 When the mouse doesn't work, try disabling the "Quick Edit Mode" feature of
116 the console.
118 ==============================================================================
119 5. Running under Windows 3.1 *win32-win3.1*
121 *win32s* *windows-3.1*
122 There is a special version of Gvim that runs under Windows 3.1 and 3.11. You
123 need the gvim.exe that was compiled with Visual C++ 4.1.
125 To run the Win32 version under Windows 3.1, you need to install Win32s. You
126 might have it already from another Win32 application which you have installed.
127 If Vim doesn't seem to be running properly, get the latest version: 1.30c.
128 You can find it at:
132 (Microsoft moved it again, we don't know where it is now :-( ).
134 The reason for having two versions of gvim.exe is that the Win32s version was
135 compiled with VC++ 4.1. This is the last version of VC++ that supports Win32s
136 programs. VC++ 5.0 is better, so that one was used for the Win32 version.
137 Apart from that, there is no difference between the programs. If you are in a
138 mixed environment, you can use the gvim.exe for Win32s on both.
140 The Win32s version works the same way as the Win32 version under 95/NT. When
141 running under Win32s the following differences apply:
142 - You cannot use long file names, because Windows 3.1 doesn't support them!
143 - When executing an external command, it doesn't return an exit code. After
144 doing ":make" you have to do ":cn" yourself.
146 ==============================================================================
147 6. Win32 mini FAQ *win32-faq*
149 Q. Why does the Win32 version of Vim update the screen so slowly on Windows 95?
150 A. The support for Win32 console mode applications is very buggy in Win95.
151 For some unknown reason, the screen updates very slowly when Vim is run at
152 one of the standard resolutions (80x25, 80x43, or 80x50) and the 16-bit DOS
153 version updates the screen much more quickly than the Win32 version.
154 However, if the screen is set to some other resolution, such as by ":set
155 columns=100" or ":set lines=40", screen updating becomes about as fast as
156 it is with the 16-bit version.
158 WARNING: Changing 'columns' may make Windows 95 crash while updating the
159 window (complaints --> Microsoft). Since this mostly works, this has not
160 been disabled, but be careful with changing 'columns'.
162 Changing the screen resolution makes updates faster, but it brings
163 additional problems. External commands (e.g., ":!dir") can cause Vim to
164 freeze when the screen is set to a non-standard resolution, particularly
165 when 'columns' is not equal to 80. It is not possible for Vim to reliably
166 set the screen resolution back to the value it had upon startup before
167 running external commands, so if you change the number of 'lines' or
168 'columns', be very, very careful. In fact, Vim will not allow you to
169 execute external commands when 'columns' is not equal to 80, because it is
170 so likely to freeze up afterwards.
172 None of the above applies on Windows NT. Screen updates are fast, no
173 matter how many 'lines' or 'columns' the window has, and external commands
174 do not cause Vim to freeze.
176 Q. So if the Win32 version updates the screen so slowly on Windows 95 and the
177 16-bit DOS version updates the screen quickly, why would I want to run the
178 Win32 version?
179 A. Firstly, the Win32 version isn't that slow, especially when the screen is
180 set to some non-standard number of 'lines' or 'columns'. Secondly, the
181 16-bit DOS version has some severe limitations: It can't do big changes and
182 it doesn't know about long file names. The Win32 version doesn't have these
183 limitations and it's faster overall (the same is true for the 32-bit DJGPP
184 DOS version of Vim). The Win32 version is smarter about handling the
185 screen, the mouse, and the keyboard than the DJGPP version is.
187 Q. And what about the 16-bit DOS version versus the Win32 version on NT?
188 A. There are no good reasons to run the 16-bit DOS version on NT. The Win32
189 version updates the screen just as fast as the 16-bit version does when
190 running on NT. All of the above disadvantages apply. Finally, DOS
191 applications can take a long time to start up and will run more slowly. On
192 non-Intel NT platforms, the DOS version is almost unusably slow, because it
193 runs on top of an 80x86 emulator.
195 Q. How do I change the font?
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196 A. In the GUI version, you can use the 'guifont' option. Example: >
197 :set guifont=Lucida_Console:h15:cDEFAULT
198 < In the console version, you need to set the font of the console itself.
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199 You cannot do this from within Vim.
201 Q. When I change the size of the console window with ':set lines=xx' or
202 similar, the font changes! (Win95)
203 A. You have the console font set to 'Auto' in Vim's (or your MS-DOS prompt's)
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204 properties. This makes W95 guess (badly!) what font is best. Set an explicit
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205 font instead.
207 Q. Why can't I paste into Vim when running Windows 95?
208 A. In the properties dialog box for the MS-DOS window, go to "MS-DOS
209 Prompt/Misc/Fast pasting" and make sure that it is NOT checked. You should
210 also do ":set paste" in Vim to avoid unexpected effects. |'paste'|
212 Q. How do I type dead keys on Windows 95, in the console version?
213 (A dead key is an accent key, such as acute, grave, or umlaut, that doesn't
214 produce a character by itself, but when followed by another key, produces
215 an accented character, such as a-acute, e-grave, u-umlaut, n-tilde, and so
216 on. Very useful for most European languages. English-language keyboard
217 layouts don't use dead keys, as far as we know.)
218 A. You don't. The console mode input routines simply do not work correctly in
219 Windows 95, and I have not been able to work around them. In the words
220 of a senior developer at Microsoft:
221 Win95 console support has always been and will always be flaky.
223 The flakiness is unavoidable because we are stuck between the world of
224 MS-DOS keyboard TSRs like KEYB (which wants to cook the data;
225 important for international) and the world of Win32.
227 So keys that don't "exist" in MS-DOS land (like dead keys) have a
228 very tenuous existence in Win32 console land. Keys that act
229 differently between MS-DOS land and Win32 console land (like
230 capslock) will act flaky.
232 Don't even _mention_ the problems with multiple language keyboard
233 layouts...
235 You may be able to fashion some sort of workaround with the digraphs
236 mechanism. |digraphs|
238 The best solution is to use the Win32 GUI version gvim.exe. Alternatively,
239 you can try one of the DOS versions of Vim where dead keys reportedly do
240 work.
242 Q. How do I type dead keys on Windows NT?
243 A. Dead keys work on NT 3.51. Just type them as you would in any other
244 application.
245 On NT 4.0, you need to make sure that the default locale (set in the
246 Keyboard part of the Control Panel) is the same as the currently active
247 locale. Otherwise the NT code will get confused and crash! This is a NT
248 4.0 problem, not really a Vim problem.
250 Q. I'm using Vim to edit a symbolically linked file on a Unix NFS file server.
251 When I write the file, Vim does not "write through" the symlink. Instead,
252 it deletes the symbolic link and creates a new file in its place. Why?
253 A. On Unix, Vim is prepared for links (symbolic or hard). A backup copy of
254 the original file is made and then the original file is overwritten. This
255 assures that all properties of the file remain the same. On non-Unix
256 systems, the original file is renamed and a new file is written. Only the
257 protection bits are set like the original file. However, this doesn't work
258 properly when working on an NFS-mounted file system where links and other
259 things exist. The only way to fix this in the current version is not
260 making a backup file, by ":set nobackup nowritebackup" |'writebackup'|
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262 Q. I'm using Vim to edit a file on a Unix file server through Samba. When I
263 write the file, the owner of the file is changed. Why?
264 A. When writing a file Vim renames the original file, this is a backup (in
265 case writing the file fails halfway). Then the file is written as a new
266 file. Samba then gives it the default owner for the file system, which may
267 differ from the original owner.
268 To avoid this set the 'backupcopy' option to "yes". Vim will then make a
269 copy of the file for the backup, and overwrite the original file. The
270 owner isn't changed then.
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272 Q. How do I get to see the output of ":make" while it's running?
273 A. Basically what you need is to put a tee program that will copy its input
274 (the output from make) to both stdout and to the errorfile. You can find a
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275 copy of tee (and a number of other GNU tools) at
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276 or
277 Alternatively, try the more recent Cygnus version of the GNU tools at
278 Other Unix-style tools for Win32 are listed at
280 When you do get a copy of tee, you'll need to add >
281 :set shellpipe=\|\ tee
282 < to your _vimrc.
284 Q. I'm storing files on a remote machine that works with VisionFS, and files
285 disappear!
286 A. VisionFS can't handle certain dot (.) three letter extension file names.
287 SCO declares this behavior required for backwards compatibility with 16bit
288 DOS/Windows environments. The two commands below demonstrate the behavior:
289 >
290 echo Hello > file.bat~
291 dir > file.bat
292 <
293 The result is that the "dir" command updates the "file.bat~" file, instead
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294 of creating a new "file.bat" file. This same behavior is exhibited in Vim
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295 when editing an existing file named "foo.bat" because the default behavior
296 of Vim is to create a temporary file with a '~' character appended to the
297 name. When the file is written, it winds up being deleted.
299 Solution: Add this command to your _vimrc file: >
300 :set backupext=.temporary
302 Q. How do I change the blink rate of the cursor?
303 A. You can't! This is a limitation of the NT console. NT 5.0 is reported to
304 be able to set the blink rate for all console windows at the same time.
306 *:!start*
307 Q. How can I run an external command or program asynchronously?
308 A. When using :! to run an external command, you can run it with "start": >
309 :!start winfile.exe<CR>
310 < Using "start" stops Vim switching to another screen, opening a new console,
311 or waiting for the program to complete; it indicates that you are running a
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312 program that does not affect the files you are editing. Programs begun
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313 with :!start do not get passed Vim's open file handles, which means they do
314 not have to be closed before Vim.
315 To avoid this special treatment, use ":! start".
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316 There are two optional arguments (see the next Q):
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317 /min the window will be minimized
318 /b no console window will be opened
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319 You can use only one of these flags at a time. A second one will be
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320 treated as the start of the command.
322 Q. How do I avoid getting a window for programs that I run asynchronously?
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323 A. You have two possible solutions depending on what you want:
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324 1) You may use the /min flag in order to run program in a minimized state
325 with no other changes. It will work equally for console and GUI
326 applications.
327 2) You can use the /b flag to run console applications without creating a
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328 console window for them (GUI applications are not affected). But you
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329 should use this flag only if the application you run doesn't require any
330 input. Otherwise it will get an EOF error because its input stream
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331 (stdin) would be redirected to \\.\NUL (stdout and stderr too).
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333 Example for a console application, run Exuberant ctags: >
334 :!start /min ctags -R .
335 < When it has finished you should see file named "tags" in your current
336 directory. You should notice the window title blinking on your taskbar.
337 This is more noticable for commands that take longer.
338 Now delete the "tags" file and run this command: >
339 :!start /b ctags -R .
340 < You should have the same "tags" file, but this time there will be no
341 blinking on the taskbar.
342 Example for a GUI application: >
343 :!start /min notepad
344 :!start /b notepad
345 < The first command runs notepad minimized and the second one runs it
346 normally.
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348 Q. I'm using Win32s, and when I try to run an external command like "make",
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349 Vim doesn't wait for it to finish! Help!
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350 A. The problem is that a 32-bit application (Vim) can't get notification from
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351 Windows that a 16-bit application (your DOS session) has finished. Vim
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352 includes a work-around for this, but you must set up your DOS commands to
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353 run in a window, not full-screen. Unfortunately the default when you
354 install Windows is full-screen. To change this:
355 1) Start PIF editor (in the Main program group).
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356 2) Open the file "_DEFAULT.PIF" in your Windows directory.
357 3) Changes the display option from "Full Screen" to "Windowed".
358 4) Save and exit.
360 To test, start Vim and type >
361 :!dir C:\<CR>".
362 < You should see a DOS box window appear briefly with the directory listing.
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364 Q. I use Vim under Win32s and NT. In NT, I can define the console to default to
365 50 lines, so that I get a 80x50 shell when I ':sh'. Can I do the same in
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366 W3.1x, or am I stuck with 80x25?
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367 A. Edit SYSTEM.INI and add 'ScreenLines=50' to the [NonWindowsApp] section. DOS
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368 prompts and external DOS commands will now run in a 50-line window.
370 vim:tw=78:fo=tcq2:ts=8:ft=help:norl:
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