Setting files of VIM Emulation for Karabiner (KeyRemap4Macbook)
Clone or download
Latest commit 7be15a8 Sep 29, 2018


Setting files of Karabiner(KeyRemap4MacBook) for VIM Emulation.

Note: For users since macOS Sierra, use Karabiner-Element + rcmdnk/KE-complex_modifications (Import Vim Emulation from Karabiner-Elements complex_modifications rules by rcmdnk.)


Stable version is available in KeyRemap4MacBook as default (from 8.3.7)

Now vim_emu was included in KeyRemap4MacBook from 8.3.7. If you use previous version, please update KeyRemap4MacBook or install files directly as below. If you are up-to-date at stable release but it is before 8.3.7, please try to check Beta version: follow this instruction.

Update: 2013/07/14 New version which includes several ChangeKeys, Macro, etc... is available from 8.90.19.

Note: currenlty, Repeat (e.g. 3w, y3d) and Visual Block are commented out.

Install the latest vim_emu

There could be some updates not included in KeyRemap4MacBook, yet. If you want to try the latest version, do:

git clone
cd vim_emu

If you have KeyRemap4MacBook version in which vim_emu is already installed, you need to comment out vim_emu in /Applications/ like:

<include path="include/checkbox/vi_mode.xml" />
<include path="include/checkbox/ubiquitous_vim_bindings.xml" />
<!-- <include path="include/checkbox/vim_emu.xml" /> -->
<include path="include/checkbox/complete_vi_mode.xml" />

Abobe work is no longer necessary. If you have line (~ top of the file):

<include path="vim_emu.xml"></include>

in private.xml, then please remove the line.

You should have following line at the bottom of file instead:

Note: You need to install KeyRemap4MacBook before installing these files.

Uninstall (for using vim_emu.git repository)

Remove vim_emu_test.xml, vim_emu.xml, vim_emu directory in "$HOME/Library/Application Support/KeyRemap4MacBook/.

Remove the line (~at the end of file):

<include path="vim_emu_test.xml"></include>

in "$HOME/Library/Application Support/KeyRemap4MacBook/private.xml.


Currently, vim_emu supports US, JIS and German (partly) keyboards.


Following checkboxes will appear in your setting panel:

  • ChangeKey1: Escape to enter Normal Mode, holding to emulate raw ESC.
  • ChangeKey2: + Escape to back in Insert Mode
  • ChangeKey3: Escape to back in Normal Mode in other than Inser Mode.
  • ChangeKey4: Ctrl-[ to enter Normal Mode, holding to emulate raw ESC.
  • ChangeKey5: + Ctrl-[ to back in Insert Mode
  • ChangeKey6: Ctrl-[ to back in Normal Mode in other than Inser Mode.
  • ChangeKey7: Simultaneous jk toggles Normal-Insert Mode.
  • ChangeKey8: Simultaneous qw toggles Normal-Insert Mode.
  • ChangeKey9: Simultaneous sd toggles Normal-Insert Mode.
  • ChangeKey10: Ctlr-l toggles Normal-Insert Mode.
  • ChangeKey11: Tap Left Cmd toggles Normal-Insert Mode.
  • ChangeKey12: Tap Right Cmd toggles Normal-Insert Mode.
  • ChangeKey13: Use customize key to enter Normal Mode. Key is defined by VIM_EMU_CUSTOMIZE_KEY.
  • ChangeKey14: Use customize toggle keys to enter Normal Mode. Key is defined by VIM_EMU_CUSTOMIZE_SIMULTANEOUS_KEY.
  • Enable Vim Emulation.
  • Enable Vim like complement.
  • Enable Vim Recording Macro.
  • Disable all non-assigned keys in other than Insert Mode.
  • Ctrl-[ to Escape for non-vim_emu apps.
  • Ctrl-[ to Escape in Noraml Mode.
  • Reset vim_emu at non-vim_emu apps.
  • Reset vim_emu at left click in any case.
  • Reset vim_emu at Cmd-Tab in any case.
  • Reset at Spotlight (Ctrl-Space or Ctrl-Option-Space)
  • Additional settings of Control + X at insert mode.

Enable Enable Vim Emulation and at least one of ChangeKeys.

For simultaneous jk/qw/sd, it works only in Insert/Normal modes. Therefore, at least one of ChangeKey 1, 3, 4, 6, 10-14 needs to be checked to leave such Virtual mode.

ChangeKey 3 and 6 works only in modes other than Insert/Normal modes, therefore they are useful if you use ESC/Ctrl-[ as is in Insert/Normal modes.

For ChangeKey13, you can set a key as you like in your private.xml, like:


This setting makes RETURN key to enter normal mode. Under this setting, you can use RETURN by holding RETURN key.

For ChangeKey14, you can set a key to toggle Normal-Insert as you like in your private.xml, like:

  <replacementvalue>KeyCode::O, KeyCode::P</replacementvalue>

For Recording Macro, you need MadRuby (see below).

If you check "Reset vim_emu at non-vim_emu apps", vim_emu Mode will change to "Insert Mode" (Non-vim_emu mode) when you push single key/click at non-vim_emu apps. e.g.) If you change vim_emu mode to Normal at TextEdit and change the application to Terminal and click or push key, vim_emu Mode is changed to "Insert Mode". It doesn't affect on Terminal, but just changes the mode for vim_emu apps.

"Reset vim_emu at left click in any case" and "Reset vim_emu at Cmd-Tab in any case" are also similar options, but it reset mode even on vim_emu apps.

Note: You can enable all vim features, but it may make your key input/mouse move slow. Such Yank/Delete/Change Mode is especially heavy. (To do: make it light...)

Currently some options are disabled because they have too much key mappings and it affects on the performance of Mac.

If you want, try full_option branch.

Currently, following options are available in addition to above:

  • Enable Vim Visual Block Mode.
  • Enable Vim Repeat (Currently comented out).


The default setting enables vim emulation on applications w/o Terminal (iTerm), Vi (MacVim), Firefox, Emacs, and password dialog.

If you want to change applications, add replacement liens for VIM_EMU_ONLY_APPS (only on which enable) and VIM_EMU_IGNORE_APPS (on which don't enable) at the top of private.xml.

e.g.) Enable for all but Terminal (iTerm), Vi (MacVim), Cathode, Firefox, Emacs, and password dialog (default setting).

  <replacementvalue>TERMINAL, VI, CATHODE, PASSWORD, FIREFOX, EMACS</replacementvalue>

e.g.) Enable only for MAIL.


Refer /Applications/ or Specify application for definitions of applications.

Main Modes

Here are main modes of vim emulation.

Mode Description
Insert Mode Normal Mac state
Normal Mode As in vim, a cursor is moved by hjkl, w, etc... and some vim like commands are available.
Visual Mode There are three visual mode: Character-wise, Line-wise, and Block-wise. Block-wise visual mode is optional and behaves a bit different from others.
Command Mode Can be used for saving file/quitting.

An initial state is Insert Mode, then Esc or Ctrl-[ brings you to the normal mode.

In the normal mode, i is the key to be back to the insert mode.

v and V are the key to the Character-wise and Line-wise visual mode, respectively.

After push :, a few commands to save/quit are available.

There will be pop up like -- VIM -- during modes other than Insert mode are enabled.

Available commands at Insert mode

Key/Commands Function
ESC/Ctrl-[ Enter Normal mode. Holding these keys emulate normal ESC. In addition, toggle option is available.
Simultaneous jk/qw/sd, Ctrl-l, Left-Cmd, Right-Cmd Can be used for toggling Normal-Insert Modes.
Ctrl-n/p Enter Complement mode, if "Enable Vim like complement" is checked.

In Complement mode, use Ctrl-n/p to choose a candidate, Ctrl-h to skip, and ESC/Ctrl-[ to choose a candidate.

When you enable Additional settings of Control + X at insert mode, following commands are also available:

Key/Commands Function
Ctrl-c Enter Normal mode.
Ctrl-i Insert Tab.
Ctrl-j Return.
Ctrl-m Return.
Ctrl-t Insert tab at the beginning of current line.
Ctrl-u Cut the text between the beginning of the line and the current position.
Ctrl-w Cut the word before the cursor.

Note: Some Control-X shortcut keys emacs like movements are originally available in OS X (see Mac keyboard shortcuts - Apple Support).

Available commands at Normal mode

Mode Change

Key/Commands Function
i/I/a/A/o/O Enter the insert mode at under the cursor/start of the line/next to the cursor/end of the line/next line/previous line.
v/V Enter the visual mode of Character-wise/Line-wise.
: Enter the command line mode


Key/Commands Function
h/j/k/l Left/Down/Up/Right.
0/$ Move to the beginning/last of the line (Mac Cmd-left, Cmd-right).
^ Move to the first character of the line.
+/- Move to the next/previous line's first character.
{/} Move to the beginning/end of the paragraph (Mac Ctrl-a, Ctrl-e. It works rather like "sentence". Sometime, it is actual sentence rather than 0/$).
Ctrl-a/Ctrl-e To the beginning/last of the line (emacs like).
w/W/e/E Move a word forward (w/W: the beginning of the word, e/E: the end of the word).
b/B, ge/gE Move a word backward (b/B: the beginning of the word, ge/gE: the end of the word).
Ctrl-u/Ctrl-d Go Up/Down 10 line.
Ctrl-b/Ctrl-f PageUp/PageDown.
gg/G Go to the top/bottom of the file

Note: Curretnly W/E/B/gE are disabled, as they are exactly same as w/e/b/ge. (for a speed up.) Ctrl-a/Ctrl-e are also disable.

If you want to enable them, remove comments from corresponding lines in vim_emu/vim_emu_move.xml


Key/Commands Function
yy, Y Copy the line.
dd Cut the line.
D Cut from here to the end of the line.
cc Change the line (enter Insert mode).
C Cut from here to the end of the line and enter Insert mode.
x/X Delete a character under/before the cursor (not registered in the clipboard).
s/S Delete/Cut a character/a line under the cursor and enter Insert mode.
p/P Paste to the next/current place. If copy/cut was done with line-wise Visual mode, it pastes to the next/current line. Some commands (such yy/dd) also force to paste as line-wise.

y/d/c+Move Command can be used, too.

  • e.g.) yw -> copy next one word.

Currently Repeaat feature is commented out.


Key/Commands Function
u(U)/Ctrl-r Undo/Redo.
r/R Replace one character/multi characters.
J Combine two lines.
M Move current line to the middle. Need enough lines in above/below.
. It is fixed to do: Replace a following word with a clipboard (useful to use with a search).
/ Start search (search box will be opened)
n/N Search next/previous.
* Search the word under the cursor.
ZZ/ZQ Save and Quit/Quit.

Non text edit commands

|zi|Zoom in.| |zo|Zoom out.| |z0|Zoom reset.|

Available commands at Visual mode

Key/Commands Function
ESC/Ctrl-[ Enter Normal mode.
Move command Most of move commands in the normal mode are available.
y/d/x/c Copy/Cut/Cut/Cut and insert (d=x)
Y/D/X/C Move to the end of line, then Copy/Cut/Cut/Cut and insert (D=X)
* Search the selected word.

Note: Currently, if you paste lines copied in visual line mode, there will be one empty line below the content if the content doesn't include the last line of the text.

Available commands at Command mode

Key/Commands Function
ESC/Ctrl-[ Enter Normal mode.
w + RETURN Save
w + SPACE Save as
w + q Save and Quit
q Quit
h Open help of the application

Recording Macro

Macro feature is available with additional application. In vim_emu, one option with MadRuby (Keyboard Macro Recorder, free application) is available.

Before enabling Recording Macro in vim_emu, please install MadRuby, and set kyboard shortcuts in MadRuby like:

Function Shortcut
Start Recording Ctrl-Shift-Cmd-6
Stop Recording Ctrl-Shift-Cmd-7
Play Macro Ctrl-Shift-Cmd-8
Multiple Play Macro Ctrl-Shift-Cmd-9

Then, enable Recording Macro in KeyRemap4macbook/vim_emu.

Following commands are available in Normal Mode.

Key/Commands Function
q Start recording a macro.
q(while recording macro) Stop recording a macro.
@ Execute the macro once.
n@ (n=2-9) Execute macro n-times.

Note: If you switch application to what ignoring vim_emu during recording macro, you need to stop recording macro by Ctrl-Shift-Cmd-7, using menubar dialog of MadRuby.