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Vimpager User Manual


vimpager - pager using vim and less.vim


vimpager [options] 'some file'

# or (this won't always syntax highlight as well)

cat 'some file' | vimpager [options]

For vimcat see here or 'man vimcat'.


  • vim, version >= 7.3
  • a POSIX conformant shell, see the standard common variants are searched for, bash is fine


  • sharutils or some uuencode (only if you change the /.vim sources)
  • pandoc (for man pages and html, optional)
  • doctoc (for markdown TOCs, optional)
  • bats (for tests, optional, get it from:


On Ubuntu or Debian, use the following to install a package:

git clone git://
cd vimpager
sudo make install-deb

Otherwise use 'make install' instead:

git clone git://
cd vimpager
sudo make install

The following make settings are supported at make install time:

Variable Purpose
DESTDIR base dir where files will be written, for packaging
PREFIX install prefix to configure for, e.g. /usr/local
prefix prefix for writing files, e.g. for GNU stow
POSIX_SHELL POSIX shell to use to run the scripts

If you got vimpager from the scripts section, just put it somewhere in your PATH, e.g.:

cp vimpager ~/bin
chmod +x ~/bin/vimpager

In your ~/.bashrc add the following:

export PAGER=/usr/local/bin/vimpager
alias less=$PAGER
alias zless=$PAGER


cd ~/.vim/bundle
git clone

If you installed using one of the above methods, you can add the runtime to your runtimepath by putting the following in your .vimrc:

set rtp^=/usr/share/vimpager

Set PAGER and aliases as above with the path into ~/.vim/bundle/vimpager.

See Using From Vim.


A PAGER using less.vim with support for highlighting of man pages and many other features. Works on most UNIX-like systems as well as Cygwin and MSYS.

On GitHub:

To use a different vimrc with vimpager, put your settings into a ~/.vimpagerrc or ~/.vim/vimpagerrc or a file pointed to by the VIMPAGER_RC environment variable.

You can also have a global config file for all users in /etc/vimpagerrc, it will be used if the user does not have a .vimrc or .vimpagerrc.

These are the keys for paging while in vimpager, they are the same as in less for the most part:

Key Action Key Action
Space One page forward b One page backward
d Half a page forward u Half a page backward
Enter One line forward k One line backward
G End of file g Start of file
N% percentage in file ,h Display this help
/pattern Search forward ?pattern Search backward
n next match N Previous match
:n next file :N Previous file
ESC-u toggle search highlight
q Quit ,v Toggle Less Mode

The commands that start with , will use your value of g:mapleader if you set one instead.

To disable loading plugins, put "set noloadplugins" into a vimpagerrc file.

You can also switch on exists('g:vimpager.enabled') in your vimrc to set alternate settings for vimpager.

WARNING: Option names have changed from the previous releases to use a dict, if you use the old option names and check on exists('g:vimpager') everything will work the same way, if you use the new option names you must check exists('g:vimpager.enabled') instead.

NOTE: Before setting the vimpager and less.vim related options described below, make sure the g:vimpager and g:less dicts exist like so:

let g:vimpager = {}
let g:less     = {}

If you want to disable less compatibility mode, and use regular vim motion commands, put this into your .vimrc/vimpagerrc:

let g:less.enabled = 0

You can still enable less mode with this setting by pressing ",v". If you define g:mapleader then it will be the value of g:mapleader plus v instead of ,v.

Put the following into your .vimrc/vimpagerrc if you want to use gvim/MacVim for your pager window:

let g:vimpager.gvim = 1

To turn off the feature of passing through text that is smaller than the terminal height use this:

let g:vimpager.passthrough = 0

See "PASSTHROUGH MODE" further down.

To turn on line numbers set:

let g:less.number = 1

they are turned off by default. You can also invoke vimpager with the -N option to turn on line numbers.

To turn off search highlighting set:

let g:less.hlsearch = 0

this can always be toggled with ESC-u.

To start vim with -X (no x11 connection, a bit faster startup) put the following into your .vimrc/vimpagerrc:

let g:vimpager.X11 = 0

NOTE: this may disable clipboard integration in X terminals.

The scroll offset (:help scrolloff), may be specified by placing the following into your .vimrc/vimpagerrc (default = 5, disable = 0):

let g:less.scrolloff = 5

The default is 5 only in less mode, with less mode disabled the default is the user's scrolloff setting.

The process tree of vimpager is available in vimpager.ptree, an example usage is as follows:

if exists('g:vimpager.enabled')
  if exists('g:vimpager.ptree') && g:vimpager.ptree[-2] == 'wman'
    set ft=man

To disable the use of AnsiEsc.vim to display ANSI colors in the source, set:

let g:vimpager.ansiesc = 0

see the section ANSI ESCAPE SEQUENCES AND OVERSTRIKES for more details.

You can also set your own function for the message on the statusline via g:less.statusfunc, see autoload/vimpager_utils.vim for the default one as an example.


If you installed vimpager via Pathogen or added it to your runtimepath, then the Page command is available from normal vim sessions, and it is also available when invoking the vimpager script.

If your global keywordprg is set to man or :Man, which is the default, the plugin will reset it to :Page!\ -t\ man to page man pages in a new tab. See the example below for how to set this for other file types.

You may want to add something like the following to your .vimrc to enable the mapping to turn on less mode:

let g:mapleader = ','
runtime macros/less.vim

Then ,v will toggle less mode in any buffer. The default mapleader is \.

NOTE: If you are using Vim 7.3 or earlier, the Surround plugin will conflict with less.vim mappings such as Ctrl-D, on 7.4+ this is not an issue as the <nowait> tag is used for mappings.

The syntax of the Page command is:

Command Option Arg Action
Page -t, -v, -w or -b file_path open file in less mode
Page! -t, -v, -w or -b shell_command open output of command in less mode
Page toggle less mode for current file
Page! turn on less mode for current file

The option switch is optional and determines where the file or command is opened:

Option Target
-t new tab
-v vertical split
-w new window
-b new buffer (default)

The default is to open a new buffer.

For Page! commands, STDERR is suppressed.

I recommend adding set hidden to your .vimrc.

If the command is one of man, perldoc, pydoc or ri it will be handled specially, overstrikes will be removed and filetype will be set to man or perldoc.

Ansi escapes will be handled with AnsiEsc if available, or removed otherwise. See here for details. The g:vimpager.ansiesc setting applies to the Page command if set.

Here is an example (that is already enabled in the plugin) of how you can use this command to look up the python documentation for the module under the cursor in a new tab:

autocmd FileType python setlocal keywordprg=:Page!\ -t\ pydoc

Then pressing K on a module name under the cursor will open the pydoc for it in a new tab.

This is done by default in the plugin now for python, ruby, perl and sh (bash help.) The global default is man.


-h | --help | --usage

Print summary of options.

-v | --version

Print the version information.

+ | +G

Start at the end of the file, just like less.


Turn on line numbers, this can also be set with let g:less.number = 1 .

-c cmd

Run a vim command after opening the file. Multiple -c arguments are supported.

--cmd cmd

Run a vim command when entering vim before anything else. Multiple --cmd arguments are supported.

-u vimrc

Use alternate .vimrc or .vimpagerrc.


Squeeze blank lines into a single blank line. GNU man passes this option to /usr/bin/pager.


Enable debugging output for the shell script part of vimpager.


If your source is using ANSI escape codes, the AnsiEsc plugin will be used to show them, rather than the normal vim highlighting, however read the caveats below. If this is not possible, they will be stripped out and normal vim highlighting will be used instead.

Overstrikes in man pages, perl, python or ruby docs will always be removed.

vimpager bundles the AnsiEsc plugin (it is expanded at runtime, there is nothing you have to do to enable it.)

However, your vim must have been compiled with the 'conceal' feature enabled. To check, try

:echo has('conceal')

if the result is '1' you have conceal, if it's '0' you do not, and the AnsiEsc plugin will not be enabled.

If you're on a Mac, the system vim does not enable this feature, install vim from Homebrew.

To disable the use of AnsiEsc.vim, set:

let g:vimpager.ansiesc = 0

If the file has a modeline that sets ft or syntax, the setting will override the use of AnsiEsc.

To turn off AnsiEsc while viewing a file, simply run


To turn off AnsiEsc on the commandline, use an invocation such as the following:

vimpager -c 'set ft=&ft' somefile

NOTE: The conceal feature of vim is still very buggy, especially as concerns spacing, and the line wrapping in files highlighted with AnsiEsc will not be correct (they are wrapped too soon.) The tab stops will be correct however, this is fixed up with a vim script.

NOTE: AnsiEsc is a work in progress, and will only display files with simple ANSI codes correctly, such as that output by git tools. More complex highlighting is likely not going to work right now. We are working on this.


If the text sent to the pager is smaller than the terminal window, then it will be displayed without vim as text. If it has ansi codes, they will be preserved, otherwise the text will be highlighted with vimcat.

You can turn this off by using:

let g:vimpager.passthrough = 0


vimpager works correctly with the native Windows gvim, just put it in your PATH and set the vimpager_use_gvim option as described above.


VIMPAGER_VIM can be set to the vim binary you want to use, if it starts with gvim or mvim then gui mode will be used. Will fall back to EDITOR if it contains vim.

You can specify the vimrc to use with the VIMPAGER_RC environment variable.

Setting VIMPAGER_DEBUG to a non-zero value will disable suppressing vim errors on startup and when switching to the next file.