How to exit Vim

How to exit Vim

Vim, a powerful text editor, often puzzles beginners with its unique modes and commands, especially when it comes to exiting the editor. It is almost a joke at this point that people get stuck inside Vim, but if you’re really one of them, let me help you out.

Understanding Vim Modes

Vim operates in several modes, each serving a different purpose in the text editing process. The modes relevant to exiting Vim are Normal Mode and Insert Mode. Understanding these modes is crucial to navigate and exit Vim effectively.

Normal Mode

Normal Mode is the default mode in Vim, where you can execute commands and navigate through the text. To exit Vim from Normal Mode, there are specific commands like :q to quit, :wq to write and quit, and :q! to quit without saving changes.

Insert Mode

Insert Mode is where you can insert text. To exit from Insert Mode, press Esc to return to Normal Mode. From there, you can use the Normal Mode commands to exit Vim.

Basic Commands to Exit Vim

Exiting Vim requires different commands based on the mode and the state of your file (e.g., if changes have been made).

Exiting from Normal Mode

In Normal Mode, you can use :q to quit (if there are no unsaved changes), :wq to save your changes and then quit, or :x which functions similarly to :wq.

Exiting from Insert Mode

In Insert Mode, first press Esc to switch back to Normal Mode. Then, use the Normal Mode commands to exit.

Handling Modified Files

When trying to exit Vim with unsaved changes, Vim prevents accidental data loss. You need to decide how to handle these changes.

Saving Changes Before Exiting

To save changes and exit, use :wq or :x. To save without exiting, use :w.

Forcing Quit on Modified Files

If you wish to exit without saving changes, use :q!. This command will discard any unsaved changes.

Exiting Vim in Special Scenarios

Vim supports working with multiple windows and tabs, which requires different commands to close efficiently.

Multiple Windows or Tabs

To exit all open windows or tabs, use :qa to quit all. If you need to save all changes and quit, use :wqa. To force quit all, regardless of unsaved changes, use :qa!.

Dealing with Split Windows

When working with Vim, you might often find yourself in a situation where you have multiple split windows open. Managing and exiting these windows without losing your work is crucial. To close a single split window, you can use :q command. However, if you want to close all split windows and exit Vim, :qa is the command you’re looking for. Remember, this will prompt you to save any unsaved work. To force close all windows, use :qa!.

Advanced Exit Commands

Vim, being a powerful editor, offers a range of advanced commands for exiting. One such command is :wq, which saves the current file and exits. Another variant, :wq!, forcefully saves and exits, even if you don’t have permissions to write to the file. For those who work with multiple files, :xall saves and closes all open files, similar to :wq, but for all files.

Using :x vs. ZZ

Both :x and ZZ are used to save changes and exit Vim, but they have subtle differences. :x will only write to the file if there are changes, whereas ZZ will write to the file regardless. Some users prefer :x for its efficiency in not writing to the file unnecessarily, while others stick with ZZ for its quick and easy keystrokes.

Autosaving on Exit

To avoid losing work, you can set up Vim to autosave on exit. By adding autocmd BufLeave * silent! wall to your .vimrc file, Vim will automatically save all changed files when you exit. This is particularly useful when working with multiple files or splits.

Custom Commands

Customizing Vim to fit your workflow includes creating shortcuts for exiting. In your .vimrc, you can map a custom key to exit commands. For example, nnoremap <F4> :qa<CR> will map the F4 key to quit all open files in Vim. Experiment with different mappings to find what works best for you.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Exiting Vim can sometimes be challenging, especially for new users. Let’s look at some common issues and their solutions.

Stuck in Insert or Replace Mode

If you find yourself stuck in insert or replace mode, simply press Esc to return to normal mode. From there, you can use :q to exit.

Handling ‘E37: No write since last change’ Error

This error occurs when you try to exit Vim without saving changes. To resolve it, either save the changes using :w or exit without saving using :q!.

Dealing with Frozen Vim Sessions

If Vim freezes, you can often return to normal operation by pressing Ctrl + C. If that doesn’t work, try switching to another terminal and killing the Vim process.

Tips and Tricks

Mastering Vim requires practice and learning some tips and tricks.

Learning Keyboard Shortcuts

Familiarizing yourself with Vim’s keyboard shortcuts is essential. Start by learning the basics, like :w for save, :q for quit, and ZZ for save and quit.

Configuring Vim for Easier Use

Tweaking your .vimrc can make exiting Vim much more straightforward. For instance, set confirm will prompt you before exiting unsaved files, reducing the risk of losing work.

Practicing with Vim Tutor

Vim Tutor is an excellent resource for improving your command proficiency. Spend some time with Vim Tutor, focusing on exit commands, to build your skills.


Exiting Vim efficiently is an essential skill that saves time and ensures your work is not lost. Remember, practice makes perfect, and customizing Vim to suit your workflow can significantly enhance your productivity.

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