Vim Masterclass Part #3: Abbreviations

This next post in the ‘Vim Masterclass’ will focus on a handy feature of Vim called Abbreviations. Abbreviations are a string of text which when typed are transformed into another string of text. This is done with the :abbr command. The format is:

:abbr text newtext

So, an example of this would be:

:abbr fl ForLinux

When in insert mode in Vim, type ‘fl’ followed by a space, and watch it expand. The abbreviation must be followed by a space so Vim knows that the word has finished and isn’t part of a bigger word.

To see the current abbreviations, use the command:


To remove an abbreviation, use the :una command, followed by the abbreviation:

:una fl

To remove all abbreviations, use:


Abbreviations are especially useful when combined with some of Vims other control codes. A line break can be added to the abbreviation with the <CR> code:

:abbr php <?php<CR>?>

When ‘php’ is typed into the document, it outputs:

Unfortunately, the cursor is now at the end of the php tags. To counter that, the <Up> control can be added to the end of the output which will move the cursor after the abbreviation:

:abbr php <?php<CR><CR>?><Up>

This will now output:



With the cursor placed on the line between the two tags.

The following abbreviation offers a html 5 skeleton outline, leaving Vim in insert mode within the title tag in the header waiting for your input:

:abbr html <!DOCTYPE html><CR><html><CR><head><CR><title></title><CR></head><CR>

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