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Trisha Aguinaldo
Trisha Aguinaldo

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Updating Vim (MacOS)

What is Vim?

It's a powerful open-source text editor that allows you to edit your text files on the command line. You technically don't need to leave the Terminal to code.


I spent like 30 mins trying to figure out how to install Vim when I first heard about it, so I'm saving you the wasted effort: Vim comes pre-installed in MacOS. No need to install if your current version is the latest stable version. The most current version at this time of writing is Vim 8.1. Check out the latest stable Vim version at

latest vim version

Updating Vim

My current Vim is at version 8.0.1283. Sadly, it's not the latest stable version so I'm going to update it to ^ 8.1.x. FYI my laptop is a MacOS Mojave 10.14.4. If you are not a Mac user, click here for device-specific instructions (Unix or MS-Windows).

Get Current Version of Local Vim
To figure out what your local version of Vim, enter the command vim -v.

It should return something like below:

local vim version

MacVim for OS

I decided to update using MacVim. There are other options though! If you're like me, you're wondering what the difference is between MacVim and Vim. Google says there's no difference 😁

macvim vs vim

More about MacVim on FAQ.

Installing MacVim

copy macvim to applications

  • At this point, you can run the MacVim GUI by double-clicking the icon.
  • You'll enter vim command mode once you double-click the icon.
  • To exit vim command mode, type in :q and press Enter.

Here's a list of common Vim commands below:

- type `:q<ENTER>` to **EXIT** out of MacVim mode
- type `:help mvim` for help
- type `:wq<ENTER>` to save and exit
- type `:q!` to exit without saving changes
- type `i` to enter insert mode
- press **ESC** to exit insert mode
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Vim has two modes insert mode and command mode. For a starter list visit coderwall - basic vim commands.

Add mvim as a terminal command

You don't really want to rely on double-clicking the GUI every time you want to use MacVim. So, the next step is to add mvim* script to your path. In this way, your machine will know where to find the MacVim executable whenever you run the command mvim.

The easiest way to do this is to run the command:

sudo ln -s /Applications/ /usr/local/bin/mvim
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The command above will link the mvim script to /usr/local/bin/mvim.

mvim script in /usr/local/bin

  • Once you do that, you can use mvim to run a MacVim shell.

  • To check if everything was linked correctly, enter /usr/local/bin/mvim on the command line. It should open up MacVim.

  • To check that you have the correct version, run: mvim -v. You should see the latest version you just downloaded (old 8.0.x => new 8.1.x).

newer macvim version

Optional - Make mvim your default vim

Want to use MacVim instead of the older version of Vim on the command line? Follow the steps below:

  • If you already have a .bash_profile open it using the command <bash_profile_path>; open .bash_profile;.
  • For example, my .bash_profile is located at my Users/ directory so I run the command cd Users/<user_name>; open .bash_profile;.
  • This will open the .bash_profile text file. Add the alias below:
# ----------------------
# MacVim alias
# ----------------------
# use mvim as a default text editor, assuming you already have mvim installed
alias vim="mvim -v" 

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Note: If you don't know your <user_name>, run whoami on the command line.

  • Viola! You're all set. Check the vim -vand see an updated version of Vim.
  • Note: You need to open a new terminal shell or restart your terminal to see any of changes you've made applied to the shell.


Having trouble? Google it! StackOverflow will give you a clue how to debug. Or you can use some of the resources below.

I hope this helps someone! This is the first part of the series "Building a Docker Project Using Vim". Stay tuned for more!

Top comments (2)

chsanch profile image
Christian Sánchez

Another way to install it on MacOS is using brew: (Which is one of the tools you should be using if your Dev environment is MacOS :)) and executing the following command:

brew install vim

or if you prefer MacVim:

brew install macvim
trisha114 profile image
Trisha Aguinaldo

Thanks, Christian! ❤ I totally didn't include that in my article. I should've clarified that I wrote this because I wanted to learn how to update Vim without a package-manager like homebrew and symlink the application myself.