How to Run Vim with Minimal Settings

April 05, 2015

Sometimes I just need to run a very simple version of vim to check something out, to test for a bug in Neovim, to make an animated gif, or maybe to pair program with someone who doesn’t know all of the customizations I have in my vimrc. So, here is a simple method of running a very simple version of vim without messing up all of your customizations.

Create Essential Vimrc

Create essential.vim and save it in your ~/.vim directory. It will only contain the bare minimum you need for the gif:

set nocompatible
filetype plugin on

syntax on
set background=dark
let g:solarized_termcolors=256
colorscheme solarized
set tabstop=2 softtabstop=2 shiftwidth=2 expandtab

Then you can run vim with this basic configuration by running vim -u ~/.vim/essential.vim

Or you can also set an alias to easily open vim with this configuration. Just put something like this in your .bashrc or .zshrc file. Now when I run vi instead of vim, it will run vim with the essential.vim configuration.

alias vi='vim -u ~/.vim/essential.vim'

You could also make multiple vimrc files for different purposes if you wanted.

Profile picture

Written by Adam Garrett-Harris, a podcaster and software engineer in Utah. You should follow him on Twitter