Quick links: help overview · quick reference · user manual toc · reference manual toc · faq
terminal.txt  For Vim version 8.0.  Last change: 2017 Sep 17

                  VIM REFERENCE MANUAL    by Bram Moolenaar

Terminal window support                                 terminal


The terminal feature is optional, use this to check if your Vim has it: 
        echo has('terminal')
If the result is "1" you have it.

1. Basic use                    terminal-use
2. Remote testing               terminal-testing
3. Debugging                    terminal-debug

{Vi does not have any of these commands}
{only available when compiled with the |+terminal| feature}

The terminal feature requires the +multi_byte, +job and +channel features.

1. Basic use                                            terminal-use

This feature is for running a terminal emulator in a Vim window.  A job can be
started connected to the terminal emulator. For example, to run a shell: 
     :term bash

Or to run build command: 
     :term make myprogram

The job runs asynchronously from Vim, the window will be updated to show
output from the job, also while editing in another window.

When the keyboard focus is in the terminal window, typed keys will be sent to
the job.  This uses a pty when possible.  You can click outside of the
terminal window to move keyboard focus elsewhere.

CTRL-W can be used to navigate between windows and other CTRL-W commands, e.g.:
        CTRL-W CTRL-W   move focus to the next window
        CTRL-W :        enter an Ex command
See CTRL-W for more commands.

Special in the terminal window:                 CTRL-W_.  CTRL-W_N 
        CTRL-W .        send a CTRL-W to the job in the terminal
        CTRL-W N        go to Terminal-Normal mode, see Terminal-mode
        CTRL-\ CTRL-N   go to Terminal-Normal mode, see Terminal-mode
        CTRL-W " {reg}  paste register {reg}            CTRL-W_quote
                        Also works with the = register to insert the result of
                        evaluating an expression.
        CTRL-W CTRL-C   ends the job, see below t_CTRL-W_CTRL-C

See option 'termkey' for specifying another key instead of CTRL-W that
will work like CTRL-W.  However, typing 'termkey' twice sends 'termkey' to
the job.  For example:
        'termkey' CTRL-W    move focus to the next window
        'termkey' :         enter an Ex command
        'termkey' 'termkey' send 'termkey' to the job in the terminal
        'termkey' .         send a CTRL-W to the job in the terminal
        'termkey' N         go to terminal Normal mode, see below
        'termkey' CTRL-N    same as CTRL-W N
        'termkey' CTRL-C    same as t_CTRL-W_CTRL-C
The special key combination CTRL-\ CTRL-N can be used to switch to Normal
mode, just like this works in any other mode.
CTRL-W CTRL-C can be typed to forcefully end the job.  On MS-Windows a
CTRL-BREAK will also kill the job.

If you type CTRL-C the effect depends on what the pty has been configured to
do.  For simple commands this causes a SIGINT to be sent to the job, which
would end it.  Other commands may ignore the SIGINT or handle the CTRL-C
themselves (like Vim does).

To change the keys you type use terminal mode mappings, see :tmap.
These are defined like any mapping, but apply only when typing keys that are
sent to the job running in the terminal.

Size and color 

See option 'termsize' for controlling the size of the terminal window.
(TODO: scrolling when the terminal is larger than the window)

The job running in the terminal can change the colors.  The default foreground
and background colors are taken from Vim, the Normal highlight group.

For a color terminal the 'background' option is used to decide whether the
terminal window will start with a white or black background.

To use a different color the Terminal highlight group can be used: 
    hi Terminal ctermbg=lightgrey ctermfg=blue guibg=lightgrey guifg=blue


:[range]ter[minal] [options] [command]                  :ter :terminal
                        Open a new terminal window.

                        If [command] is provided run it as a job and connect
                        the input and output to the terminal.
                        If [command] is not given the 'shell' option is used.
                        if [command] is NONE no job is started, the pty of the
                        terminal can be used by a command like gdb.

                        A new buffer will be created, using [command] or
                        'shell' as the name, prefixed with a "!".  If a buffer
                        by this name already exists a number is added in
                        parentheses.  E.g. if "gdb" exists the second terminal
                        buffer will use "!gdb (1)".

                        If [range] is given the specified lines are used as
                        input for the job.  It will not be possible to type
                        keys in the terminal window.  For MS-Windows see the
                        ++eof argument below.

                        Two comma separated numbers are used as "rows,cols".
                        E.g. :24,80gdb opens a terminal with 24 rows and 80
                        columns.  However, if the terminal window spans the
                        Vim window with, there is no vertical split, the Vim
                        window width is used.
                                                term++close term++open
                        Supported [options] are:
                        ++close         The terminal window will close
                                        automatically when the job terminates.
                        ++open          When the job terminates and no window
                                        shows it, a window will be opened.
                                        Note that this can be interruptive.
                        ++curwin        Open the terminal in the current
                                        window, do not split the current
                                        window.  Fails if the current buffer
                                        cannot be abandoned.
                        ++hidden        Open the terminal in a hidden buffer,
                                        no window will be used.
                        ++rows={height} Use {height} for the terminal window
                        ++cols={width}  Use {width} for the terminal window
                        ++eof={text}    when using [range]: text to send after
                                        the last line was written. Cannot
                                        contain white space.  A CR is
                                        appended.  For MS-Windows the default
                                        is to send CTRL-D.
                                        E.g. for a shell use "++eof=exit" and
                                        for Python "++eof=exit()".  Special
                                        codes can be used like with :map,
                                        e.g. "<C-Z>" for CTRL-Z.

                        If you want to use more options use the term_start()

When the buffer associated with the terminal is unloaded or wiped out the job
is killed, similar to calling `job_stop(job, "kill")`

So long as the job is running the window behaves like it contains a modified
buffer.  Trying to close the window with `CTRL-W :quit` fails.  When using
`CTRL-W :quit!` the job is ended.  The text in the window is lost.  The buffer
still exists, but getting it in a window with :buffer will show an empty

Trying to close the window with `CTRL-W :close` also fails.   Using
`CTRL-W :close!` will close the window and make the buffer hidden.

You can use `CTRL-W :hide` to close the terminal window and make the buffer
hidden, the job keeps running.  The :buffer command can be used to turn the
current window into a terminal window.  If there are unsaved changes this
fails, use !  to force, as usual.

To have a background job run without a window, and open the window when it's
done, use options like this: 
        :term ++hidden ++open make
Note that the window will open at an unexpected moment, this will interrupt
what you are doing.

                                                        E947 E948
So long as the job is running, the buffer is considered modified and Vim
cannot be quit easily, see abandon.

When the job has finished and no changes were made to the buffer: closing the
window will wipe out the buffer.

Before changes can be made to a terminal buffer, the 'modifiable' option must
be set.  This is only possible when the job has finished.  At the first change
the buffer will become a normal buffer and the highlighting is removed.
You may want to change the buffer name with :file to be able to write, since
the buffer name will still be set to the command.


The size of the terminal can be in one of three modes:

1. The 'termsize' option is empty: The terminal size follows the window size.
   The minimal size is 2 screen lines with 10 cells.

2. The 'termsize' option is "rows*cols", where "rows" is the minimal number of
   screen rows and "cols" is the minimal number of cells.

3. The 'termsize' option is "rowsXcols" (where the x is upper or lower case).
   The terminal size is fixed to the specified number of screen lines and
   cells.  If the window is bigger there will be unused empty space.

If the window is smaller than the terminal size, only part of the terminal can
be seen (the lower-left part).

The term_getsize() function can be used to get the current size of the
terminal.  term_setsize() can be used only when in the first or second mode,
not when 'termsize' is "rowsXcols".

Terminal-Job and Terminal-Normal mode 
When the job is running the contents of the terminal is under control of the
job.  That includes the cursor position.  Typed keys are sent to the job.
The terminal contents can change at any time.  This is called Terminal-Job

Use CTRL-W N (or 'termkey' N) to switch to Terminal-Normal mode.  Now the
contents of the terminal window is under control of Vim, the job output is
suspended.  CTRL-\ CTRL-N does the same.

Terminal-Job mode is where :tmap mappings are applied. Keys sent by
term_sendkeys() are not subject to tmap, but keys from feedkeys() are.

In Terminal-Normal mode you can move the cursor around with the usual Vim
commands, Visually mark text, yank text, etc.  But you cannot change the
contents of the buffer.  The commands that would start insert mode, such as
'i' and 'a', return to Terminal-Job mode.  The window will be updated to show
the contents of the terminal. :startinsert is ineffective.

In Terminal-Normal mode the statusline and window title show "(Terminal)".  If
the job ends while in Terminal-Normal mode this changes to

It is not possible to enter Insert mode from Terminal-Job mode.

Cursor style 

By default the cursor in the terminal window uses a not blinking block.  The
normal xterm escape sequences can be used to change the blinking state and the
shape.  Once focus leaves the terminal window Vim will restore the original

An exception is when xterm is started with the "-bc" argument, or another way
that causes the cursor to blink.  This actually means that the blinking flag
is inverted.  Since Vim cannot detect this, the terminal window cursor
blinking will also be inverted.


On Unix a pty is used to make it possible to run all kinds of commands.  You
can even run Vim in the terminal!  That's used for debugging, see below.

Environment variables are used to pass information to the running job:
    TERM                name of the terminal, 'term'
    ROWS                number of rows in the terminal initially
    LINES               same as ROWS
    COLUMNS             number of columns in the terminal initially
    COLORS              number of colors, 't_Co' (256*256*256 in the GUI)
    VIM_SERVERNAME      v:servername

The client-server feature can be used to communicate with the Vim instance
where the job was started.  This only works when v:servername is not empty.
If needed you can set it with: 
        call remote_startserver('vim-server')

In the job you can then do something like: 
        vim --servername $VIM_SERVERNAME --remote +123 some_file.c
This will open the file "some_file.c" and put the cursor on line 123.


On MS-Windows winpty is used to make it possible to run all kind of commands.
Obviously, they must be commands that run in a terminal, not open their own

You need the following two files from winpty:


You can download them from the following page:


Just put the files somewhere in your PATH.  You can set the 'winptydll' option
to point to the right file, if needed.  If you have both the 32-bit and 64-bit
version, rename to winpty32.dll and winpty64.dll to match the way Vim was

2. Remote testing                                       terminal-testing

Most Vim tests execute a script inside Vim.  For some tests this does not
work, running the test interferes with the code being tested.  To avoid this
Vim is executed in a terminal window.  The test sends keystrokes to it and
inspects the resulting screen state.


term_sendkeys()         send keystrokes to a terminal (not subject to tmap)
term_wait()             wait for screen to be updated
term_scrape()           inspect terminal screen

3. Debugging                                    terminal-debug

The Terminal debugging plugin can be used to debug a program with gdb and view
the source code in a Vim window.  Since this is completely contained inside
Vim this also works remotely over an ssh connection.


Load the plugin with this command: 
        packadd termdebug
To start debugging use :TermDebug folowed by the command name, for example: 
        :TermDebug vim

This opens two windows:
gdb window      A terminal window in which "gdb vim" is executed.  Here you
                can directly interact with gdb.  The buffer name is "!gdb".
program window  A terminal window for the executed program.  When "run" is
                used in gdb the program I/O will happen in this window, so
                that it does not interfere with controlling gdb.  The buffer
                name is "gdb program".

The current window is used to show the source code.  When gdb pauses the
source file location will be displayed, if possible.  A sign is used to
highlight the current position (using highlight group debugPC).  

If the buffer in the current window is modified, another window will be opened
to display the current gdb position.

Focus the terminal of the executed program to interact with it.  This works
the same as any command running in a terminal window.

When the debugger ends, typically by typing "quit" in the gdb window, the two
opened windows are closed.

Stepping through code 

Put focus on the gdb window to type commands there.  Some common ones are:
- CTRL-C    interrupt the program
- next      execute the current line and stop at the next line
- step      execute the current line and stop at the next statement, entering
- finish    execute until leaving the current function
- where     show the stack
- frame N   go to the Nth stack frame
- continue  continue execution

In the window showing the source code some commands can used to control gdb:
 :Break     set a breakpoint at the current line; a sign will be displayed
 :Delete    delete a breakpoint at the current line
 :Step      execute the gdb "step" command
 :Over      execute the gdb "next" command (:Next is a Vim command)
 :Finish    execute the gdb "finish" command
 :Continue  execute the gdb "continue" command

The plugin adds a window toolbar with these entries:
  Step      :Step
  Next      :Over
  Finish    :Finish
  Cont      :Continue
  Eval      :Evaluate
This way you can use the mouse to perform the most common commands.

Inspecting variables 

 :Evaluate          evaluate the expression under the cursor
 K                  same
 :Evaluate {expr}   evaluate {expr}
 :'<,'>Evaluate     evaluate the Visually selected text

This is similar to using "print" in the gdb window.

Other commands 

 :Gdb          jump to the gdb window
 :Program      jump to the window with the running program


There is another, hidden, buffer, which is used for Vim to communicate with
gdb.  The buffer name is "gdb communication".  Do not delete this buffer, it
will break the debugger.


To change the name of the gdb command, set the "termdebugger" variable before
invoking :Termdebug: 
        let termdebugger = "mygdb"
Only debuggers fully compatible with gdb will work.  Vim uses the GDB/MI

The color of the signs can be adjusted with these highlight groups:
- debugPC               the current position
- debugBreakpoint       a breakpoint

The defaults are, when 'background' is "light":
  hi debugPC term=reverse ctermbg=lightblue guibg=lightblue
  hi debugBreakpoint term=reverse ctermbg=red guibg=red

When 'background' is "dark":
  hi debugPC term=reverse ctermbg=darkblue guibg=darkblue
  hi debugBreakpoint term=reverse ctermbg=red guibg=red

To change the width of the Vim window when debugging starts, and use a
vertical split: 
  let g:termdebug_wide = 163
This will set &columns to 163 when :Termdebug is used.  The value is restored
when quitting the debugger.


Quick links: help overview · quick reference · user manual toc · reference manual toc · faq