Vim vs Neovim [What are the Differences?]

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In Linux, a text editor plays an important role in writing, editing, copying, and handling text smoothly. Two of the most popular text editors are Vim and Neovim. Neovim is the fork of Vim which means it adds some additional facilities to Vim. It is important to choose a suitable one for your system between these two because each offers unique features and advantages that may impact your system environment. Let’s dive into the article to learn the differences between Vim and Neovim.

What is Vim?

Vim, the short form of Vi improved, is a free text editor available on different operating systems such as Windows, macOS, and Linux. It operates in different modes such as normal mode, insert mode, visual mode, and command-line mode. It provides extensive customizable features. In fact, you can customize the keyboard shortcuts according to your preferences. To install Vim on Ubuntu use the sudo apt install vim command.

Here are some of the key features of the Vim text editor:

  • Support different editing modes such as normal modes, insert mode, visual mode, and command line mode. Provide multiple commands to handle and process words smoothly.
  • Support for syntax highlighting, spell checking, split, and tabbed windows, preserving current session.
  • Editing files over a network protocol network protocols such as SSH, FTP, and HTTP.

The interface of Vim text editor

To learn the keyboard shortcuts of the Vim text editor, check the Vim Cheat Sheet.

What is Neovim?

Neovim, an improved version of Vim, is a modern text editor. Just like Vim, Neovim also works on various operating systems including Windows, macOS, and Linux. Moreover, it overcomes the shortcomings of Vim and also provides enhanced functionality and extensibility. While providing additional features and improvements, it is compatible with Vim. To install Neovim on Ubuntu use the sudo apt install Neovim command.

Here are some of the key features of the Neovim text editor:

  • Built-in support for LSP and improved support for Lua scripting.
  • Improved support for asynchronous input-output.
  • Better user interface and terminal integration.

The interface of neovim text editor

What are the Differences between Vim and Neovim?

The main difference between Vim and Neovim is that Neovim has a better default configuration. Apart from that there are distinctions in their user interface, asynchronous control, customization, performance, and community support. Let’s check the following differences:

1. User Interfaces

The primary feature that attracts a user the most is the user interface. The user interface mainly allows a user to perform navigation and other functionality.

  • Vim is primarily a terminal-based editor which does not include menus and icons. Additionally, packages like vim-gtk3 and vim-motif allow you to use Vim with a graphical window, providing features such as mouse support, and menus. But still, all the functions are performed with the command-line mode. Moreover, Vim has a flexible interface that allows users to customize the keyboard shortcuts, colors, and font size according to their preferences.
  • On the other hand, Neovim supports a traditional GUI which comes with menus, buttons, and other user interface elements. Additionally, it supports modern interface structures such as GTK which makes it more up-to-date.

If you want to compare these two text editors’ interfaces then you have to consider the users’ experience and preferences. For example, if you prefer commands to perform tasks then choose minimalist, keyboard-driven text editor Vim. And, if you prefer a modern graphical interface and features then choose Neovim text editor.

2. Asynchronous Control

The feature, asynchronous control refers to async jobs that allow a text editor to perform a task in the background without blocking the user interface.

  • Vim does not support asynchronous control by default. However, it uses plugins such as vim-dispatch, and vim-async functions which perform tasks in the background.
  • On the other hand, the Neovim text editor supports asynchronous operations by default. For asynchronous job control, it uses the jobstart function to perform the external process. Additionally, it comes with built-in LSP which performs code completion and more in the background without blocking the editor.

3. Enhanced Defaults

Another major difference between the text editors is the default settings. Both text editors have many customizable features but Neovim provides more enhanced default features than Vim. Therefore, beginners do not need any additional configuration to experience a feature-rich editor. Moreover, Neovim is built on the Vim base code, so they are compatible with each other. As a result, you can configure Vim with Neovim.

4. Configure Files

Customizing the parameters of the configuration file you can change the appearance, fonts, and colors and add additional functions.

  • To customize the Vim, you need to locate the configuration file .vimrc. It is usually located in the home directory ~/.vimrc. Then open the file with any of your preferred text editors like the vim ~/.vimrc command. After that, add your specifications to the configuration file. At last, save the changes in the file.
  • On the other hand, To customize the Neovim, open the Neovim configuration file with nvim ~/.config/nvim/init.vim. Then customize the setting, plugins, etc. And lastly, save all the changes and exit.

In this way, you can customize the text editors according to your preferences.

5. Plugin Support

The plugin ecosystem is one of the important features of the text editors. It provides many additional functionality and customization options.

  • Vim has a vast ecosystem of plugins and extensions which is developed by the community day by day.
  • On the other hand, Neovim also has a growing ecosystem of plugins and extensions like Vim. However, it offers better support for asynchronous plugins and scripting languages like Lua and Ruby.

6. Performance

Mainly the performance of a text editor depends on the speed of a text editor. While choosing a text editor, one must take into account its speed.

  • Vims’ extensive features and minimalistic structure increase its speed in the start-up time and also in processing files.
  • As Neovim is built on the Vim base code, it keeps many of Vim’s advantages. Moreover, the asynchronous control that runs additional plugins in the background without interrupting the editing also increases the speed of the Neovim text editor. This mainly helps to handle large files.

The comparison of the speed between Vim and Neovim is quite difficult because there is a relatively minor change between them. Depending on specific cases, the performance of the text editor may vary. However, in handling large and complex files, Neovim shows better performance than Vim.

7. Community Development

In terms of community support,

  • Vim has a large and active community support. As it has a huge plugin ecosystem, its’ community provides resources and documentation for users, updates, and fixed system bugs.
  • On the other hand, Neovim is a newer project for that reason it does not have community support as large as Vim. But its’ community support is gaining popularity day by day because of its modern and extensive features.

Additional Differences between Vim and Neovim

Take a look at the table of additional differences between Vim and Neovim below:

Criteria Vim Neovim
Developer Bram Moolenaar Neovim contributors
Initial release 1991 2014
Written in C, Vim script C, Vim script, Lua
License Vim Apache 2.0
Cost Free Free
Open-source Yes Yes
Built-in Support Support LSP but not tree-sitter. LSP, Tree-sitter.
Single Document window splitting Yes Yes
Directory Structure Hardcoded path for storing its plugins and configuration files, it usually uses ~/.vim directory. Use XDG Base Directory, which convention is generally ~/.config/nvim directory.
Lua Scripting Support Lua using plugins. Improved support. It uses the luaJIT interpreter for better performance.
Larger file support For 64-bit systems, depends on available memory, 2 GB for 32-bit. Supports larger files up to 2.3 exabytes on a 64-bit machine.


In this article, I have discussed the differences in user interfaces, customization, performance, community, and some additional features between the two text editors- Vim and Neovim. Vim is the best option for users who want a powerful text editing experience in a minimalist structure. On the other hand, Neovim is the best option for the user who prefers modern features. Ultimately, the best one depends on the users’ preferences.

People Also Ask

Which is better Neovim or Vim?

Neovim shows better results in some aspects such as in asynchronous control, and handling large files, you can say that Neovim is better than Vim. However, deciding which one is better between Vim and Neovim relies on users’ preferences and needs.

Do all Vim plugins and commands work in Neovim?

Yes, most of the plugins and commands of Vim work in Neovim, but there might be some differences or extensions in Neovim that affect certain commands on different platforms. Mainly Neovim possesses more plugins than Vim. So, some plugins may work better in Neovim, some may work better in Vim.

Will it work the same if I copy my .vimrc contents to Neovim?

Yes, it should work the same if you copy the configuration file ~/.vimrc to ~/.config/nvim/init.vim as Neovim maintains compatibility with Vim. But sometimes there might be some differences between extensions which could affect the settings or work.

What are the similarities between Vim and Neovim?

Despite the differences, there are some similarities. Here are the similarities between Vim and Neovim: Both are free, open-source, support modal editing, have a terminal emulator, and have huge plugin support and active dedicated community support.

Should I learn Vim before Neovim?

Yes, it is better to learn Vim before Neovim. Firstly you should learn Vim without plugins. Then try to install and learn Vim with plugins. As Neovim is based on Vim, there are no major differences between the learning curve of these two. So, it will be easier to shift to Neovim once you learn Vim.

Why is Neovim so fast?

Neovim is so fast as it possesses some unique features and shows better performance while working with large files. Moreover, its better performance in the asynchronous plugin feature makes it faster than other text editors.

Does Neovim use the mouse?

Yes, Neovim does support using the mouse. Use the command :set mouse=nv and then press enter to activate the mouse support in normal and visual mode. To enable the mouse support in all modes use the set mouse=a command.

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Afia Zahin Oishi

Assalamualaikum, I am Afia Zahin, completed my graduation in Biomedical Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, currently working as a Linux Content Developer Executive at SOFTEKO. A high achieving professional with a strong work ethic and able to work in a team in order to consistently achieve my goal and build my skillset. Able to handle difficult problems with patience and swift decision-making. Read Full Bio

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