Equivalence of VIM and Emacs commands

Descriptions for VIM commands are quite straightforward, there is not many choice, you have just to type the command. This is not as simple in Emacs, because there is so much possibilities. Here is presented the Emacs commands and their standard key bindings when there are some. But many (like myself) alter the default keybindings to type faster and according to what they do with Emacs.

This heading includes contributions from David Richfield. Thanks David !


  • NA
    Not Applicable, the equivalence doesn't exist.
  • -
    I personnaly don't know if there is an equivalence.



ActionEmacs commandVIM command
General apropos :help
:help <word> then hit CTRL-D to see matching help entries for word
About commands apropos-command : f1 a :help <command>
Describe function describe-function : f1 f NA
Describe variable describe-variable : f1 v :help options
Describe key briefly describe-key-briefly : f1 c NA
Tutorial help-with-tutorial : C-h t NA


ActionEmacs commandVIM command
Open a file find-file : C-x C-f :e file-name
Reload a file from disk revert-buffer :e
Close a buffer, a frame kill-buffer : C-x k :q
Close all files C-x C-c :qall
List all buffers, frame C-x C-b :files
Change to next frame switch-to-buffer : C-x b C-w C-w
Change to next buffer switch-to-buffer : C-x b :e#<n>
Save a buffer, a frame save-current-buffer : C-x C-s :w
Save all buffers, frame save-some-buffer : C-x s :wall

In Emacs, it is better to load all the files in different buffers, but in the same instance of Emacs, if only to load the file faster. Thus, open as many files as you want and then switch from one buffer to another.

Navigation / Search

ActionEmacs commandVIM command
Go to the beginning of a buffer beginning-of-buffer : M-< 1G or gg
Go to the end of a buffer end-of-buffer : M-> G
Search forward C-s /<string>
Repeat last search forward C-s C-s n or /
Search backward C-r ?<string>
Repeat last search backward C-r C-r N or ?
Find the next brace, bracket, etc. Click on the brace, bracket, etc. %


ActionEmacs commandVIM command
Transpose letters C-t xp
Transpose words M-t Go to start of first word, then dwwP. Except at the end of the line, then go to the space in between the words, and type 2dwbhP
downcase word M-l With cursor at beginning of word: veu
Downcase region C-x C-l Mark region, press u.
Upcase word M-u With cursor at beginning of word: veU
Upcase region C-x C-u Mark region, press U.
Syntax highlighting M-x toggle-global-lazy-font-lock-mode :syntax enable and then :set syntax=>syntax name<
Region indentation M-x indent-according-to-mode == (current line)
<n>== (n, the number of lines)
=G (till end of file)
Inserting comments indent-for-comment : M-; -

Cut & Paste

ActionEmacs commandVIM command
Copy a region, a selection copy-region-as-kill <n>yy to "yank" or copy n lines, or mark region in visual mode, then press y
Set mark C-Space m{a-zA-Z}
Copy M-w See above
Mark the buffer C-x h ggVG

String substitution

To come, work in progress.


Undo / Redo

ActionEmacs commandVIM command
Undo C-_ u
Redo Space C-_ C-r
Repeat a command M-x z .
Repeat a complex command repeat-complex-command : C-x M-: .

More about the undo/redo in Emacs : All the actions are piled up, even the "undo" action. Thus to perform a "redo", one has to undo an "undo". One way to do that is after an "undo" to write a character, like "space", and then perform an "undo".

Check this out too about macros.

Spelling check

ActionEmacs commandVIM command
Check spelling of a region/file ispell-region / ispell-buffer

:w! (hit ENTER):!ispell % (hit ENTER):e! % (hit ENTER)

Or a bit more complex and powerful, use some macros :
map <F5> :w!<CR>:!ispell -d francais %<CR>:e! %<CR>
map <F6> :w!<CR>:!ispell -d american %<CR>:e! %<CR>

Check spelling of a word ispell-word NA

Emacs specificities


ActionEmacs command
Insert special characters C-q

Examples :

  • To insert a TAB character
    C-q TAB
  • To insert a newline in the minibuffer, for substitutions, etc.
    C-q C-j

LISP evaluation

ActionEmacs command
Evaluate a LISP expression and print the result eval-expression : M-:

For a function evaluation expression is of the form (function)

Examples :

  • Addition
    (+ 1 2)
    will return 3
  • Division
    (/ 225 60)
    will return 3
  • Division
    (/ 225.0 60)
    will return 3.75
  • Variable assigment
    (setq shell-file-name "bash")
    will return "bash"

For a variable evaluation expression is of the form variable

Examples :

  • Checking a variable value
    M-: shell-file-name
    might return "/bin/bash" or "bash"

Emacs modes

ActionEmacs command
Get name of current buffer major mode, eg xml-mode M-: major-mode
Get pretty name of current buffer major mode M-: mode-name
Full description of current major mode M-x describe-mode