vemrc file

Vem configuration directory is typically located at .config/vem under your user's home folder. This directory is created by Vem at startup if it is not already present. Its structure is:

colors/  -- directory for color schemes
spell/   -- directory for spell checking files in different languages
pack/    -- directory for plugins
vemrc    -- main configuration file

The subdirectories allow you to add new color schemes, spell checking files and plugins. See the sections below to get more information about how to add those files. vemrc is the main settings file and you can use it to configure the behavior and appearance of the editor.

The vemrc file is a plain Vim configuration file. There's nothing Vem specific about it. Any documentation and resources that you may find online about setting up a vimrc file for Vim apply to vemrc as well.

The vemrc file is not created automatically. Create it and add the required options if you want to customize your editor.

Vim provides an extraordinarily amount of configuration options. You can configure almost every aspect of the editor, including both its visual appearance and behavior. For example, if you add this line to your vemrc file:

set cursorline

the line under the cursor to be always highlighted —which will make the cursor easier to spot.

Any option that you can include in the configuration file can also be set in the editor's command line, which allows you to see the effect immediately. However, the effect of the changes performed in the command line will be lost once you quit Vem. To make the changes permanent it is necessary to include them in the vemrc file.

To make changes to vemrc effective you need to either restart the editor or to reload the configuration with:

:source ~/.config/vem/vemrc

While there are too many options in Vim to be covered in this page, the following sections cover a selection of ones that can be important to help you to set up your environment.

In any case, you can always get information about all available options by executing:

:help options

And, to get additional information on the different ways Vim can be configured, you can check the Vim user manual with:

:help usr_05.txt


Vim configuration files are much more than just a place to set options. They are, effectively, scripts that are executed by Vim's internal interpreter and that are written in Vim's own programming language, known as Vimscript. Vimscript is a full featured language, which means that you can use loops, conditional statements, data structures and other common programming language constructs in your configuration. While it is most extensively used to create plugins, more complex user configurations can benefit from using it.

To learn more about Vimscript, you can check:

:help eval.txt

Keyboard layout

If you use a keyboard with a layout other than QWERTY, like for example QWERTZ (common in German speaking countries) or AZERTY (common in French speaking countries), it is important that you specify it in your vemrc file. This will make keyboard actions to keep the same spatial distribution across the keyboard even if letters change positions in your layout with respect to the others.

To set your keyboard layout, add a line like this to your configuration:

let g:vem_layout = '<layout>'

where <layout> can be:

  • qwerty (default)

  • qwertz

  • azerty

Vem's documentation includes layout information for those actions that are assigned to different keys across them.

Setting the layout changes what actions are assigned to some letters, however, this doesn't apply to symbols. A given symbol will always perform the same action across layouts irrespective of its position.

Vem doesn't support Dvorak or Colemak keyboard layouts currently due to their big differences from the layouts mentioned in this section. Their key distribution makes many action mappings not very intuitive and in many cases directly unfeasible.

Color schemes

You can use any Vim color scheme in Vem. To install a new color scheme follow two steps:

Copy the color scheme to the Vem configuration directory:

  • If the color scheme is a single <color-scheme>.vim file, then you need to copy it to ~/.config/vem/colors/.

  • If the color scheme is distributed as a plugin (for example, if it is a repository containing a colors/ directory inside), then you need to install it as any other plugin by copying it to ~/.config/vem/pack/plugins/start/.

Activate it in your vemrc file:

After, the color scheme is added to your configuration, include the following line to your vemrc file:

colorscheme <color-scheme>

where <color-scheme> is the name of the file of the color scheme without the .vim extension.

Cursor shape

A highly recommended configuration change is to set the cursor to change its shape depending on the currently active mode (Normal/Insert). Vem displays the mode at the beginning of the status line, but changing the shape of the cursor provides a more intuitive feedback.

The changing cursor shape is the default in gvem. However, it is not in vem because it is a feature closely linked to which particular terminal emulator you're using.

In many xtermk-compatible terminals (xterm, urxvt, iTerm2, xfce4-terminal, alacritty, kytty, terminator...) you can set:

" normal mode
let &t_EI = "\e[1 q"

" insert mode
let &t_SI = "\e[5 q"

in your vemrc file to enable this feature. The numbers correspond to the shape that you want to use in each mode:


Blinking block


Blinking block (default)


Steady block


Blinking underline


Steady underline


Blinking bar (xterm)


Steady bar (xterm)

However, you can take a look here for your terminal if this doesn't work for you:

Vim Wiki: Change cursor shape


If changing the cursor shape doesn't work for your terminal. There's an alternative that consists in highlighting the current screen line when insert mode is active and deactivating it when you go back to normal mode:

autocmd InsertEnter * set cursorline
autocmd InsertLeave * set nocursorline


To set up indentation configuration you have to decide its size and if you want to use spaces or tabs for it. Vem, by default, uses 4 spaces to indent text and code.

There are four main options to control indentation:

  • tabstop is the size of a tab character in the file.

  • shiftwidth is the indentation size that will be used when indenting blocks of text and for automatic indentation.

  • softtabstop is the indentation size when you press the tab key.

  • expandtabs is the option to indicate if you want to use tabs or spaces.

You can combine these options in various forms to create very peculiar setups, but most of the time you may want to set an unique indentation size and choose between spaces and tabs:

To use spaces:

set expandtab
set softtabstop=<size>
set shiftwidth=<size>

To use tabs:

set noexpandtab
set tabstop=<size>
set softtabstop=<size>
set shiftwidth=<size>

Replace <size> by the amount of characters you want to use to indent.

Note that setting this options don't change the preexisting indentation format of a file. If you want to change how a file is indented (from tabs to spaces or the other way around), check the :retab command.

Sometimes you may want to set the type/size of indentation according to the file type that you are editing. For example, you could need to use tabs of size 8 in C source code files but 2 spaces in HTML files. To do something like this, check the Filetype configuration section below.

Non-visible characters

Sometimes it is very useful to be able to see white space characters in source code files. For example, it is a clean practice to avoid having trailing spaces after code lines, and even more important to keep your indentation consistent: using all tabs or all spaces across the whole file.

To spot those problems you can display these characters in the editor by adding the following lines to your vemrc file:

set listchars=tab:→\ ,trail:·
set list

With listchars, you can specify which characters to use to display both tabs and trailing spaces. For spaces you can provide only one, in this example ·. For tabs, you can provide two. If your tab is, for example, 4 characters wide in size, the first one () will be placed at the beginning and the second one (an empty space escaped with backslash in this case) will be repeated for the remaining three characters.

The list option enables the display of white space characters, and nolist (which is the default) hides them.

There are more display options and more cases that can be shown apart from these two. Check the listchars option in the help documentation to get more information:

:help 'listchars'

Filetype configuration

When you set options in vemrc, those changes generally affect every document that you open with Vem. However, there may be cases in which you may want to have different settings for different types of archives. For example, when you're editing text in Markdown files, you may want to have the spell checker active and to make the editor breaking your lines automatically when they reach column 80 (or some other width), but not to do all this for the rest of files.

To add configuration for a particular file type, add a file with that configuration to:


where <filetype> is the type or file you want it to apply to. In the case of Markdown, the name of the file would be markdown.vim. Once you add that file, that configuration will only be loaded for files of that type.

Note that the path contains after/. In most distributions, Vim already provides a custom configuration for each file type. The after/ directory instructs Vim to load your configuration after any other global file type configuration happens so you can override it with your changes. Also note that the path might not exist and that you may need to create it before adding your files.

In the Markdown example, we could add the following content to that file:

setlocal textwidth=80
setlocal spell

It is important to use setlocal instead of set in file type configuration files so the changes only apply to the file that is being opened and not to all other files open independently of their type.

Each file type has a name. To know which exact name you have to use in each case, open a file of the type you are interested in and execute:

:set ft?

This will output the name in the command line of the editor.

To get a full list with all the file types that are supported by the editor, type the following command followed by a space and press Ctrl-d. That triggers autocompletion and will display all the file types registered in the system:

:setfiletype ^d


One very common use case for custom options per file type is to change the indentation size/type. For example, you could have different configurations such as 4 spaces for Python files, 2 spaces for CSS files or 8 character wide tabs for C++ files.

In the case of C++, the file to add would be:

" ~/.conf/vem/after/ftplugin/cpp.vim

setlocal noexpandtab
setlocal tabstop=8
setlocal softtabstop=8
setlocal shiftwidth=8

And similar ones for the other file types (see Indentation for an explanation on these options).

Automatic indentation per file type

Apart from setting specific indent sizes for different file types, you can also enable automatic file type indenting. With it, every time you press Enter, the newly created line will be indented according to the syntax of the programming language. That is, it will use the keywords and the symbols of the programming language to determine what should be the most likely indentation level for each new line. For example, in languages that use curly brackets to delimit blocks ({, {), pressing Enter after an opening one, will increase the indent of the next line by one level.

Since automatic indenting per file type can be too smart and introduce indentation when you don't expect or want it, it is disabled by default in Vem. To enable it, add this to your vemrc file:

filetype indent on

If it is enabled by some file you're sourcing in vemrc but you prefer to have it disabled, add:

filetype indent off

To the end of the file.

Default encoding

Vem will use the utf-8 encoding both internally and as the encoding of new files. Unless you know that you have to work with files of different encodings from this one, this is probably the behavior that you want.

However, if for any reason you need to work with other encodings, then you may want to take the following points into account:

  • Vem will try to detect the encoding of a file upon opening it. And will use that encoding for editing and saving it. So, if you open a latin1 file, it will be saved back as latin1 too. The detected encoding is displayed in the right section of the status line.

  • The detection mechanism tries to guess the encoding, and, in some occasions, it can fail. If you want to load a file and its encoding is being incorrectly detected, you can use the following command to use the correct one (eg. latin1):

    :edit ++enc=lating1 my-file.txt
  • Also, if you have a file loaded in one encoding and want to convert it to another one, use:

    :set fileencoding=<new encoding>

    The file will be converted and will be written to disk with the new encoding next time you save.

  • Finally, if you want to always work with a different encoding (let's say latin1 by default) and don't want to detect the encoding when files are opened, then you can add these lines to your vemrc file:

    set encoding=latin1
    set fileencodings=latin1

    Warning note: set this options if you know what you're doing and if you know that you won't be ever editing files in any other encoding. There may be loss of information with these settings!

For more information, check the following help topics:

:help 'encoding'
:help 'fileencoding'
:help 'fileencodings'

Default line endings

Line endings are generally marked in text files with one or two characters, named LF (Line Feed) and CR (Carriage Return):

  • LF: used in Unix environments (including Linux and OSX)

  • CRLF: used in Windows/DOS environments

Vem will detect which of these two options is used in a file while opening it and use the correct line ending for that file while editing and saving it. That means that you can edit files with one or the other line ending indistinctly. Which line ending is being used is shown in the right side of the status line.

Sometimes you may want to convert a file from one type of line ending to another. To convert from Windows/DOS to Unix, use:

:set fileformat=unix

To convert from Unix to Windows/DOS, use:

:set fileformat=dos

After executing one of these commands, the new line ending will be displayed in the status line and changes will be written to disk next time you save the file.

In rare occasions, you may find a file with a mix of line endings. This is most likely an error. In this case, Vem will detect it as an Unix file (LF) and mark the CR characters visually with ^M (Ctrl-M is the key combination to generate this character). To fix the file, you can just remove every CR character in the file:


This will convert all the text to Unix format (once the file is in Unix format it is trivial to convert it to Windows/DOS format as explained above if that's the final format the file should use).

Other visual tips and tricks

Use of _italics_ in Vem's default color schema

vem-dark, the default color scheme of Vem, provides support for syntax highlighting with italic fonts. Since not all terminal emulators support displaying italic text, this option is disabled by default. If your terminal can display italic characters, then you may enable this feature by adding this to your vemrc file:

let g:vem_colors_italic = 1
colorscheme vem-dark

vem_colors_italic is the variable that controls if the feature is enabled (1) or disabled(0). The second line reloads the color scheme to make the change effective.

Mark maximum column limit for your code

Many programming coding styles establish a maximum width for code. This is, typically, set to 80, 100, 120 or even more characters. By default, Vem always displays the column the cursor is at, which may allow you to know if you have surpassed or not the column limit. However, it can be useful to see that limit at all times. To do so, you can use the colorcolum option:

set colorcolumn=80

Highlight current line

Some people like to have the line where the cursor is currently placed highlighted. That is exactly what the option cursorline does:

set cursorline

In Vem's default color scheme, setting this option changes the background of the current line to a lighter color.