I tried VIM and liked it but something stopped from using it: I had to type ESC to often, very often, something like each 5 seconds, and it was highly uncomfortable, so I stopped using it as a primary text editor (now I use emacs, nice for programmer as I am).

After my sad experience with VIM, I could get why some much intensive users love vim. But now I suppose that maybe, after a bigger training, the frequency of mode switching could decrease dramatically.

So, to verify this hypothesis, I am asking to you, old vim users, how frequently do you switch the mode?

closed as not constructive by gnat, user7007, Kilian Foth, user4051, user40980 Feb 26 '13 at 14:33

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.


I've been using vi/vim for nearly 30 years now, and I must say I've never found the mode switching an issue. And you don't think emacs has modes????

As to your question, I really couldn't say. I suppose my work pattern is:

  • open a file
  • move around in command mode until I find the right place
  • go into insert mode and write some text
  • go into command mode and savethe file
  • compile
  • in command mode (note probably NOT in insert mode) fix syntax errors
  • repeat as needed

So I tend to do reasonable sized blocks of work in each mode. It's not like I'm typing a character, switching to command, issuing a command, going to insert, typing another character.

  • 1
    emacs doesn't have modes, not in the sense of edit and command mode like vi. – Bryan Oakley Aug 29 '11 at 10:52

I can't tell you how often I switch modes, because it's almost second nature. It's not something I do consciously and I think most people agree on this. I did remap Caps Lock to Esc and it is much better, highly recommended.

Maybe the first week was like that as you paint it. I forced myself to use it for everything and it stopped being frustrating after a week. If you want to master it, I suggest the same. There are some good blog posts out there about setting up a comfortable environment (mainly about the tons of options configurable in .vimrc).

  • 3
    +1 "can't tell you how often...because it's almost second nature" – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jun 14 '11 at 13:38
  • I like to map jj -> ESC. Use the imap command. – sixtyfootersdude Jun 14 '11 at 16:18
  • how is that useful? – Tamás Szelei Jun 14 '11 at 16:32
  • 1
    Scratch that, I tried and it's good :) – Tamás Szelei Jun 23 '11 at 10:23

I switch modes... always. Esc is the most popular key on my keyboard. Even in browser, typing this very message, I've hit Esc a couple of times, because it's already a habit. And I don't care! Smoking, for instance, would be a much worse habit.

However, if it really bothers you that much, I suggest you to see a shrink.


Most vim users would be switching between insert and visual mode all the time. Esc does suck to type a often. The day I started using Ctrl-c in place of Esc was the day my productivity increased tenfold. I think reaching for the Esc key a lot would mildly strain my left hand too...

  • Do you feel the same about the quite frequently uses "1" key, located within millimetres of ESC on my keyboard? – Neil Butterworth Jun 14 '11 at 12:30
  • @Neil: No, I don't. Esc is much further away from the asdf keys. – Jonathan Khoo Jun 14 '11 at 12:45
  • 1
    +1, for swapping Esc and Ctrl. I also liked switching Caps Lock with Ctrl, to make Ctrl easier to reach. – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jun 14 '11 at 13:39

It depends on what I am doing.

When I'm banging out new code I am in Insert mode most of the time.

When I'm editing code on the PC I make use of the arrow keys quite a lot so I can stay in insert mode quite a lot. Its a bad habit, but one that's hard to break.

When coding on my iPhone over SSH, I don't have the arrow keys so have to come out of Insert mode pretty often to navigate.

You get used to it. Even when coding in Visual Studio I find myself pressing escape every 10 seconds.

  • 2
    "When coding on my iPhone over SSH" I sure hope this is a last ditch effort and not a regular thing. I tried that a few times and could not manage to handle it. – Chris Jun 14 '11 at 11:21
  • @Chris, yeah we've just had a baby so I have to take whatever chances to code that I can get! I very rarely find myself in front of a laptop in my spare time any more. – Mongus Pong Jun 14 '11 at 11:39
  • I can totally understand that! – Chris Jun 14 '11 at 13:41

The trick for me is to stay in command mode by default. Switch to insert/replace mode, enter text, switch straight back. If I leave the screen and come back, I'm in command mode; if I'm moving around the document, I'm in command mode. And so on.

That's not to say that I don't spend a fair amount of time in insert mode. It just means that while I'm there, I'm aware that I'm not in command mode and that I need to hit escape when I stop typing.

Why is this useful to you? What I quickly found is that I stop thinking of it as switching "modes" and started thinking of i/a/o (etc) as commands, which are followed by a string of characters and completed using ESC.


You can remap ESC to whatever key combination you want :

I have the following code in my .vimrc :

" remap ESC to ii to avoid leaving home row to leave insert mode
" i to enter insert mode, ii to leave
inoremap ii <Esc>
vnoremap ii <Esc>
snoremap ii <Esc>

When you are in Insert, Visual or Select mode you can use 'ii' instead of ESC.

As long as you are not editing a file with variables containing 'ii' it works fine.

If I remember correctly, when Vi was developed the ESC key was at the same place that the CAPS lock on current keyboards. It was much easier to reach. As a consequence some people are using CAPS lock to switch mode.

  • Good, I will test soon. – BenjaminB Aug 24 '11 at 17:42
  • This is language-dependent; I've seen a lot of "ii"s in assorted Finnish names, and suspect it's reasonably common in the language, so it would be a pain when typing comments also. – David Thornley Aug 29 '11 at 16:03
  • @David Thornley : I agree. Still it should be possible for any language to find a two key combination that should work. I have seen people mentioning jk as a replacement for escape. It works well too. ( And if all 2 keys combination are equally likely in your language of choice, you can use a 3 keys combination ). That being said I suppose that most people writing comments are usually writing them in English, since this is the lingua franca of our time, particularly for software. – Xavier T. Aug 29 '11 at 16:20

I'm a new VIM user, and switch modes just about as often. Though, I hasn't remapped my keys, the default secondary Ctrl-[ works well for me.

However, what I find important, isn't that I need to switch modes often. It's simply that I rarely need to switch context. When I'm working, I'm working, and the mechanics doesn't really matter.


to change the mode ,you can use ctrl-[ to replace the esc

It will work better! stick with it and you will done!

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.