Getting Started

You can start vimiv from any application launcher with its .desktop file or from the command line using the vimiv command. If any valid image paths are given, the images are opened directly, otherwise the library is opened.

To close vimiv press q or type in :q in the command line.

Vimiv is, as one would expect from an application with vim-like keybindings, completely keyboard driven. To get you started some of the most important keybindings for controlling vimiv are explained below. For a complete list of them take a look at the keys.conf file which is generated upon startup in $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/vimiv/ or open the keybindings pop-up by running :keybindings.

You can run :help topic to get some additional information on a specific topic. Completion will guide you through the different options like commands and settings.


Depending on how you started vimiv you will begin in image or in library mode. To enter another mode the g key is combined with the first letter of the mode. Therefore:

  • gi enters image mode

  • gl enters library mode

  • gt enters thumbnail mode and

  • gm enters manipulate mode.

To toggle a mode the same logic applies with the t key instead of the g key.


Image mode cannot be toggled as it is the “normal” mode of vimiv

As in vim what a keybinding does depends on the mode in which it is ran.


Scrolling the image is done with hjkl. The next image is selected with n, the previous one with p. To show the first/last image use gg/G.

Zooming in and out is done with +/-. To fit the image to the current window size use w. e/E fit horizontally/vertically.

To start playing a slideshow use ss. The delay can be decreased/increased using sh/sl.


The behaviour of the library is similar to the one of the file manager ranger. You can scroll down/up with j/k. gg/G select the first/last file in the list. h opens the parent directory while l selects the current file. If the file is a directory, it is opened in the library. An image is displayed to the right of the library. Pressing l again closes the library and focuses the image.


Once again hjkl and gg/G work as expected.

It is also possible to vary the size of the thumbnails with the +/- keys.

To open the selected thumbnail in image mode, press <return>.

Image Editing

Images can be rotated with the < and >, flipped with the | and _ keys. These changes are automatically applied to the file as long as the image.autowrite setting is true. An image is deleted with x. This actually moves the image to the trash directory specified by the freedesktop standard, by default $XDG_DATA_HOME/Trash.

For additional editing enter manipulate mode with gm. Here you can change brightness and contraste as well as hue, saturation and lightness. To increase the current manipulation by 1/10 use k/K or l/L. Correspondingly, to decrease it by 1/10 use j/J or h/H. To set it to a specific value you can press [count]gg.

Navigating between the manipulations in the current tab is done with n/p. To get to the next/previous tab press <tab>/<shift><tab>.

When you are satisfied and want to apply the changes, accept with <return>. If you prefer to leave discarding the changes, press <escape>.

Command Line

Similar to many keyboard centric programs, vimiv includes a simple commmand line to run commands. It is opened with : and closed with <return> to run a command and <escape> to discard it.

When entering the command line a completion window for vimiv’s commands is displayed. Pressing <tab> starts cycling through the completions. <shift><tab> cycles in inverse direction.

Opening new paths from here is done using the :open command. Path completion is also supported.

Unix style pattern matching including * and ? can be used. Recursive matching is also possible using ** but please note that this can become slow in large directory trees. In addition % gets replaced with the currently selected file, %f by all files in the current filelist and %m by all marked images. See Marks and Tags for more information on this.

Prepending a command with ! lets vimiv interpret the command as an external command. This becomes especially useful in combination with the patterns described above.

Example: :!gimp % opens the currently selected image in gimp.

External commands can be “piped to vimiv” by appending the | char to the command. The output of the command is then parsed by vimiv. If the first line out output is a directory, it is opened in the library. If it is a valid image, all lines are checked for images and these are opened.

Example: :!find ~/Images -ctime -5 -type f | opens all files in ~/Images younger than five days.


External commands started with ! do not run in a sub-shell for security and performance reasons. This means that redirection with | or > as well as any other shell specifics do not work. If you require to run with a sub-shell, use the :spawn command instead.

Command line history is saved to $XDG_DATA_HOME/vimiv/history. History can be navigated and searched through using the <control>p/<control>n and <up>/<down> keys.


Some commands support passing a [count] as repetition or step. To pass a count in the command line, prepend [count] to the command, e.g. :5next. Pressing any number appends it to the current [count] and the next command is run with the stored [count].

Marks and Tags

Images supports the concept of marking images using the :mark command. As an argument it takes an arbitrary number of paths and supports pattern matching as described in Command Line. The current image is therefore marked using :mark % which is bound to m by default. Working with the set of marked images is done by referencing them in the command line with %m.

Example: :!mogrify -rotate 90 %m rotates all marked images by 90 degrees using the mogrify command from imagemagick.

All current marks are removed by running :mark-clear. The last set of cleared marks can be restored using :mark-restore.

To keep a selection of marks and assigning them a name, tags can be used. New tags are created using :tag-write my_fancy_tag. Grouping into sub-directories is possible by naming the tags accordingly, e.g. :tag-write favourites/2017. Under the hood, this creates a tag file in $XDG_DATA_HOME/vimiv/tags which is a simple text file that can be parsed as usual.


When writing to a tag that exists, all currently marked images that are not in the tag yet are appended to it.

Loading a tag is done with :tag-load my_fancy_tag which loads all images from the tag into the list of marked images. To then open them in image mode we can refer to them with %m in the open command: :open %m. As this is such a frequent usecase, there is the tag-open my_fancy_tag command which is equivalent, but saves one command.

Deleting a tag is done with :tag-delete my_fancy_tag.


This deletes the tag permanently with no option to restore it!

What Next?

You may want to check out how to configure vimiv or take a look at a description of all commands.