Managing buffers

You can use buffers to work with multiple files. When you open a file using

:e path/to/file

it opens in a new buffer (the command means edit the file). New buffer that holds a temporary copy of the file.

You can go to previous buffer with :bp[rev] and next buffer with :bn[ext].

You can go to a particular buffer with b{n} to go to nth buffer. b2 goes to second buffer.

Use :ls or :buffers to list all buffers

Hidden buffers

Moving away from a buffer with unsaved changes will cause this error:

E37: No write since last change (add ! to override)

You can disable this by adding set hidden to your .vimrc file. With this option set your changes will persist in the buffer, but will not be saved to disk.

Switching buffer using part of the filename

To easily select a buffer by filename, you can use:

:b [part_of_filename]<Tab><Tab><Tab>...<Enter>

The first Tab will expand the word to a full filename, and subsequent Tab presses will cycle through the list of possible matches.

When multiple matches are available, you can see a list of matches before the word expansion by setting this option:

:set wildmode=longest:full:list,full

This allows you to refine your word if the list of matches is too long, but it requires an extra Tab press to perform the expansion. Add the setting to your $MYVIMRC if you want to keep it.

Some people like to kick-start this process with a keymap that first lists the buffers:

:nnoremap <Leader>b :set nomore <Bar> :ls <Bar> :set more <CR>:b<Space>

That makes it easy to select a buffer by its number:

:b [buffer_num]

Quickly switch to previous buffer, or to any buffer by number

<C-^> will switch to and from the previous edited file. On most keyboards <C-^> is CTRL-6.

3<C-^> will switch to buffer number 3. This is very quick, but only if you know the buffer number.

You can see the buffer numbers from :ls or from a plugin such as MiniBufExplorer.