Can you edit your .vimrc file and reload it without having to restart Vim?


If you're editing it, you can reload it with:

:so %

% stands for current file name (see :h current-file) and :so is short for :source, which reads the content of the specified file and treats it as Vim code.

In general, to re-load the currently active .vimrc, use the following (see Daily Vim):

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  • 2
    Have a look at stackoverflow.com/questions/803464/… – mrucci Apr 17 '10 at 14:27
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    and :so ~/.vimrc should work too on unix – Yab May 8 '11 at 18:18
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    :so ~/_vimrc works on windows. Of course, I keep my _vimrc in my windows home directory, or else this won't work. To see what Vim considers your home directory, use :echo expand("~"). – Daniel Miladinov Nov 30 '12 at 14:10
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    Note that if keyboard mappings were already in place, then they will not erased even if they are deleted from the new vimrc – Phani Oct 2 '14 at 6:58
  • Or :so ~/.vim/gvimrc or wherever you put it of course – NeilG Aug 20 '19 at 1:47

Even better, you configure Vim to watch for changes in your .vimrc and automatically reload the config.

augroup myvimrc
    au BufWritePost .vimrc,_vimrc,vimrc,.gvimrc,_gvimrc,gvimrc so $MYVIMRC | if has('gui_running') | so $MYGVIMRC | endif
augroup END

Source: this answer on SO

Note: this particular method watches for the many variations of Vim config filenames so that it's compatible with GUI Vim, Windows Vim, etc.

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  • 2
    How performant is this method? – Alexej Magura Sep 19 '17 at 18:37
  • I find that use this kind of command sometimes hangs my nvim for a few seconds or longer. – jdhao Sep 29 '18 at 8:29

Key mappings

" Quickly edit/reload this configuration file
nnoremap gev :e $MYVIMRC<CR>
nnoremap gsv :so $MYVIMRC<CR>

Completely automated solution

To automatically reload upon save, add the following to your $MYVIMRC:

if has ('autocmd') " Remain compatible with earlier versions
 augroup vimrc     " Source vim configuration upon save
    autocmd! BufWritePost $MYVIMRC source % | echom "Reloaded " . $MYVIMRC | redraw
    autocmd! BufWritePost $MYGVIMRC if has('gui_running') | so % | echom "Reloaded " . $MYGVIMRC | endif | redraw
  augroup END
endif " has autocmd

and then for the last time, type:

:so %

The next time you save your vimrc, it will be automatically reloaded.


  • Tells the user what has happened (also logging to :messages)
  • Handles various names for the configuration files
  • Ensures that it wil only match the actual configuration file (ignores copies in other directories, or a fugitive:// diff)
  • Won't generate an error if using vim-tiny

Of course, the automatic reload will only happen if you edit your vimrc in vim.

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An alternative to remembering/typing :so $MYVIMRC is these mappings. It lets you quickly edit vimrc (ev) or source vimrc (sv).

" Quickly open/reload vim
nnoremap <leader>ev :split $MYVIMRC<CR>  
nnoremap <leader>sv :source $MYVIMRC<CR>     
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