How To Show Line Numbers In vi / vim Text Editor

by on May 12, 2008 · 41 comments· LAST UPDATED June 12, 2013

in , ,

How do I display vi / vim text editor line numbers while writing a shell script or c program? How can I turn on or off this feature on Linux, Apple OS X, or Unix-like operating systems?

Tutorial details
DifficultyEasy (rss)
Root privilegesNo
Estimated completion timeLess than a minute
Displaying line numbers under vi / vim can be very useful for debugging code errors and to improve overall readability of a program or scripts.

Vi / Vim show line number command

To display line numbers along the left side of a window, type any one of the following command while using text editor:
:set number
:set nu
Sample outputs:

Fig.01: vi/vim in action with line numbers

Fig.01: vi/vim in action with line numbers

To turn off line number again enter the same command:
:set nu!
If you need number every time you start vi/vim, append following line to your ~/.vimrc file:
vi ~/.vimrc
Append the following line:
set number
Save and close the file.

Tip: Open a file at particular location/line number

Jump to particular line number from a shell prompt, enter:
$ vi +linenumber file.c
$ vi +300 initlib.c

Jump to particular line that contains main() function from a shell prompt, enter:
$ vi +/searchTermHere file.c
$ vi +/main initlib.c
### note shell escape done with \ ###
$ vi +/addUser\( initlib.c
$ vi +/addUser\(arg1\) initlib.c

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

1 yoander May 12, 2008 at 2:27 pm

Inside vim editor in command mode you can go directly to specific line pressing line number (ex: 50) and shift g.


2 billyduc May 13, 2008 at 10:15 am

THat’s really kool


3 Planet Lowyat May 17, 2008 at 4:20 pm

Can VI display 3 desire lines such as line x(10), line y(25) and line z(50) only?


4 Dean Nguyen January 16, 2009 at 4:16 pm


The “:set number or :set nu” is working great in VI.

Thank you!



5 neeraj sinha June 7, 2009 at 9:41 am

Thanks you so much!
it works!


6 hilmy October 11, 2009 at 1:44 am

its working.



7 woof October 21, 2009 at 9:44 pm

Inside vim editor in command mode you can go directly to specific line pressing line number (ex: 50) and shift g.

Or colon, line number, and Enter (e.g. :50 [enter]). It does the same thing, but is my personal preference over the 50G option.


8 Phil November 6, 2009 at 8:30 pm

Does not work in gvim with vim6.3 in centOS.


9 vlayne January 12, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Works with vi & vim in Centos 6.3

Distributor ID: CentOS
Description: CentOS release 6.3 (Final)
Release: 6.3
Codename: Final


10 Tapas May 8, 2010 at 7:04 pm

I use Debian you need to create .vimrc in your home directory for that.
Also syntax on will help


11 myrabelle cabriana March 8, 2011 at 5:02 am

thank uuuuuuuuuuuuu.hehe


12 Venu March 9, 2011 at 6:54 am

Previous post not properly added

vi “file name” +
vi + will open the file and cursor will be at specified line.

If the format is
vi “file name” :

vi : – How can I get the same behavior.



13 rojah May 24, 2011 at 8:50 pm

exactly what i was looking for. thank you.


14 sachin June 1, 2011 at 10:41 am



15 toto August 2, 2011 at 6:33 am

this is great tutorial. I can see line number in my vim editor. thanks


16 senthil August 18, 2011 at 9:25 am

its working .thx


17 Ramesh September 13, 2011 at 5:48 pm



18 Sandip September 15, 2011 at 10:30 am

You can also add:
set number


19 toto March 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm

thank you for this info. My vim is look more beautiful :)


20 Malek March 21, 2012 at 12:32 pm

this is why I like vim


21 w May 30, 2012 at 8:50 am



22 Mike W June 8, 2012 at 7:36 pm

This works in Poderosa too. Anyone know how to just turn on a display at the bottom of the screen that shows which line you’re on, as an alternative to having all the rows numbered? Poderosa does this on my Dreamhost account but not on another site I use, don’t know why.


23 Melanie July 16, 2012 at 6:52 pm

I have been to your site before and was back again searching for displaying the line numbers. Thank you for this quick bit of help.


24 Scarlet July 18, 2012 at 3:26 am

it’s helpful for beginners,thx


25 sh October 30, 2012 at 7:25 am



26 Debabrata Banik November 14, 2012 at 6:01 am

Thanks, Its working.


27 rajagopal November 26, 2012 at 1:13 pm

How can i get current cursor number in vi editor???


28 vlayne January 12, 2013 at 6:35 pm

launch vi –> vi ENTER
type –> :set number ENTER
Now as you press down or up, you will see the number value change on the bottom right.


29 jrrs April 4, 2014 at 10:58 pm

:set ruler


30 newbee February 22, 2013 at 4:10 am

.vimrc not available at ~/
now where should I add “set number”


31 sengseng February 23, 2013 at 9:35 pm

@newbee: Are you using a Debian-based system? If so, .vimrc is not included in your home dir. You can create the file by doing this at your command prompt:

$ vi ~/.vimrc

You’ll then be inside the vi editor. Press “i” for insert mode and type “set number” into the first line of the editor.

Once you are done, press ESC, then type ZZ and press Enter. You’ll automatically write the file and exit to your command prompt. You’ll now see .vimrc in your home dir.

You should now be able to see line numbers when you vi a file.

Last edited by Admin; 24th Feb 2013 at 9:59 AM. Reason: Correction.


32 soreana April 7, 2013 at 2:45 pm

You solve my problem in shortest waythat possible.
thank you


33 preet May 23, 2013 at 9:06 am

tnks really useful ……….


34 Van June 9, 2013 at 7:27 am

Thanks for the tips, it works for me


35 mark June 11, 2013 at 9:40 pm

Every time I enter to my vim file I have to put “:syntax on” to show the colors. Is there I way I can set it up as default like “set numers”, (in fact I’m still trying to undertand how to make it with the numbers). Thanks.


36 nixCraft June 12, 2013 at 10:06 am

Edit ~/.vimrc file and append the following:

set number
 syntax on
 set ruler

Save and close the file. It should now work.


37 mark June 13, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Thank you!! I done it! When I put ./vimrc it show a message of permision denied so I try with sudo, but doesn’t work either. So I createda new one: “vim ~/.vimrc” and I put the comands in the file!

:set nu
:syntax on.

And it works!


38 RB June 18, 2014 at 9:12 am

Beautiful. I was missing that (just started using Vim :3). The lines and columns are displayed at the bottom right but this is much nice and similar to all decent code editors.


39 Aldi Firmansyah January 27, 2015 at 7:34 am

it’s working very nice. thanks


40 ashmantak February 17, 2015 at 5:57 am

Thanks, it works.


41 ramya March 27, 2015 at 1:24 pm

I want to indent and set numbers for each and every program by default. Is there anyway to do this


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