How To Show Line Numbers In vi / vim Text Editor

Posted on in Categories , , , last updated June 12, 2013

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?

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

42 comment

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

  2. 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.

    1. Works with vi & vim in Centos 6.3

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

  3. 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.


  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. 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.

  6. @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.

  7. 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.

      1. 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!

  8. 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.

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