How To Show or Hide Line Numbers In vi / vim Text Editor

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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 a Linux, Apple OS X/macOS, or Unix-like operating systems? How cah I make the vi text editor display or hide line numbers? How can I enable line numbers on vim startup by editing the ~/.vimrc config file?

Displaying line numbers under vi / vim can be very useful for debugging program errors and to improve overall readability of a program or scripts. Vim is very popular among software developers, system administrators and Linux/Unix/macOS users but lines are not displayed by default. In this tutorial, you will learn how to display or hide line numbers in Vim / Vi text editor running on Linux/Unix based systems.


Make the vi/vim text editor show or hide line numbers

Vim can display line numbers in the left margin:

  1. Press ESC key
  2. At the : prompt type the following command to run on line numbers: set number
  3. To turn off line numbering, type the following command at the : prompt set nonumber

Let us see all commands in detailed to display line number in vim.

Vi or 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. First press the Esc key. Press : and type any one of the following command at a : prompt:
set number
set nu
Sample outputs:

Show or Hide Line Numbers in Vim/Vi
Fig.01: vi/vim in action with line numbers

Want to display relative line numbers in vim or vi? Try:
:set relativenumber
:set rnu

How to turn off line numbering in vim/vi

To turn off (or hide) line number again enter the same command at the : prompt:
set nu!
set nonumber
To turn off relative line numbers, try:
:set norelativenumber
:set nornu

How to enable line number setting permanently while using vim

If you need number every time you start vi/vim, append the following line to your ~/.vimrc file:
$ vi ~/.vimrc
Append the following line:
set number
Save and close the file in vim.

How to 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

Minimal number of columns to use for the vim line number

Set following option:
:set numberwidth=N
:set numberwidth=1
:set numberwidth=4
:set numberwidth=10

The minimum value of N is 1, the maximum value N is 10. See this page for more info.

How do I list of all current vim settings?

At the : prompt, enter:
set all
To see a list of everything that you have set so far in your vim config file or runtime, type the following command at the : prompt:


This page explained how to show or hide line numbers in vim / vi text editors using commands. For more info see the official vim website here and the following pages:

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin, DevOps engineer, and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. Get the latest tutorials on SysAdmin, Linux/Unix and open source topics via RSS/XML feed or weekly email newsletter.


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. Edit ~/.vimrc file and append the following:

      set number
       syntax on
       set ruler

      Save and close the file. It should now work.

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