How To: Vim show line numbers by default on Linux

How do I show line numbers in Vim by default on Linux?

Vim (Vi IMproved) is not just free text editor, but it is the number one editor for Linux sysadmin and software development work. By default, Vim doesn’t show line numbers on Linux and Unix-like systems, however, we can turn it on using the following instructions. My experience shows that line numbers are useful for debugging shell scripts, program code, and configuration files. Let us see how to display the line number in vim permanently.
Tutorial details
Difficulty level Easy
Root privileges No
Requirements Vim text editor
Est. reading time 2 minutes

Vim show line numbers by default

Turn on absolute line numbering by default in vim:

  1. Open vim configuration file ~/.vimrc by typing the following command:
    vim ~/.vimrc
  2. Append set number
    Vim show line numbers
  3. Press the Esc key
  4. To save the config file, type :w and hit Enter key
  5. You can temporarily disable the absolute line numbers within vim session, type:
    :set nonumber
  6. Want to enable disabled the absolute line numbers within vim session? Try:
    :set number
  7. We can see vim line numbers on the left side.

Relative line numbers

Apart from regular absolute line numbers, Vim supports relative and hybrid line numbers too to help navigate around text files. The ‘relativenumber’ vim option displays the line number relative to the line with the cursor in front of each line. Relative line numbers help you use the count you can precede some vertical motion commands with, without having to calculate it yourself. Once again edit the ~/vimrc, run:
vim ~/vimrc
Finally, turn relative line numbers on:
set relativenumber
Save and close the file in vim text editor.

How to show “Hybrid” line numbers in Vim by default

What happens when you put the following two config directives in ~/.vimrc?
set number
set relativenumber

That is right. We can enable both absolute and relative line numbers at the same time to get “Hybrid” line numbers.


Today we learned about permanent line number settings for the vim text editor. By adding the “set number” config directive in Vim configuration file named ~/.vimrc, we forced vim to show line numbers each time vim started. See vim docs here for more info and following tutorials too:

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1 comment… add one
  • Stephan Hunter Jun 13, 2021 @ 10:43

    Excellento. Very well written paged. I am new to vim and trying to get away from nano. Every small tutorial helps.

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