Obsidian is my go-to note-taking app because of its availability on all desktop and mobile platforms with the bonus of Vim mode. In this guide, I’ll show you how I customize the Vim mode in Obsidian to maximize my note-taking efficiency.

Setup User Launch Scripts via QuickAdd

To customize the Vim mode in Obsidian, JavaScript is the only solution. Obsidian allows running user scripts by implementing an plugin. I use an easy alternative to run a JavaScript file on launch via QuickAdd.

First, let’s create the JavaScript file in the vault. Save the skeleton below as the file vimrc.js in any folder in the vault. Keep in mind that Obsidian does not support editing JavaScript files, so use an external editor.

function notice(text) {
  new Notice(text);
  return text;

module.exports = async function (context) {
  const vim = window.CodeMirrorAdapter?.Vim;
  if (vim === undefined) {
    new Notice(`🔴error: vim mode is disabled`);

  // Add customizations here.

  console.log(`🔵info: vimrc loaded`);

Then, install QuickAdd by browsing the community plugins in Settings and follow the instructions on the Obsidian help page Community Plugins.

Finally, include the script in a QuickAdd macro and activate the option to execute the macro upon the plugin load.

  1. Open the tab QuickAdd in Settings.
  2. Click the button “Manage Macros”. In the pop-up dialog, fill in the macro name “vimrc” and click the button “Add macro“ to add a new macro vimrc.
  3. Toggle the option “Run on plugin load” on under the newly created macro.
  4. Configure the macro vimrc. Find the script file vimrc in the “User Scripts” section and add the script as the only step in the macro.

Attention that the script runs once on launch or reload. Running “Reload app without saving” via Command Palette will reload the file after changes,

Vim Mode Customization Techniques

For the best tutorial on customizing Vim mode and what methods the vim object provides, refer to how CodeMirror establishes the Vim mode. I will only introduce the methods that I use in my own customizations.


The defineEx method enables users to execute a new ex command in Vim by typing : in normal mode. For instance, the ex command :w saves the file.

I introduce defineEx first because I need an ex command to run any Obsidian command so that I can use it to add key bindings later. I name this command obr, which is the abbreviation of OBsidian Run. The command requires the Obsidian command identifier as the argument, for example, :obr app:open-settings will open the Settings dialog.

vim.defineEx("obr", "", function (cm, params) {
  if (params?.args?.length !== 1) {
    throw new Error(notice("🔴error: obr requires exactly 1 parameter"));

  const command = params.args[0];

To find the command identifier, I add another ex command :obl to display a list of identifiers and copy the selected one. It accepts an argument to filter the result. For example, obl open will list identifiers that contain the word “open”.

vim.defineEx("obl", "", async function (cm, params) {
  let commands = Object.keys(context.app.commands.commands);
  for (const keyword of params?.args ?? []) {
    commands = commands.filter((command) => command.includes(keyword));

  const choice = await context.quickAddApi.suggester(commands, commands);
  if (choice !== null) {
    await context.quickAddApi.utility.setClipboard(choice);
    new Notice(`🔵info: copied ${choice} to the clipboard`);


The vim.map method takes two arguments, lhs and rhs, which can both be either a key sequence or an ex command. The meaning of the method varies depending on the arguments passed.

  • When both lhs and rhs are key sequence, it maps the key sequence lhs to rhs. For example, vim.map('D', 'dd') will redefine D to delete the whole line.
  • When both lhs and rhs are ex commands, it creates a new ex command alias. For example, vim.map(':Reload', ':obr app:reload') adds the alias :Reload to run the Obsidian command app:reload.
  • When lhs is a key sequence, and rhs is an ex command, it maps the key sequence to run the ex command. For example vim.map('ZZ', ':obr app:reload') allows reloading Obsidian by typing ZZ.
  • When lhs is an ex command, and rhs is a key sequence, executing the ex command has the same effect as typing the key sequence.

I have a bunch of mappings from key sequences to :obr, for example, the z-family to operate on folds:

vim.map("zo", ":obr editor:toggle-fold");
vim.map("zc", ":obr editor:toggle-fold");
vim.map("za", ":obr editor:toggle-fold");
vim.map("zR", ":obr editor:unfold-all");
vim.map("zM", ":obr editor:fold-all");

To use the space key as a key mapping prefix, it must first be unmapped.

vim.map("<Space><Space>", ":obr switcher:open");
vim.map("<Space>n", ":nohl");

vim.defineAction and vim.defineOperator

We can use both action and operator in vim.mapCommand. The difference is that an operator performs upon text objects. See how CodeMirror defines the built-in actions and operators.

I have an action swapLine to move lines around. It’s not perfect, since undo will reverse one step only.

vim.defineAction("swapLine", function(_cm, { repeat, down }) {
  const command = down ? "editor:swap-line-down" : "editor:swap-line-up";
  for (let i = 0; i < repeat; i++) {
// undo after 5]e will only swap one line up.
vim.mapCommand("]e", "action", "swapLine", { down: true });
vim.mapCommand("[e", "action", "swapLine", { down: false });

The example for vim.defineOperator is titleCase, which formats the text in the APA Title Case Capitalization. For instance, gzap formats the current paragraph in the title case.

function titleCase(str, options) {
  // See https://github.com/words/ap-style-title-case/blob/master/index.js how to format str to apa title case

// Following helper funnctions are borrowed from https://codemirror.net/5/keymap/vim.js
function cursorIsBefore(cur1, cur2) {
  if (cur1.line < cur2.line) {
    return true;
  if (cur1.line == cur2.line && cur1.ch < cur2.ch) {
    return true;
  return false;

function cursorMin(cur1, cur2) {
  return cursorIsBefore(cur1, cur2) ? cur1 : cur2;

function findFirstNonWhiteSpaceCharacter(text) {
  if (!text) {
    return 0;
  var firstNonWS = text.search(/\S/);
  return firstNonWS == -1 ? text.length : firstNonWS;

vim.defineOperator("titleCase", function(cm, args, ranges, oldAnchor, newHead) {
  const selections = cm.getSelections();
  const newSelections = selections.map((s) =>
    titleCase(s, { keepSpaces: true })
  if (args.shouldMoveCursor) {
    return newHead;
  } else if (
    !cm.state.vim.visualMode &&
    args.linewise &&
    ranges[0].anchor.line + 1 == ranges[0].head.line
  ) {
    return {
      line: oldAnchor.line,
      ch: findFirstNonWhiteSpaceCharacter(cm.getLine(oldAnchor.line)),
  } else if (args.linewise) {
    return oldAnchor;
  } else {
    return cursorMin(ranges[0].anchor, ranges[0].head);
  return newHead;
vim.mapCommand("gz", "operator", "titleCase");