Vifm – A Commandline Based File Manager with ‘Vi Keybindings’ for Linux

In our last article, we have put together a list of 13 best file managers for Linux systems, most of which where graphical user interface (GUI) based. But if you have a Linux distribution that only uses the command line interface (CLI), then you need a text based file manager. In this article, we bring you one such file manager called Vifm.

Vifm is a powerful CLI and ncurses based cross-platform file manager for Unix-like, Cygwin and Window systems. It is feature-rich and comes with Vi like key bindings. It also uses a number of useful features from Mutt.

There is no need to learn a new set of usage commands, it provides you with absolute keyboard control over your files using generic Vi options/commands.

Useful Vifm Features:

  • Provides a facility to edit several kinds of files.
  • Comes with two panes by default.
  • Supports Vi modes, options, registers, commands and so much more.
  • Supports auto-completion of commands.
  • Support for trash directory.
  • Offers various views (such as custom, column, compare and ls-like).
  • Supports remote execution of commands.
  • Also supports remote changing of directories.
  • Supports various color schemes.
  • Built-in support of automated FUSE file system mounts.
  • Supports use of functions.
  • Supports plugin for using vifm in vim as a file selector and so much more.

Suggested Read: Cloud Commander – Web File Manager to Control Linux File/Programs via Browser

How to Install Vifm Command-line File Manager in Linux

Vifm is available in the official software repositories of Debian/Ubuntu and Fedora Linux distributions. To install it, use the respective package manager to install it like this.

$ sudo apt install vifm   [On Debian/Ubuntu]
$ dnf install vifm        [On Fedora 22+]

Once installed, you can start it by typing.

$ vifm

Supports Two Panes By Default

Use the space bar to shift from one pane to the other. To enter a directory, simply hit the [Enter] button.

Vifm Commandline File Manager
Vifm Commandline File Manager

Open A File in Vi/m Editor

To open a file such as the script in the right pane above, just highlight the file and press [Enter]:

Vifm - Open File for Editing in Vi
Vifm – Open File for Editing in Vi

Colored Visual Highlighter

To enable the visual highlighter, press V and scroll to see how it works.

Vifm Color Visual Highlighter
Vifm Color Visual Highlighter

Main Pane Manipulation Options

To view pane manipulation options/keybindings, press Ctrl-W.

Vifm View Pane Manipulation Options
Vifm View Pane Manipulation Options

To split the window horizontally press Ctrl-W then s.

Vifm Split Horizontally
Vifm Split Horizontally

To split the window vertically press Ctrl-W then v.

Vifm Split Vertically
Vifm Split Vertically

Use Tab To Auto-Complete Commands

First type a few letters in the command name (possibly two), then press Tab. To select the next option, press Tab again then hit [Enter].

Vifm Auto Complete Commands
Vifm Auto Complete Commands

Highlight Files in One Pane and View It On Another

You can list files in one pane and view content in another as you scroll over files, simply run the view command like this.

Vifm View File Content
Vifm View File Content

Delete A File in Vifm

You can delete a highlighted file by pressing dd. To delete it, press Y or N otherwise.

Vifm Delete a File
Vifm Delete a File

Vifm Command Line Trash

If you delete a file in Vifm, it is stored in the trash. To view the trash directory, type this command.


To view files in trash, run the lstrash command (press q to return).

Vifm Trash Window
Vifm Trash Window

To restore files from the trash directory, first move into it by using the cd command like this.

:cd /home/aaronkilik/.local/share/vifm/Trash

Then select the file to restore, and type:

Vifm Restore a File
Vifm Restore a File

For a comprehensive usage information and options, commands, tips check out the Vifm man page:

$ man vifm

Vifm Homepage:

Do check out following articles.

  1. GNOME Commander: A ‘Two pane’ Graphical File Browser and Manager for Linux
  2. Peazip – A Portable File Manager and Archive Tool for Linux

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