back to article RIP Bram Moolenaar: Coding world mourns Vim creator

Dutch free software developer Bram Moolenaar has died. He was 62. His Vim text editor is probably one of the single most widely used Linux programs of all time. His family on Saturday announced his passing, appropriately enough on the Vim-announce mailing list. It has resulted in an outpouring of grief across many techie …

  1. D P Duck

    A sad day. May his generosity remain an example for eternity.

    I had the pleasure of meeting Bram at a Linux conference in the wild days before the Internet bubble burst. This was a time when everybody was focused on making a fortune with the new Internet economy where everything began with an "i". And here was Bram, quietly spreading the word about Charityware and dedicating himself to making at least one village in Africa a bit better off. What a fantastic human being.

    God Bless, Bram. Rest in Peace

  2. Dr_N

    Too young.

    But he leaves an outstanding legacy.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No doubt many of us will think of him often, simply when editing a file. I learned vi from a cheat sheet because that's what we had on our Sun workstations at work, after using pico at university (I'm a mechanical engineer, not a software engineer....), then we moved to Windows a few years later, so of course I found notepad didn't meet my needs and I installed vim, and I've never looked back since. (Notepad++, what's that?)

    18 or 19 years ago, I switched to Linux at home, so of course I've been using vim at home since then too... Thank you for the many hours (days?) of my life you;ve saved me compared to using other text editors, and Rest in Peace, Bram

    1. Ace2 Silver badge

      I’ll never forget helping the two MechEs in the hw lab one day. They said, “How do we change this setting?” I said, “Type this exactly: i, change the 1 to a 0, then escape, then colon, then w, then q…”

      The way they looked at me was priceless.

      (Emacs user, myself)

      1. sueme

        i => insert r=> replace


        Finito <chef's kiss>

        1. chroot


          Upvote for :x instead of :wq

          Though in practice I mostly do :xa

      2. R Soul Silver badge

        As if Ctl-S, 0 Ctl-V, DEL, 1 Ctl-S, Ctl-X, Ctl-C would be an improvement.

    2. C R Mudgeon Bronze badge

      My story is similar.

      I first encountered vim in 1998, when, as a long-time *nix/vi user, I was assigned to a contract at a Windows-only client site. I was going to have to learn enough as it was, even without devoting brain cycles to the very basics, i.e. text editing; so I went looking for a vi for Windows. Vim is the one I landed on. I no longer recall why I picked it, but in retrospect it was a good choice.

      Vim's multiple undo levels and multiple windows were such an improvement, along with its fixing of some of vi's little annoyances, that when I got back to my then employer's Solaris shop, I quickly installed vim on all their machines, and never went back to vanilla vi.

      RIP, Bram, and thanks for continuing to improve vim over all these years.

  4. scobiej

    Monumental software engineer

    Few things shock me these days but this guy produced something I've used every day in virtually all of my professional career. Wish I'd have met him. Truly thankful for one of the cornerstones of computing.

  5. Natalie Gritpants Jr
  6. Bebu Silver badge

    Vale Bram Moolenaar

    Vim has been a major part my daily work for more than twenty years (since the advent of Linux) and probably not a day goes by without seeing his name and charity appeal on startup.

    His early passing was a shock but it seems that the succession arrangements for vim's maintenance were in place which iI feel is a further testament to his humility.

    1. druck Silver badge

      Re: Vale Bram Moolenaar


      Obviously the early period being the original vi on UNIX, but the transition to Vim on Linux was seamless, and the new features gradually learned and appreciated.

      1. Handy Plough

        Re: Vale Bram Moolenaar

        Vi != Vim.

        Bram started work on it as a port to the Amiga 31 years ago...


  7. Michael Hoffmann Silver badge

    A saint!

    A true saint in the Church of the One True Editor.

    May he always know which mode he's in, forever and ever, amen!


  8. Ace2 Silver badge

    Moral of the story: don’t put off moving to paradise. You never know how much time you’ll get.

    1. BenDwire Silver badge

      How right you are, and that becomes even more urgent when people younger than yourself pass away.

  9. that one in the corner Silver badge

    Thanks for Vim on a Fish Disk

    My A1000 was often running Vim, from the first time I spotted it on one of Fred's disks: great to be able to continue using my carefully reinforced Vi cheat-sheet from the days of the Uni lab machines - and then it did even more Good Stuff!

    Nowadays, of course, Vim is on my random set of Linux machines and on the Windows PATH as well.

    I won't attempt to claim that it is my most-used editor or my immediate go-to for day-to-day editing (it could well have been, if not for...), but it is certainly the one that has been in use across the greatest number of years, reliably present and working when in a tight spot.

    He has left a lasting legacy, both for use privileged computer users and for the children in Uganda. Long may his legacy last.


    1. stiine Silver badge

      Re: Thanks for Vim on a Fish Disk

      Didn't everyone write their term papers in vim? With vi compatibility mode enabled?

      1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: Thanks for Vim on a Fish Disk

        [Author here]

        Not 100% sure what a term paper is, TBH, but no. I did my final year essays in The Last Word on a ZX Spectrum. I left university the year the first version of Vim was released.


        1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: Thanks for Vim on a Fish Disk


          Mere stripling.

          [Icon closest to my actual appearance.]

        2. LionelB Silver badge

          Re: Thanks for Vim on a Fish Disk

          Fountain pen and paper (would've taken way too long to punch all those cards).


          1. keithpeter Silver badge

            Re: Thanks for Vim on a Fish Disk

            chased a goose for a feather and harvested some oak apples when the need to scribble became urgent.

            1. LionelB Silver badge

              Re: Thanks for Vim on a Fish Disk

              Appallingly, my story is actually true - only computer access during my undergrad years involved an IBM 370 mainframe and Fortran 66 on punch cards. I still have the fountain pen.

          2. Tim99 Silver badge

            Re: Thanks for Vim on a Fish Disk

            You were better (or more confident) than I was. We used the same 4B pencil to write outline code as used with our issued optical mark cards - I used an eraser a lot...

        3. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

          Re: Thanks for Vim on a Fish Disk

          Dissertation on Wordstar on CPC6128 CPM.


      2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Thanks for Vim on a Fish Disk

        First year University project written on UNIX edition 6 using ed and roff, printed on a DEC Printer II.

        What is this vi thing? Go for the real hair shirt stuff (not really, I do use Vim almost daily, although I did successfully dabble with Emacs for a few years).

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Thanks for Vim on a Fish Disk

      I'm another one who started using vim on the Amiga and since then PC, Mac, and Linux. I don't think there is a piece of software which has been used by more people over such a long period of time which is testament to the quality of the software and the person behind it.

  10. brotherelf

    No ibits left, so here's the obit. :-(

    Rest in peace. Even if I use That Other Editor if I have to do more than fiddle a config file, I appreciate the positive change you brought to the world.

  11. thondwe


    Even after years not using Vi/Vim my fingers still know the commands!

    BUT - Debian doesn't show the Charitable Message? Just Version, Bram's credit and Modified by - is the Uganda thing historical?

    1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

      Re: Curious

      I have a feeling they replaced the charitable message with their own modification message. Very bad.

    2. keithpeter Silver badge

      Re: Curious

      "is the Uganda thing historical?"

      No, very much current if you compile from source using the source archive or if you use vim in other distributions that don't repackage as much as Debian does.

      Donating via the link on the footer of (or direct at is easy if you have a paypal account.


      (actually more ^x for me but I have aspirations)

    3. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Curious

      [Author here]

      > is the Uganda thing historical?

      No. I copied the text, verbatim, from the version of Vim included in the latest release of macOS.

      1. Roger Lipscombe

        Re: Curious

        On my Mac, that message displays one of ":help sponsor", ":help iccf" and ":help register", seemingly at random.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Curious

      The opening banner message changes, at least on Debian 11 (Vim 8.2.2434) & 12 (Vim 9.0.1499) and CentOS 7 (Vim 7.4.629). Not sure if it's a sequential rotation or random.

      E.g. in addition to the ICCF donation, you may also see messages about sponsoring Vim development, and becoming a registered Vim user, possibly others.

      1. Jonathan Richards 1

        Re: Curious

        It doesn't seem to be a rotation. On this machine, a derivative of Ubuntu 22.04, I think, /usr/bin/vim is a symbolic link:

        /usr/bin/vim -> /etc/alternatives/vim

        Then that is a further symbolic link to vim.basic which is the executable:

        /etc/alternatives/vim -> /usr/bin/vim.basic

        vim.basic is also at the end of a similar two-link chain from usr/bin/vi. In checking that out, I find that there is also a vim.tiny, which is less than half the size of vim.basic.

        RIP Bram Moolenaar

        1. C R Mudgeon Bronze badge

          Re: Curious

          "there is also a vim.tiny, which is less than half the size of vim.basic."

          Vim has quite a few optional features that can be enabled (or not) at compile time. vim --version (or, within vim, :version) will tell you which ones are included in your specific vim build. (This is in addition to the many run-time options available via :set.)

          Among Ubuntu's many vim-* packages are a few alternative builds of Vim itself, with different subsets of the compile-time features. The /etc/alternatives mechanism -- inherited from Debian -- lets you install more than one of them (or indeed, other vi-alikes as well), and choose which to run by default. update-alternatives(1) says how to manipulate it -- though I don't believe I've ever had to do so; installing and removing packages typically does the Right Thing (TM).

  12. bob, mon!

    Farewell, Bram Moolenaar. You are missed and remembered.

    Inevitable, but very saddening. I met Bram once at some Linux expo or other; he was just a nice, quiet, unassuming man. He will be missed.

    (I've been a dedicated vi user since I switched from ed. I love vim (gvim), it's the first thing I upgrade on new OS installs. Three gvim windows open on this machine at the moment.)

  13. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

    Brilliant program

    Still use it most days. Vi is essential learning simply because any Unix with sense (so not all Linux) bundles vi or vim (and hopefully you don't need to resort to ed).

    Search and replace, regular expressions, then really useful commands such as :sort u or XML validation.

    Bram will certainly be missed

  14. Alan Bourke


    Vim was always too hardcore for me although I did use Vi on the VAX 11\780. The many millions of Vim power users out there are testament to what a great piece of software it is.

    1. C R Mudgeon Bronze badge

      Re: RIP

      "Vim was always too hardcore for me although I did use Vi..."

      If you're comfortable with vi, you'll be comfortable with vim. The one thing that I recall tripping me up at first was that the "u" command behaves differently -- a second "u" doesn't "undo the undo", as it does in vanilla vi; it takes you to a still older state. ^R is how you move forward again. That's annoying until you retrain your muscle memory, but it's a small price to pay for multiple-level undo.

      There are other incompatibilities, but as I recall, they're things that made me go "WTF -- oh, that's actually better!", i.e. fixing things that were annoying about vi in the first place.

      There's lots more to vim than that, but almost all of it is opt-in -- it doesn't get in your way unless you go looking for it.

      "...on the VAX 11\780."

      That's another thing. Vim is available for quite a few environments besides *nix: Windows, MS-DOS, VMS, Amiga, z/OS, and others.

  15. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    True techie

    I see many people paying more attention to their next promotion than keeping the users happy. I am much more interested in creating user-friendly software and somehow that isn't always rewarded.

    One less person with that spirit diminishes us all.

  16. d2


    'Bram was suffering from a medical condition that progressed *quickly over the last few weeks'

    This is code [sic] for another clotshot victim...peruse,if you will/dare,

    News from Underground by Mark Crispin Miller

    In memory of those who "died suddenly" in the United States and worldwide, July 25-July 31, 2023

    Athletes in the US, Canada, Argentina, Germany, Finland; journalists in US, Argentina, Poland, Serbia, Spain (2); "vaxxidents" in the Czech R., Italy, Ukraine, Indonesia, NZ; 2 judges in Nigeria; more AND IT wiz, Steve Kirsch at

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: alas

      Oh $DEITY, an anti-vax nutter.

      a medical condition that progressed quickly over the last few weeks

      For those of us who live in the real world this is usually a description of terminal cancer. Starts slow, accelerates horrendously towards the end. Horrid to watch someone you care about going through it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: alas

        There are real people who were harmed by the vaccines. I developed a condition called Ideopathic (sometimes called Immune) Thrombocytopenic Purpura (this is the opposite of the blood clots on the brain that the OP is referencing) shortly after being given the AZ vaccine, and it has had a big effect on my life.

        As I was told that I could have had a brain haemorrhage at any time after my blood platelet count dropped to as near zero as it could get without me dying, I'm still living largely isolated, because I do not want another episode, even though the doctors categorise me as being in remission. They can't be sure that I will never have another episode, and I'm still suffering many of the classic symptoms of this condition except the low platelet count.

        But I admit I am probably in a small minority, but there do seem to be more people suffering from what I have/had than the official statistics suggest (but please note I still support vaccination programmes - I'm just one of the unfortunate few who had serious side effects).

        1. TheWeetabix

          Re: alas

          So, your doctor told you the ITP you suffered was a direct result of the vaccine? I notice you say "around the same time" but don't claim the link.

          Personally, it sounds more like "I got the vaccine, and then tripped on the sidewalk."... you can think theres a link all you like, but...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: alas @ TheWeetabix

            It was written up by the doctor(s) as "Probable vaccine induced ITP" (this is a thing). And it was reported as such to the vaccine monitoring authorities, so you tell me...

            It happened a few days after I had the second dose of the AZ vaccine. I felt bad for a day or two after the first one, but that was regarded as a normal symptom. What triggered the investigation and diagnosis was a node-bleed that did not stop for many hours, together with vivid bruises all over my body, and petechial haemorrhaging on the lower legs (and a follow up blood test).

            After the initial diagnosis, I was grilled for quite some time as to my general health before I had the vaccine, and they then dug into my health record pretty much back to birth (at the time, about 60 years), and they asked about my parents and siblings. My health record is relatively short, as I have been mostly healthy for my entire life, but they ended up asking about ailments I had back in the '60s which I barely remember, and I also believe they looked at my blood donation record, and they could not find anything else to attribute it to.

            ITP is the immune system attacking itself, in this case the blood platelets. The vaccines are designed to alter the behaviour of the immune system, so the single correlation in my case is strong, but not provable.

            Of course, there is always the possibility it was something else (and this is the biggest block in applying for the vaccine damages scheme, there is no 100% proof). But they tested for Lupis (which was a possibility, I do come into contact with livestock). When I had the first episode, they did a full tox, bacterial and viral screen, and there was nothing that came up. Although I felt quite well (apart from the initial nosebleeds), they kept me in an acute observation ward for four days until my platelet level came up above the danger level (they wanted to keep me in until I actually reached a fully safe level, but they desperately needed the bed), but in follow up tests, it did not return to anything close to normal for several months, and that was with high steroid doses acting as an immune suppressant.

            This was during the actual Covid lockdown, so I did not have much contact with other people.

            So, yes. possibly a co-incidence. But on balance and in the opinion of the hospital, probably not.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: alas @ TheWeetabix

              BTW. ITP is considered a 'rest of life' condition, so even if I am in remission, they do not regard me as cured, This is what makes it more of a severe reaction.

      2. BrBill

        Re: alas

        Yes, according to some other news stories, this seems to be a health problem that Bram originally announced in October 2022 and then suddenly took a hard turn about a month ago. Nothing sudden about it.

        1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: alas

          [Author here]

          > this seems to be a health problem that Bram originally announced in October 2022

          Indeed so.

          I looked and looked but couldn't find any confirmation of anything specific, but he passed out several times in Oct, received hospital treatment at his new home in Tenerife -- sadly I only found out he'd retired and moved there after the article was published. Perhaps he knew he had something terminal?

          Cancer is my suspicion, too.

          He seems to have been a very religious man, and the school he supported was a Christian school, of the Pentecostalist persuasion... but that's why I included the line of helping non-Christian children too.

    2. Ace2 Silver badge

      Re: alas

      Yes, lots of people have fatal complications from vaccines. It’s 0.0001% of the number of people who would die from the diseases we’ve developed vaccines for.

      If you give a billion people a shot, someone’s going to have a fatal allergic reaction. Someone’s going to develop a fatal infection at the injection site. Someone’s going to have a heart attack when they see the needle!

      That’s not even bringing in all of the people who get run over by delivery trucks while on the way to the doctor’s office.

  17. chuckamok

    Bill Joy

    Wrote vi

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Bill Joy

      [Author here]

      > Bill Joy… Wrote vi

      Indeed he did.

      But Vim isn't based on that code at all.

      Nvi is as close as it gets.

      If you listen to Bram's talk, he asked if he could join in the work on Nvi. They told him "you can submit patches". He felt that they did not want his input, so he did his own thing.

      Who could blame him for that? I can relate strongly to this.

      Vim is based on steVIe. Stevie is not based on Vi. As the HN thread I linked to says: Vi is so small and simple, anyone could clone it. The programmer of another clone switched to Vim, as I said, because Vim was so much better _than his own code_.

      To be fair, later on, Bram chose not to accept patches from others, which is what led to the Neovim fork.

      Neovim is now about 30% _smaller_ than Vim, and instead of inventing its own scripting language, as Vim 9 does, Neovim uses Lua instead. Both of these seem like good moves to me, TBH.

      But then, as my article on Tilde makes plain, I am not a Vi[m] user, and I do not personally like the Vi family of editors. I use them as a last resort, because they are always there on any xNix type OS.

      1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

        Re: Bill Joy

        I too tend to dislike modal editors. TECO , sed and sos lead into aedit on Intel dev boxes, and then brief on PC. But then "normal" editors became featured an ubiqitous enough that it became unnecessary to keep track of modes and cursor positions. Notepad++ was a revelation, and now it's Geany, with nano dor config file bashing.

        1. Nintendo1889

          Re: Bill Joy

          There's one place where vi will always be used, on remote boxes beyond your control where emacs doesn't exist.

  18. ThoughtfulDude

    Such a great article about someone actually deserving it

    Kudos to Liam for such a touching and detailed report on the passing of someone so meaningful like Bram. I wish he and all the great ElReg's writers could come up with beautiful stories like this, with a focus on little-known heroes with a well-known record in computer science before their passing too. All the best!

  19. Nintendo1889

    Help aid Uganda, buy and hold Bitcoin.

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