Vim is a powerful text editor that’s been a go-to tool for developers and sysadmins for decades. However, with great power comes the potential for great loss, and there’s nothing more frustrating than losing hours of work due to a system crash or a power outage. Fortunately, Vim has a built-in feature called swap files that can help you recover lost work. In this article, we’ll cover what swap files are and how to use them to recover lost work in Vim.
What are Swap Files?
A swap file is a temporary file that Vim creates to save changes to a buffer. Vim creates a swap file for each buffer that’s currently open, and it updates the swap file as you make changes to the buffer. If Vim crashes or your system goes down unexpectedly, the swap file can be used to recover your work.
When Vim starts up, it checks for any swap files that may have been left behind due to a previous crash or improper exit. If it finds a swap file, it prompts you to either recover the file or delete it. If you choose to recover the file, Vim restores the contents of the buffer as it was at the time the swap file was last updated.
Setup Custom Directory for Swap Files
By default, Vim creates swap files in the same directory as the file being edited. However, you can customize where Vim stores swap files by setting the directory option in your .vimrc file. Here’s an example:
This sets the directory for swap files to ~/.vim/swap. You can replace this path with any directory that you prefer.
How to Recover Lost Work Using Swap Files
To recover lost work using a swap file, you first need to determine if a swap file exists for the buffer you want to recover. You can do this by opening the same file in Vim and checking for a message at the bottom of the screen that says “Swap file exists”. This message also includes the path to the swap file.
If you see this message, you can use the :recover command to recover the file. For example, if the swap file path is /path/to/file.swp, you can recover the file by entering the following command:
This opens the swap file in the current buffer and prompts you to recover the file. If you choose to recover the file, Vim restores the contents of the buffer as it was at the time the swap file was last updated.
Once you’ve recovered the file, you can save it by using the :w command. It’s a good idea to save the file with a new name to avoid overwriting the original file, as the original file may have been modified since the last time the swap file was updated.
In this article, we covered what swap files are and how to use them to recover lost work in Vim. By enabling swap files and knowing how to use the
:recover command, you can recover your work in the event of a system crash or a power outage. Swap files are an essential tool for any Vim user, and they can save you a lot of frustration and lost time. With these tips, you’ll be able to use swap files with ease and confidence, knowing that you have a safety net in case of unexpected events.