Demystifying Buffers, Windows, and Tabs in Neovim

software engineering


As a software engineer, mastering your tools can significantly boost your productivity. One such tool is Neovim, a highly configurable text editor built to enable efficient text editing. Understanding the core concepts of Neovim, specifically buffers, windows, and tabs, is crucial to unleashing its true potential. So let’s dive in!

Buffers in Neovim

A buffer is a file loaded into memory for editing. All opened files are associated with a buffer, and there can be multiple or no windows displaying a buffer.

:ls " Lists the buffers :bnext " Go to the next buffer :bprev " Go to the previous buffer :bd " Delete a buffer (close a file)

Windows in Neovim

A window is a viewport on a buffer. You can have multiple windows on a single buffer or a single window on multiple buffers.

:split " Splits the window horizontally :vsplit " Splits the window vertically :close " Closes the current window

Tabs in Neovim

A tab page is a collection of windows. You can use tabs to group related windows together. Each tab can contain multiple windows, each window viewing a single buffer.

:tabnew " Creates a new tab :tabnext " Goes to the next tab :tabprev " Goes to the previous tab :tabclose " Closes the current tab

Practical Workflow

Let’s consider a practical workflow to understand how these concepts come together. Suppose you are editing a JavaScript file and an associated CSS file.

:e index.js " Edit a JavaScript file :vsplit styles.css " Open the CSS file in a new vertical window :tabnew about.js " Open another JavaScript file in a new tab


"Understanding is the first step to control." - Terry Goodkind.

Neovim's philosophy truly aligns with this quote. By understanding the concepts of buffers, windows, and tabs, you can navigate the Neovim environment more efficiently, enhancing your productivity as a software engineer.

Consider this blog post as your stepping-stone towards mastering Neovim. Keep experimenting with different workflows and find the one that suits your needs the best.

For more information, the official Neovim documentation is a comprehensive guide that covers these concepts in depth. You can find it here.

Happy coding!

Keep experimenting and happy coding! You can find me at @samuellawrentz on X.

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