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mawww's experiment for a better code editor

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= image:{logo}[K,30,30,link="{website}",title="Kakoune logo by p0nce"] Kakoune image:{cirrus-img}[link="{cirrus-url}"] image:{irc-img}[link="{irc-url}"] ifdef::env-github,env-browser[:outfilesuffix: .asciidoc] :logo: :website: :cirrus-img: :cirrus-url: :irc-img: :irc-url: :icons: font :toc: right :pp: ++



Modal editor -- Faster as in fewer keystrokes -- Multiple selections -- Orthogonal design

git clone cd kakoune/src make


See for Kakoune solutions to vimgolf challenges, regularly beating the best Vim solution.

See the link:doc/design.asciidoc[design document] for more information on Kakoune philosophy and design.



Kakoune is a code editor that implements Vi's "keystrokes as a text editing language" model. As it's also a modal editor, it is somewhat similar to the Vim editor (after which Kakoune was originally inspired).

Kakoune can operate in two modes, normal and insertion. In insertion mode, keys are directly inserted into the current buffer. In normal mode, keys are used to manipulate the current selection and to enter insertion mode.

Kakoune has a strong focus on interactivity, most commands provide immediate and incremental results, while still being competitive (as in keystroke count) with Vim.

Kakoune works on selections, which are oriented, inclusive ranges of characters. Selections have an anchor and a cursor. Most commands move both of them except when extending selections, where the anchor character stays fixed and the cursor moves around.


Join us on libera IRC


Features ~~~~~~~~

  • Multiple selections as a central way of interacting
  • Powerful selection manipulation primitives
    • Select all regex matches in current selections
    • Keep selections containing/not containing a match for a given regex
    • Split current selections with a regex
    • Text objects (paragraph, sentence, nestable blocks)
  • Powerful text manipulation primitives
    • Align selections
    • Rotate selection contents
    • Case manipulation
    • Indentation
    • Piping each selection to external filter
  • Client-Server architecture
    • Multiple clients on the same editing session
    • Use tmux or your X11 window manager to manage windows
  • Simple interaction with external programs
  • Automatic contextual help
  • Automatic as you type completion
  • Macros
  • Hooks
  • Syntax Highlighting
    • Supports multiple languages in the same buffer
    • Highlight a buffer differently in different windows

Screenshots ~~~~~~~~~~~

[[screenshot-i3]] .Kakoune in i3 image::doc/screenshot-i3.gif[Kakoune in i3]

[[screenshot-tmux]] .Kakoune in tmux image::doc/screenshot-tmux.gif[Kakoune in tmux]

Getting started

Building ~~~~~~~~

Kakoune dependencies are:

  • A {cpp}17 compliant compiler (GCC >= 8 or clang >= 6) along with its associated {cpp} standard library (libstdc{pp} or libc{pp})

To build, just type make in the src directory. To generate man pages, type make man in the src directory.

Kakoune can be built on Linux, MacOS, and Cygwin. Due to Kakoune relying heavily on being in a Unix-like environment, no native Windows version is planned.

Installing ~~~~~~~~~~

In order to install kak on your system, rather than running it directly from its source directory, type make install. You can specify the

if needed.


.Homebrew (macOS) or Linuxbrew

brew install kakoune



.MacPorts (macOS)

sudo port selfupdate

sudo port install kakoune



.Fedora supported versions and Rawhide

dnf install kakoune



.Fedora daily builds

Use the[copr] repository.

dnf copr enable jkonecny/kakoune

dnf install kakoune



.RHEL/CentOS 8

Kakoune can be found in the[EPEL8 repositories].

dnf install kakoune



.Arch Linux

Kakoune is found in the[repositories].

pacman -S kakoune




Kakoune is found in portage as[app-editors/kakoune].

emerge kakoune[Installation and Gentoo specific documentation] is available.



cave resolve -x repository/mawww

cave resolve -x kakoune




Kakoune can be found in the[repositories].

sudo zypper install kakoune




Building on Ubuntu 16.04 and 18.04. Make sure you have .local/bin in your path to make the kak binary available from your shell.

git clone && cd kakoune/src make

PREFIX=$HOME/.local make install




Kakoune can be found in Debian 9 (Stretch) and later releases.

sudo apt install kakoune




Kakoune is available in the official ports tree as[editors/kakoune].

A binary package is also available and can be installed with

pkg install kakoune




Building on OpenBSD 6.7 amd64.

pkg_add git gmake

git clone

cd kakoune

export CXX=clang++

gmake install

Kakoune is available in the 6.7-current port tree as[editors/kakoune]

A binary package is also available for -current snapshot and can be installed with

pkg_add kakoune

Running with support for plugins.

pkg_add dash

$ export KAKOUNEPOSIXSHELL=/usr/local/bin/dash

$ kak




Kakoune is available in the Solus stable repository.

It can be installed with

eopkg install kakoune




Kakoune is available in the repositories.

It can be installed with

xbps-install -S kakoune




Kakoune is available in the repositories.

It can be installed with

pkg install kakoune




nix-env -iA nixpkgs.kakoune


Running ~~~~~~~

Just running kak launches a new kak session with a client on local terminal. Run kak -help to discover the valid command line flags.

Configuration ^^^^^^^^^^^^^

There are two directories containing Kakoune's scripts:

  • runtime
    : located in
    relative to the
    binary contains the system scripts, installed with Kakoune.
  • userconf
    : located in
    , which will fallback to
    is not set, containing the user configuration.


is specified, Kakoune will load its startup script located at
relative to the
binary. This startup script is responsible for loading the user configuration.

First, Kakoune will search recursively for

files in the
directory. It will first look for an
directory at
and will fallback to
if it does not exist.

Once all those files are loaded, Kakoune will try to source

which is expected to contain distribution provided configuration.

And finally, the user configuration will be loaded from


NOTE: If you create a user

directory in
, the system one at
will not be loaded anymore. You can add a symbolic link to it (or to individual scripts) inside
to keep loading system scripts.

Basic Interaction

Selections ~~~~~~~~~~

The main concept in Kakoune is the selection. A selection is an inclusive, directed range of characters. A selection has two ends, the anchor and the cursor.

There is always at least one selection, and a selection is always at least one character (in which case the anchor and cursor of the selections are on the same character).

Normal Mode ~~~~~~~~~~~

In normal mode, keys are not inserted directly inside the buffer, but are editing commands. These commands provide ways to manipulate either the selections themselves, or the selected text.

Insert Mode ~~~~~~~~~~~

When entering insert mode, keys are now directly inserted before each selection's cursor. Some additional keys are recognised in insert mode:

  • : leave insert mode
  • : delete characters before cursors
  • : delete characters under cursors
  • , , , 
    : move the cursors in given direction
  • : move cursors to line begin
  • : move cursors to end of line
  • : select next completion candidate
  • : select previous completion candidate
  • : explicit insert completion query, followed by:
    • f
      : explicit file completion
    • w
      : explicit word completion
    • l
      : explicit line completion
  • : disable automatic completion for this insert session
  • : insert contents of the register given by next key
  • : insert next keystroke directly into the buffer,
    without interpreting it.
  • : commit changes up to now as a single undo group.
  • : escape to normal mode for a single command

Movement ~~~~~~~~

See <> below for instructions on extending (appending to) the current selection, in order to select more text in multiple steps.

  • h
    : select the character on the left of selection end
  • j
    : select the character below the selection end
  • k
    : select the character above the selection end
  • l
    : select the character on the right of selection end
  • w
    : select the word and following whitespaces on the right of selection end
  • b
    : select preceding whitespaces and the word on the left of selection end
  • e
    : select preceding whitespaces and the word on the right of selection end
  • : same as [wbe] but select WORD instead of word
  • f
    : select to (including) the next occurrence of the given character
  • t
    : select until (excluding) the next occurrence of the given character
  • : same as [ft] but in the other direction
  • m
    : select to matching character
  • M
    : extend selection to matching character
  • x
    : select line on which selection end lies (or next line when end lies on an end-of-line)
  • X
    : similar to
    , except the current selection is extended
  • : expand selections to contain full lines (including end-of-lines)
  • : trim selections to only contain full lines (not including last
  • %
    : select whole buffer
  • : select to line begin
  • : select to line end
  • /
    : search (select next match)
  • : search (select previous match)
  • ?
    : search (extend to next match)
  • : search (extend to previous match)
  • n
    : select next match
  • N
    : add a new selection with next match
  • : select previous match
  • : add a new selection with previous match
  • pageup, 
    : scroll one page up
  • pagedown, 
    : scroll one page down
  • : scroll half a page up
  • : scroll half a page down
  • )
    : rotate selections (the main selection becomes the next one)
  • (
    : rotate selections backwards
  • ;
    : reduce selections to their cursor
  • : flip the selections' direction
  • : ensure selections are in forward direction (cursor after anchor)
  • : repeat last object or 
    selection command.
  • _
    : trim selections

A word is a sequence of alphanumeric characters or underscore, a WORD is a sequence of non whitespace characters.

Appending ~~~~~~~~~

For most <> commands, using

extends the current selection instead of replacing it.


  • wWW
    selects 3 consecutive words: first
    selects a word, then
    extends the selection two words further.
  • f/F/
    selects up to and including the second
    character forward.

Using Counts ~~~~~~~~~~~~

Most selection commands also support counts, which are entered before the command itself.

For example,

selects 3 consecutive words and
select the third word on the right of selection end.

Disabling Hooks ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Any normal mode command can be prefixed with

which will disable hook execution for the duration for the command (including the duration of modes the command could move to, so
will disable hooks for the whole insert session).

As autoindentation is implemented in terms of hooks, this can be used to disable it when pasting text.

Changes ~~~~~~~

  • i
    : enter insert mode before current selection
  • a
    : enter insert mode after current selection
  • d
    : yank and delete current selection
  • c
    : yank and delete current selection and enter insert mode
  • .
    : repeat last insert mode change (
    , or
    , including the inserted text)
  • : delete current selection
  • : delete current selection and enter insert mode
  • I
    : enter insert mode at current selection begin line start
  • A
    : enter insert mode at current selection end line end
  • o
    : enter insert mode in one (or given count) new lines below current selection end
  • O
    : enter insert mode in one (or given count) new lines above current selection begin
  • : add an empty line below cursor
  • : add an empty line above cursor
  • y
    : yank selections
  • p
    : paste after current selection end
  • P
    : paste before current selection begin
  • : paste all after current selection end, and
            select each pasted string.
  • : paste all before current selection begin, and
            select each pasted string.
  • R
    : replace current selection with yanked text
  • : replace current selection with every yanked text
  • r
    : replace each character with the next entered one
  • : join selected lines
  • : join selected lines and select spaces inserted
            in place of line breaks
  • : merge contiguous selections together (works across lines as well)
  •  (>)
    : indent selected lines
  • : indent selected lines, including empty lines
  •  (: deindent selected lines
  • : deindent selected lines, do not remove incomplete
        indent (3 leading spaces when indent is 4)
  • |
    : pipe each selection through the given external filter program and replace the selection with it's output.
  • : pipe each selection through the given external filter program
        and ignore its output
  • !
    : insert command output before selection
  • : append command output after selection
  • u
    : undo last change
  • : move backward in history
  • U
    : redo last change
  • : move forward in history
  • &
    : align selection, align the cursor of selections by inserting spaces before the first character of the selection
  • : copy indent, copy the indentation of the main selection
        (or the count one if a count is given) to all other ones
  • ```: to lower case

  • ~
    : to upper case
  • : swap case
  • @
    : convert tabs to spaces in current selections, uses the buffer tabstop option or the count parameter for tabstop.
  • : convert spaces to tabs in current selections, uses the buffer
            tabstop option or the count parameter for tabstop.
  • : rotate selections content, if specified, the count groups
            selections, so 
    rotate (1, 2, 3) and (3, 4, 6) independently.
  • : rotate selections content backwards

Goto Commands ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Commands beginning with

are used to goto certain position and or buffer. If a count is given prior to hitting
will jump to the given line. Using
will extend the selection rather than jump.

See <>.

View commands ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Commands beginning with

permit to center or scroll the current view. Using
will lock view mode until
 is hit

See <>.

Marks ~~~~~

Current selections position can be saved in a register and restored later on.

See <>.

Jump list ~~~~~~~~~

Some commands, like the goto commands, buffer switch or search commands, push the previous selections to the client's jump list.

See <>.

Multi Selection ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kak was designed from the start to handle multiple selections. One way to get a multiselection is via the


For example, to change all occurrences of word 'roger' to word 'marcel' in a paragraph, here is what can be done:

  • select the paragraph with enough
  • press
    and enter roger, then enter
  • now paragraph selection was replaced with multiselection of each roger in the paragraph
  • press
    and marcel to replace rogers with marcels

A multiselection can also be obtained with

, which splits the current selection according to the regex entered. To split a comma separated list, use
then ', *'

The regex syntax supported by Kakoune is the based on the ECMAScript script syntax and is described at <>.

share the search pattern with
, and hence entering an empty pattern uses the last one.

As a convenience,

 allows you to split the current selections on
line boundaries.

To clear multiple selections, use

. To keep only the nth selection use
followed by
, in order to remove a selection, use

 allows you to enter a regex and keep only the selections that
contains a match for this regex. Using 
 you can keep the selections
not containing a match.

copies the current selection to the next line (or lines if a count is given)
 does the same to previous lines.

allows you to enter a shell command and pipe each selection to it. Selections whose shell command returns 0 will be kept, other will be dropped.

Object Selection ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Objects are specific portions of text, like sentences, paragraphs, numbers… Kakoune offers many keys allowing you to select various text objects.

See <>.


When pressing

in normal mode, Kakoune will open a prompt to enter a command.

Commands are used for non editing tasks, such as opening a buffer, writing the current one, quitting, etc.

See <>.

Basic Commands ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Some commands take an exclamation mark (

), which can be used to force the execution of the command (i.e. to quit a modified buffer, the command
has to be used).

Commands starting with horizontal whitespace (e.g. a space) will not be saved in the command history.

  • cd []
    : change the current directory to
    , or the home directory if unspecified
  • doc 
    : display documentation about a topic. The completion list displays the available topics.
  • e[dit][!]  [ []]
    : open buffer on file, go to given line and column. If file is already opened, just switch to this file. Use edit! to force reloading.
  • w[rite][!] []
    : write buffer to or use its name if filename is not given. If the file is write-protected, its permissions are temporarily changed to allow saving the buffer and restored afterwards when the write! command is used.
  • w[rite]a[ll]
    : write all buffers that are associated to a file.
  • q[uit][!] []
    : exit Kakoune, use quit! to force quitting even if there is some unsaved buffers remaining. If specified, the client exit status will be set to .
  • w[a]q[!] []
    : write the current buffer (or all buffers when
    is used) and quit. If specified, the client exit status will be set to .
  • kill[!]
    : terminate the current session, all the clients as well as the server, use kill! to ignore unsaved buffers
  • b[uffer] 
    : switch to buffer
  • b[uffer]n[ext]
    : switch to the next buffer
  • b[uffer]p[rev]
    : switch to the previous buffer
  • d[el]b[uf][!] []
    : delete the buffer
  • source 
    : execute commands in
  • colorscheme 
    : load named colorscheme.
  • rename-client 
    : set current client name
  • rename-buffer 
    : set current buffer name
  • rename-session 
    : set current session name
  • echo [options] 
    : show in status line, with the following options: **
    : expand the markup strings in **
    : print the given text to the
  • nop
    : does nothing, but as with every other commands, arguments may be evaluated. So nop can be used for example to execute a shell command while being sure that it's output will not be interpreted by kak.
    :%sh{ echo echo tchou }
    will echo tchou in Kakoune, whereas
    :nop %sh{ echo echo tchou }
    will not, but both will execute the shell command.
  • fail 
    : raise an error, uses as its description

Multiple commands ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Multiple commands can be separated either by new lines or by semicolons, as such a semicolon must be escaped with

to be considered as a literal semicolon argument.

String syntax and expansions ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Values, options and shell context can be interpolated in strings.

See <>.

Configuration & Autoloading

Kakrc ~~~~~

If not launched with the

switch, Kakoune will source the
file relative to the
binary, which will source additional files:

If the

directory exists, load every
files in it, and load recursively any subdirectory.

If it does not exist, falls back to the site wide autoload directory in


After that, if it exists, source the

file which should be used for user configuration.

In order to continue autoloading site-wide files with a local autoload directory, just add a symbolic link to

into your local autoload directory.

Color Schemes ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kakoune ships with some color schemes that are installed to

. If
is present the builtin command
will offer completion for those color schemes. If a scheme is duplicated in userspace, it will take precedence.


Kakoune can store named and typed values that can be used both to customize the core editor behaviour, and to keep data used by extension scripts.

See <>.

Advanced topics

Faces ~~~~~

Faces describe how characters are displayed on the screen: color, bold, italic...

See <>.

Registers ~~~~~~~~~

Registers are named lists of text. They are used for various purposes, like storing the last yanked text, or the captured groups associated with the selections.

See <>.

Macros ~~~~~~

Kakoune can record and replay a sequence of key presses.

See <>.

Search selection ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Using the

key, you can set the search pattern to the current selection. See <>.

Regex syntax ~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kakoune regex syntax is based on the ECMAScript syntax (ECMA-262 standard). It always runs on Unicode codepoint sequences, not on bytes.

See <>.

Exec and Eval ~~~~~~~~~~~~~


are useful for scripting in non interactive contexts.

See <>.

Insert mode completion ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kakoune can propose completions while inserting text: filenames, words, lines…

See <>.

Escape to normal mode ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From insert mode, pressing

 allows you to execute a single normal mode
command. This provides a few advantages:

  • The selections are not modified: when leaving insert mode using

    selections can change, for example when insert mode was entered with 
    the cursor will go back one char. Or if on an end of line the cursor will go back left (if possible).
  • The modes are nested: that means the normal mode can enter prompt (with

    ), or any other modes (using
    for example), and these modes will get back to the insert mode afterwards.

This feature is tailored for scripting/macros, as it provides a more predictable behaviour than leaving insert mode with

, executing normal mode command
and entering back insert mode (with which binding ?)

See <>.

Highlighters ~~~~~~~~~~~~

Manipulation of the displayed text, such as syntax coloration and wrapping is done through highlighters.

See <>.

Hooks ~~~~~

Commands can be registered to be executed when certain events arise with hooks.

See <>.

Key Mapping ~~~~~~~~~~~

Custom key shortcuts can be registered through mappings.

See <>.

Defining Commands and Aliases ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

New commands can be created using


See <>.

They can be given additional short names depending of the scope with


See <>.

Some helper commands are available to define composite commands.

See <>.

FIFO Buffers ~~~~~~~~~~~

FIFO buffers are very useful for running some commands asynchronously while progressively displaying their result in Kakoune.

See <>.

Menus ~~~~~

When a menu is displayed, you can use

 to select the next
entry, and 
 to select the previous one.

Using the

key, you can enter some regex in order to restrict available choices to the matching ones.


Thanks to[p0nce] for designing the[Kakoune logo].

And thanks to all the[contributors] who help move the project forward!

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