Let's create two files:

$ echo -n 'test' > test.txt
$ wc test.txt 
0 1 4 test.txt

The file test.txt doesn't contain the trailing newline.

$ echo 'test' > test_n.txt
$ wc test_n.txt 
1 1 5 test_n.txt

The file test_n.txt contains the trailing newline.

The above two files are obviously different, but the preview of both files in vim in insert mode does not contain any differences:

$ vim test.txt

enter image description here

$ vim test_n.txt

enter image description here

Why is there no difference (new line or some special distinction)?

And what can I do to add or remove such an additional character in vim in insert mode?

  • 4
    ":set list" would show the difference, and there's a mode which you can inspect. Both are in the help-files. Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 14:09
  • Thank you @ThomasDickey I didn't know this option before. Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 14:12
  • 1
    @ThomasDickey if you want to add an answer it will be probably the accepted answer. Thank you. Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 14:14
  • 2
    @filbranden please don't post answers in comments. Answers in comments cannot be voted on by the community and don't mark the question as answered.
    – terdon
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 14:56
  • 2
    @ThomasDickey see above. Please post that as an answer.
    – terdon
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 14:56

1 Answer 1


vim has a mode "eol" (for end-of-line) to tell what to if the last line in the file lacks a newline character. You can see all of the mode settings in vim (or any program like vi) by

:set all

POSIX vi does not have a feature for this: files are either zero-length, or have a trailing newline. That's because POSIX vi only deals with text files, which by definition are lines that end with newlines. In a quick check, nvi and elvis do not have modes for this. In my comment, I had forgotten a detail of vim: unlike vile, a ":set list" does not readily show the missing newline. Here's what I see in vim:


while in vile:


For either editor, you can read the file in, change the mode, e.g.,

:set noeol

and write the file out, to get a newline on the updated file. Rather than showing it directly, you can modify the status line of vim to show this information. By default, it does not appear to do this, but some packagers have customized this, e.g.,

"foo" [noeol] 2L, 9C                                          1,1           All

One of the comments suggests using the "?" modifier of the set command, e.g.,

:set eol?

which might show something like this:

noendofline                                                   2,1           All

but in insert-mode, that is replaced by

-- INSERT --                                                  2,1           All

so the status line seems the right place to maintain this information.

The features have been there a while:

  • The eol feature first appeared in vim 2.4 (July 1994), according to a comment in its source code.

  • vile's newline mode appeared in July 1993.

(nvi, elvis, vim and vile all handle binary files in addition to the POSIX vi's text files).

  • 2
    almost 20 years using vim, and I still learn new things about it. and I'm still scared of emacs. :D Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 15:29
  • 1
    In vim, you can also do :set eol? to see whether eol is on or off, so you don't have to look through all the output of :set all.
    – Kevin
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 18:45
  • A less confusing way of saying "files are either zero-length, or have a trailing newline" is "all lines end with a newline, and a text file is a sequence of zero or more lines". Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 23:21

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