Apologies if this is duplicate. I have searched and haven't found any related questions.

What is the difference between the options readonly and nowrite? The reference manual says:

  • readonly: If on, writes fail unless you use a '!'. Protects you from accidentally overwriting a file.
  • write: Allows writing files. When not set, writing a file is not allowed.

From these definitions, readonly and nowrite seem synonymous to me.

Thanks in advance!

1 Answer 1


The primary difference is that readonly is per-buffer and write is global to vim.

  • readonly is generally used when editing specific files that you do not have access to write (like /etc/fstab). Any buffer can be set to readonly if you want to prevent accidentally writing it to file.

  • nowrite can be used to put vim into view-only mode, like pager utilities more or less, except temporary edits to the buffer are still allowed.

  • 1
    This makes sense. Thanks a lot!
    – mgarort
    Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 3:48

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