For 4-5 years I've had the following in my .vimrc file:

inoremap jj <Esc>

which I understand is pretty conventional, and I've never had problems until recently.

Every so often, typically when load is higher than usual, this remapping doesn't work and I end up with something like jj;wq in my document.

What would be the best way to go about increasing the reliability of this remapping? Is this uncommon, maybe indicating a system or keyboard problem?

I'm using vim version 7.4 on Ubuntu 14.04, with this .vimrc

  • Maybe you could play with the value of the 2 options 'timeout' and 'timeoutlen'. For example, if you type :set notimeout or if you increase the value of 'timeoutlen' (let's say to 3s :set timeoutlen=3000). Does it change anything ?
    – saginaw
    Jan 25, 2016 at 19:59
  • @saginaw I'll try that and see if I can reproduce the problem. Jan 25, 2016 at 20:31
  • Sorry set notimeout was a complete bad idea, however slightly increasing the value of 'timeoutlen' might still be worth a try. You could also look at the options 'ttimeout' and 'ttimeoutlen' but normally those only concern key codes not mappings so they shouldn't be useful here.
    – saginaw
    Jan 25, 2016 at 21:31
  • It does appear the timeoutlen has an impact, if you want to post that as the answer I'll accept it. There's also a more complicated method, that doesn't quite suit my needs but is nonetheless interesting, here: vi.stackexchange.com/questions/563/… Jan 26, 2016 at 14:22
  • 1
    Indeed you're right, it was very interesting to read, however I was unable to tweak the code so that it escapes from insert mode, sorry. Apart from an :echo command, the other Ex commands I tried resulted in an error E523. If my answer does not fully solve your issue, feel free to not accept it and to update your question to get more help.
    – saginaw
    Jan 26, 2016 at 15:20

1 Answer 1


The options 'timeout' and 'timeoutlen' control how Vim will treat typed characters when they are part of a mapping. By default 'timeout' is enabled and 'timeoutlen''s value is 1000 (ms).
It means that by default when you hit a character that is part of a mapping, Vim will wait 1s before deciding whether you are typing the {lhs} of your mapping or if it's just a single character.

When you hit the first j in your mapping, you could imagine that Vim has triggered a timer, and you have 1s to type the second j if you want to escape. After 1s, your first j is not considered as part of a mapping anymore, it's just a character. So in the end Vim will just insert jj.

Usually Vim receives your j almost immediately after you typed it. However, if your system is under a heavy load maybe it adds some lag between the moment where you hit j and the moment Vim receives it. When it happens it's as if you typed jj with more than one second between the 2 characters. If that's the case, then you could increase the value of the 'timeoutlen' option so that your second j has enough time to reach Vim before the timeout occurs.

For example, to increase the length of the timeout to 2s, you could add in your vimrc:
set timeoutlen=2000

For more information, see:

:help timeout
:help timeoutlen

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