February 15, 2018

The VIM editor

The Vim editor is what you get when you type "vi" on a linux system. Strictly speaking, this might not be true, there are other vi clones for linux, but over the years they have all fallen by the wayside and been eclipsed by vim.

I began using the original "vi" editor back in 1979 or so, before there was linux and vim. Back in the days before (as I relish telling some of the young guys) many current enthusiastic vim users were wearing diapers.

I am a great fan of "vi" (as I still call it), and have deeply ingrained vi-keystroke habits. For many years I have meant to make a study of vim and to learn some new vim tricks, and now that I am getting around to it, am quite pleased with some of the new discoveries. I should have done this a long time ago. Vim is an extremely sophisticated and effective editor, with capabilities I never even dreamed of.

If you are a programmer, or anyone who does serious work on a computer, a text editor is your most commonly and heavily used tool. You will spend 80 percent of your time (or more) using a text editor. It is well worth the time invested to learn how to use it well.

If you are a programmer and have never learned how to touch type, that is absolutely the very first thing you should learn. It isn't that hard! Do it, then come back and learn how to use vi.



Note that the Practical Vim book is available as a free online e-book.

The .vimrc file

This file lives in your home directory not in the .vim directory where lots of other vim stuff lives.


There are thousands of Vim plugins to customize and extend the behavior of vim.

Vim and tabs

Languages like Haskell and Python force you to deal with this.

Vim and eclipse

There is an eclipse plugin that makes the edit window in Eclipse work a lot like vi. Once I changed a couple of eclipse settings, things got really good.

Vim and thunderbird

You can approach this various ways. There is a plugin that lets you use any external editor, and you can set it up for vim. There are also a couple of plugins that make the compose window in thunderbird act like vim. One is called Muttator, and the other (derived from muttator for unknown reasons) is Teledactyl.

Vim and rails

I hate rails. Rails forces you to scatter source files in a half dozen directories and then jump around making changes in all of them. Something to make this insane process less insane is the goal of many rails users.


A trick is something you have just learned about -- pretty soon it either becomes just something you always use, or it is a real trick, something you rarely use, but are glad to remember or find again. One man's trick is another man's big yawn.
Feedback? Questions? Drop me a line!

Tom's Computer Info / tom@mmto.org