As we enter 2023, Vim remains one of the most powerful and versatile text editors available. Despite being over 30 years old, Vim continues to be a popular choice for developers, sysadmins, and other power users. In this article, we’ll explore some of the benefits and capabilities of Vim and why it remains hard to ignore.
- Speed and Efficiency: Vim is designed to be an efficient text editor. Its modal editing and commands can help you work faster and more efficiently. You can use shortcuts and commands to perform complex operations with fewer keystrokes.
- Customizability: Vim is highly customizable. You can customize the key bindings, colour schemes, and other settings to suit your preferences. You can even create your own plugins to extend Vim’s functionality.
- Portability: Vim is available on many different platforms, including Windows, macOS, Linux, and other Unix-like systems. This means that you can use Vim on any system that you have access to, without having to learn a new editor.
- Versatility: Vim can be used for many different types of text editing tasks, including coding, writing, and editing configuration files. It also has built-in support for many programming languages, including syntax highlighting and autocompletion.
- Familiarity: Vim has been around for over 30 years and has a large and dedicated user community. This means that there are many resources available, such as tutorials, documentation, and plugins, to help you learn and use Vim effectively.
- Minimalistic Interface: Vim has a minimalistic interface that allows you to focus on the text that you’re editing. This can help reduce distractions and improve productivity.
Vim has several capabilities that differentiate it from other editors like Vscode, IntelliJ Idea, and WebStorm.
Here are some of the key differences:
- Modal editing: Vim’s modal editing system, where different keystrokes have different meanings depending on the mode you’re in, is very different from other editors. It can be challenging to learn, but it allows for fast and efficient text editing once mastered.
- Keyboard-driven interface: Vim is designed to be used primarily with the keyboard, with minimal use of the mouse. This can be more efficient for experienced users, but it may take some time to get used to for those who are accustomed to using the mouse extensively.
- Lightweight and fast: Vim is a lightweight editor that can run on virtually any computer, and it is very fast even on older hardware. This makes it a popular choice for working on remote servers and in low-resource environments.
- Customization: Vim is highly customizable, with a wide range of configuration options and plugins available. This allows users to tailor the editor to their specific needs and preferences.
- Portability: Vim is available on many different platforms, including Windows, macOS, and various Linux distributions. This means that users can use Vim on virtually any system they encounter, without having to switch to a different editor.
- Low barrier to entry: Vim is a simple, yet powerful editor that is easy to install and use. It doesn’t have as steep of a learning curve as some of the more complex IDEs out there, and users can quickly start using its basic capabilities with minimal training.
Some of the top features of Vim, along with an explanation of how to use them:
Modal editing is the most fundamental feature of Vim. Vim has two modes: insert mode and normal mode. In insert mode, you can type and edit text like a regular text editor. In normal mode, you can perform various operations on the text. To enter normal mode, press the Esc key. To enter insert mode, press the i key.
To move the cursor one character to the left in normal mode, press the h key. To move the cursor one word to the left in normal mode, press the b key. To delete the character under the cursor in normal mode, press the x key. To enter insert mode at the current cursor position, press the i key.
Vim has many commands that allow you to perform various operations on text. Commands in Vim typically begin with a colon : character. Commands can be used to save files, open new files, execute external commands, and more.
To save a file, type :w and press Enter. To open a new file, type :e [filename] and press Enter. To execute an external command, type :! [command] and press Enter.
Vim has powerful search capabilities that allow you to search for text in a file. You can search for text using regular expressions and Vim’s search patterns.
To search for the word “hello” in a file, type /hello and press Enter. To search for the word “hello” and replace it with “world”, type :%s/hello/world/g and press Enter.
Vim has a built-in autocompletion feature that can be very useful when you’re writing code. Autocompletion can help you save time by suggesting possible completions for the word you’re typing.
To activate autocompletion, press Ctrl-n or Ctrl-p in insert mode. To complete the word you’re typing, press Tab.
Vim allows you to split the window into multiple panes, each displaying a different part of the file. This can be very useful when you’re working on a large file and need to view multiple parts of the file at once.
To split the window horizontally, type :split [filename] and press Enter. To split the window vertically, type :vsplit [filename] and press Enter.
Vim has a feature called registers that allow you to store and retrieve text snippets. You can use registers to store and retrieve text, and even use them to perform complex editing tasks.
To copy a line to the clipboard, type yy. To paste the text into the clipboard, type p.
Vim allows you to record and playback macros, which can be very useful for automating repetitive tasks. Macros can be recorded and played back in normal mode. This feature is very interesting and can be used for a variety of repetitive tasks.
To record a macro, type q[register] to start recording, perform a series of commands, and then type q to stop recording. To play back a macro, type @[register].
Vim has a feature called marks that allow you to place bookmarks in a file and quickly navigate to them later. Marks can be placed on specific lines or characters in a file and can be named to make them more easily identifiable.
To place a mark on the current line, type m[a-z] where a-z is a lowercase letter. To jump to a mark, type ‘[a-z] where a-z is the letter of the mark.
Vim allows you to define abbreviations that can be expanded into longer text snippets. This can be useful for frequently used commands or long text snippets.
To define an abbreviation, type :ab [shortcut] [text] where [shortcut] is the abbreviation and [text] is the text that will be expanded when the abbreviation is used. To expand an abbreviation, type the shortcut and then press the space bar.
Vim has a rich ecosystem of plugins that can extend its functionality even further. Plugins can be used to add new features, modify existing ones, and make Vim more powerful and easier to use.
To install a plugin, use a plugin manager like Vundle or Pathogen to manage the installation and setup. To use a plugin, follow the instructions provided by the plugin’s documentation or README file.
Why Vim is Still Hard to Ignore
Despite the many other text editors available, Vim remains popular for several reasons:
- Learning Curve: Vim has a steep learning curve, which can be intimidating for new users. However, this is also one of its strengths. Once users become proficient with Vim, they can become much more productive and efficient.
- Community: Vim has a large and active community of users and developers. This community has created a vast array of plugins and documentation that can help users get the most out of Vim.
- Legacy: Vim has a long history and has been used by developers for over 30 years. This legacy has helped to establish Vim as a reliable and powerful text editor.
In conclusion, Vim is a powerful text editor that has many advanced features that can make editing text faster, easier, and more efficient. It’s modal editing, commands, search capabilities, autocompletion, split windows, registers, macros, marks, abbreviations, and plugins make it a powerful tool for developers, sysadmins, and other power users. With its versatility and customizable features, Vim is still a text editor that is hard to ignore in 2023.
Originally published at medium