Agreed, I recommend this approach - I got started though using plugins too. Another area where plugins shine is being able to easily toggle them on and off with a button or keyboard shortcut. This really helped me when I had got confident enough to start using Vim editing at work, but sometimes wanted an escape hatch to get back to "normal" editing for more complex things that I hadn't learnt the Vim way for yet.
Plugins are also useful for if you work on Windows. There are things like gVim or installing Vim on a Cygwin terminal, but to me they always feel a bit unnatural somehow compared to the experience on a *nix box, and so plugins avoid this issue.
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