madhatter's delicatessen home

vim - 12 years and counting


Everybody is telling you right now, how they configured vim and which plugins they are using. At the moment you can get the idea, that vim becomes one of the hippest editors and people want to show off by hanging their .vimrc out. Maybe the girls like that.
So, here is the repository with my vim configuration, knock yourself out… Just kidding. I don’t know if I have build a .vimrc which makes a grown man cry and it also is pretty well documented, but I think this is not what it is about.

I came to vim about 12 years ago in 2001 and Debian Potato was the distribution of my choice back then. If I remember correctly it was vim version 5.6 or 5.7. Code folding wasn’t available and came with vim 6.0. Can you imagine that?
I remember trying emacs before, but I had terrible issues with the keybindings (still have) and used gEdit or something like that since then. Until a room-mate told me about vim and got me hooked.1 But things were different in these days: the internet was made from wood and there weren’t too many websites available that told you how to configure vim best. You mostly had to figure out that by yourself and it wasn’t about adding lots of plugins, but change one or two settings here and there. You were busy enough to configure vim’s core functionalities but adding lots of plugins. And let’s be realistic, there hasn’t been any git back then that you might wanted to call from your editor.2

Of course, it took me some time to get used to vim’s commands, but it got much better when I stopped using different editors from time to time and instead used vim for everything: writing emails, taking notes, writing news posts, coding, … you name it. And that is what bothers me about lots of articles I read in the last few months: telling people how hard it is to get used to vim! If you use it regularly you will get used to it very fast. The only thing you should keep in mind is that you might have to take some extra time to figure out how you can do things faster in vim when you get the feeling that you are using to many keystrokes to do something. There is a better way.
I think it’s the same problem when people switch from Windows or OS X to Linux or Unix or whatever: you have to use it for everything and don’t ignore when something does not seem to work as well as it should.
And it might not be the best idea to copy whole vim configurations from others for a starting point. Just read them and look up those things that sound interesting in vim’s help and configure them to your needs then.

I think the best tip I can give you from my perspective is to make yourself comfortable. Vim is an editor that can do lots for you, but you have to know what you want first.
And maybe vim isn’t the right editor for you if you don’t feel comfortable with it. Don’t try to use it just because so many people are writing about it at the moment. There are lots of other editors available that might suit you better. I have a colleague who uses emacs. And he likes using it. Nobody forces him to do so. I can’t understand that, but people are different.

And at last I have to admit, that I don’t use vim for everyting anymore today. I spent months by trying to code Java with it, but I never made vim such easy and helpful as a full-featured Java-IDE like Netbeans.3 And it makes pair-programming so much easier with workmates.

You should not be too dogmatic about these things.

  1. He also got me hooked on mutt and slrn. And it’s a shame that he does not use anything of these anymore… 

  2. I know people you use IDEs like eclipse or Netbeans for Java, but execute git/mercurial and maven from the command line next to it, because they don’t see the benefits in using a plugin for their IDE that might not be able to give them all the functionality the original tools do. 

  3. If anybody has the solution for that, I would be happy to hear about it though. 


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