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Why Use Vim?


Why Use Vim?

Vim has been around for 21 years (Vi 16 years before that!) and has proved an effective environment for some of the greatest programmers and admins out there. It may not seem ‘modern’ at first glance, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find it has all the capabilities and more of many IDEs.

So, why sink lots of time into learning this complex editor with weird keys and stranger behaviour?

Save Time

Well first off, it is a major time-saver - once you’ve got to grips with it that is. Although there is a fairly steep learning curve, what convinced me to take a really good look at Vim was seeing a professional system admin at work using it and marvelling at the speed and efficiency it enabled. Although I woudn’t consider myself an expert yet, I find that I am most productive and comfortable now with Vim.

Although the Vi keys seem strange at first, if you are a touch-typist, they start making a little more sense. The key commands are designed to be easily reached from the home row and once you use a command a few times it’ll become like second nature. Soon you’ll find that using editors without these key-bindings and abilities will feel limited.1

Vim , It’s super effective.  CC-BY-SA-3.0  Vim by Ehamberg from  Wikimedia Commons

Vim , It’s super effective. 2

It’s Ubiquitous

Vim or Vi are available on practically every platform you could think of. Vi is part of the default install of many Linux distros and Unixes -
In the rare case where it isn’t, it’s usually easily available through the repositories. There’s even a Windows version.

If you are a system administrator, being comfortable with a powerful editor that’s available everywhere is extremely beneficial and learning it is a very worthwhile investment.

Regular Expression Support

A lot of the power of Vim comes from the ability to use regular expressions for find/replace and so on. I might cover regular expressions in a follow-up post, but for now Regex One is a good tutorial.

Vim Helps Children

Vim is donation-ware (although GPL compatible) with donations going to a children’s centre in the Southern Uganda. I spent some time teaching in Uganda with the charity Camara, so this is a major selling point for me :).

Still Not Convinced?

For an insight into the design philosophy of Vim see Seven habits of effective text editing by Bram Moolenaar the creator of Vim. If you’re still sceptical, try Why, oh WHY, do those #?@! nutheads use vi?.

And for a last ditch attempt to convice you to use it see: everyone who tried to convince me to use Vim was wrong.

Right, if you’re still here you might want to think about learning Vim

  1. There are other editors that deserve a look if you find Vim not suiting you, like emacs.
    Personally I found the keyboard chords (e.g. C-x C-b) uncomfortable to type and a little hard to remember (Mind you, I might give it another go if I ever get a Space-cadet keyboard).

  2. CC-BY-SA-3.0 ‘Vim’ by Ehamberg from Wikimedia Commons