Tuesday, 21 April 2009

The power of Vim

I don't often post on tools, but I thought I'd make a mention for some fabulous new software I discovered and installed today:
- ViEmu: a Vim editor plug-in for Microsoft Visual Studio, which integrates really well within Visual Studio and is a bargain IMO ... http://www.viemu.com/index.html
- MacVim ... http://code.google.com/p/macvim/ - a wonderful version of Vim for Mac, which works quite well with XCode. And it is free!

I've been a power Vim user for many years now, having first started using vi around 20 years or so back. The key for me is that whatever programming work I have done, on every single platform (apart from VMS - shudder!) I've been able to use one vi variant or other as an ultra-productive editor.

vi and Vim have been staples of mine on Windows for ages, mainly in the context of cygwin on Windows. I've been using gvim for Windows for a long time now, and it works quite well with Visual Studio; but the ViEmu/VS is such a great integrated solution that I simply wish I'd heard about it years ago - I hate to think how many hours of programming time it would have saved me. :)

On MacOS X, I naturally use vim from the terminal window (this has been built-in to all Macs for ages). But MacVim is a great implementation, and hooks-in an awful lot better to XCode. Again, I wish that I'd installed it a long time back. It is going to save me a huge amount of time going forward.

I should note that while there are some good points about both the editors in XCode and Visual Studio, they are both staggeringly less productive to use for every day editing than Vim. When you consider the amount of cross-platform coding I do, I simply can't afford to specialise in either of these two editors. I need one common editing paradigm that rocks for all platforms. So for me, great implementations of Vim on Windows and Mac, that integrate well with Visual Studio and XCode respectively, are tremendously important.

I also spent some time today learning about some features of Vim that I simply didn't know about, that are going to transform my editing life. Visual selection modes, anybody? :)

Finally, if you're a serious programmer and haven't tried Vim - go for it. Take the pain of 2 weeks learning curve, get touch-typing and begin to feel the force. :) Vim is free, and you can get it from http://www.vim.org/ for most platforms, or within Cygwin for Windows. It is also built-in to MacOS X and Linux.

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