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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Tue, 22 Nov 2011

A salute to Vim from ArsTechnica's Ryan Paul

As much as I dislike his Gwibber social-networking application, I'm that much more of an unabashed fan of Ryan Paul's tech journalism for ArsTechnica, itself a bastion of high-quality reporting and writing.

While I think Paul's a little too close to Ubuntu to write about it objectively, he's just too good not to read.

A recent article, Two decades of productivity: Vim's 20th anniversary, shows Paul at his best:

Vim has been my editor of choice since 1998, about a year after I started using Linux as my main desktop operating system. I’ve used it to write several thousand articles and many, many lines of code. Although I’ve experimented with a lot of conventional modern text editors, I haven’t found any that match Vim’s efficiency. After using Vim nearly every day for so many years, I’m still discovering new features, capabilities, and useful behaviors that further improve my productivity.

Vim has aged well over the past 20 years. It’s not just a greybeard relic—the editor is still as compelling as ever and continues to attract new users. The learning curve is steep, but the productivity gains are well worth the effort.


As I'll tell anybody who asks (until they're sick of hearing it), my first exposure to vi was at UC Santa Cruz in the late '80s through the ADM3a terminals on which Paul notes it was developed. That was the only way to write things on Unix machines in those pre-GUI days.

Nowadays I use vi (nvi in BSD, as Paul points out, and Vim in Linux) to hack around, and I generally use it to modify configuration files when I'm already in the terminal.

But I'm more comfortable using the Gedit GUI editor in GNOME. I also have Geany installed, which I use when I want to make search/replace changes across multiple documents. These days, I gravitate toward Gedit. In Windows it's Notepad++, one of the best editors I've seen on any platform.

Vi is always there ... and it doesn't take long to learn the basics, so get crackin'.