Switching to VIM


A few weeks ago I read Harry Roberts excellent post about VIM & decided to take the plunge & give it a go.

VIM has always been my command line editor of choice for git commit messages, remote file editing etc. so I already knew the basics & figured even if I didn’t like using it all the time it’d still learn enough to make me more productive when I did have to use it.

Getting stuck in

As Harry recommends in his post my first step was to run vimtutor & follow the tutorial. This was really helpful & introduced me to lots of commands that I’d never used before such as o & O for inserting after & before respectively & c to change text. Even if you just want to learn more about VIM, vimtutor is a really good place to start.

Next up I pretty much copied Harry’s .vimrc file & then just started using it both at work & at home. For me this felt like the only way that I’d actually learn more about VIM & stand any chance of getting used to it.


The most difficult thing for me to adjust to was navigating the cursor. I deliberately disabled the arrow keys to force myself to use H, J, K & L to navigate, my reasoning behind this was because they’re less of a stretch than the arrow keys, but I knew that if I could use the arrow keys, I would. I quickly lost count of the times I moved up when I wanted to go right etc., but after a few days I found it easier, I think if I’d played a few more PC games I’d have adjusted quicker!

Getting used to opening files & switching between them also took a while to get used to, coming from a tab based UI. Initially I just used buffers & switched using the :b commands, but after a while I changed to use split windows which I found much easier & actually better than tabs because it allows me to glance at a file whilst editing another.

What I love

My biggest love is the ability to chain commands together to edit or delete blocks of code, e.g. dit to delete inside tags. This works for anything, so to change up to the next semi-colon you only have to type ct; & boom the content up the next semi-colon is removed and you’re in insert mode, this is a real time saver.

I also love the different modes, command, insert & visual. I’ve heard people in the past say “Why would I want to use a text editor where I have to press a key before I can edit text?”, but to me the modes make sense. When I’m in insert mode I’m focused on what I’m writing, when I’m in command I’m focused on changing & moving around the file. Visual mode is the one I spend least time in but I know when I’m in visual mode I’m likely to be selecting text to cut or copy.

What I miss

The only thing I really miss is having a visualisation of the directory structure for the project I’m working on. It’s nice to be able to see an overview of how my code is structured and whilst I can do this using :Explore (or :E) it’s not the same as having the tree infront of me at all times. There are plenty of plugins out there though, such as NERD tree, that do this so I may end up trying one of these out.


Overall in the few weeks that I’ve been using VIM, I’ve really enjoyed it & am wondering why I didn’t switch sooner. It’s nice not to have to grab the mouse to highlight & remove/change code & I feel that I’m slowly becoming more productive using it. I’d definitely recommend giving it a go. If anyone’s got any tips please, please feel free to email me or leave a comment, I’m definitely looking for ways to become even more productive with VIM!


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About ParkJi


My name is Ben Parker, I'm a 31 year old front end web developer with a passion for web design, standards & new & innovative technologies.