vim is Powerful

The text editor vim is really quite powerful! I am always surprised by how much so!

I’ve been using vim for almost a decade now but not really as my primary editor. I’ve gone through phases of customising it with plugins and custom config settings. In fact I am currently storing my config files on my Github.

Since most of my career has been spent using Java and JVM based programming languages I have spent much time using the Jetbrains IDEs, specifically IntelliJ but over the years I have been more and more drawn to using vim for non programming tasks, writing files or viewing other programming language sources. It is truly an incredibly versatile editor!

Recently I was blown away by some of the auto-formatting functionality built into vim. I write these blog posts in markdown using vim and try to stick to a nice format that a linting tool recommends. That means keeping text to about 80 columns long, and markdown requires you to separate paragraphs with 2 new lines. Not too long ago I was manually making sure that these files fit these criteria, then I enabled automatic line breaking to vim and instantly did not have to worry about lines going over the 80 column limit I had set.
This was great! But often I edit these posts a little rather than them being straight mind dumps and the automatic line breaking doesn’t always cope with this, especially if I am rephrasing and moving parts of text around. This is where the formatting commands for paragraphs come in!

I tooted on Fosstodon my amazement at the commands gwip and gqip both of which re-flow the paragraph under your cursor. This works on indented paragraphs too like quotes!

Being impressed I wondered if you could apply such a command to a whole document. I spent a short time last year practicing my writing in LaTex and wanted to see if I could reformat some of it, I also have some books from Project Gutenberg downloaded as text files that I could experiment on with vim.

After some thought on doing this with vim macros, another feature I’ve only recently really started using I was pointed at the commands ggvGgq that would just apply formatting to a whole file! Breaking it down @splatt9990 on Fosstodon explained that gg goes to the top of the document, v then enters visual mode, then G goes to the bottom of the document and finally gq formats your selection.

Another feature I found last year was the ability to interact with the system clipboards. Even though vim is primarily a terminal editor you can access the system clipboards and paste with the command "+p and copy to it with "+y. That unlocked a whole load of possibilities to take data that I am having trouble formatting in another application and put it into vim for me to apply macros and other formatting too.

And that’s the beauty of vim and why it’s so powerful, there’s so many simple commands and tools within it that can be combined together. Initially the concepts might be confusing and you won’t remember everything but if you actually try to use such features it becomes clear why so many people use it!

I strongly recommend people give it a go, load up the vimtutor or watch a short video on it and try it out. There’s even binaries for Windows. Once you start using it you might be shocked by how lackluster and simple other editors are! Just remember how to quit :qw or :q! ;)


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