The Sourcerer's Apprentice

The adventures of David Heinemann in IT & software development

Happy Birthday, Vim!

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Today marks the 20th anniversary of Vim, my favourite text editor. Developed by Bram Moolenar since 1991, it was designed to improve on Bill Joy’s classical vi editor, which was already 15 years old at that time (and now 35).

I first tried using Vim around four years ago, in late high school. The computers in our IT rooms only had two options for web development: Macromedia Dreamweaver and Microsoft Notepad. I wasn’t sure which one was worse, so I began testing out other text editors and bringing them in on my humble 128MB USB drive. Vim and Emacs were among the first I tried, as I had heard a lot of good things about them. Unfortunately, they were complicated and difficult to understand, so I ended up sticking with Notepad++ for a few years.

I couldn’t forget the claims that Vim users had made, though. Claims of incredible speed and efficiency in editing really appealed to me, so I gave it another shot. It killed my productivity at first, having to learn the Vim way of doing things, but after a month it was really paying off. After three or so years of using Vim as my primary editor, it’s hard to imagine using anything else.

If you have never tried Vim before, I strongly recommend giving it a shot, or at least having a good read about it. One of the best introductions to Vim I have read was on a Stack Overflow answer by Jim Dennis, entitled ‘Your problem with Vim is that you don’t grok Vi’, where he explains that ‘the “Zen” of Vi is that you’re speaking a language’. This is absolutely true. Have a read about Vim and consider trying it out. A text editor doesn’t live to see 20 years of success without being effective.

Happy birthday, Vim, and cheers to both Bram Moolenar and Bill Joy for making it happen.

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