10 Minute Vim!

Emacs/VIm The Endless Debate

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The last three and a half years for me have been terrible. Why? Well, three and half years ago, I discovered the endless debate, Emacs vs. Vim. Being an efficiency nut, I could not fathom the horror of learning one, and by that action, not learning the other. What if the one I learned was not the "best" one? I could see that both were excellent and worth learning, but I wanted to learn both concurrently. Unfortunately, my body has a hard time learning two completely different keyboard systems at the same time. Heck, three and a half years ago, I was still learning to touch-type.

So, three years pass, and I am now no farther along.

Additionally, I read on an almost weekly basis, articles that explain how great Emacs and vim are, you just need to learn one, and learn it well. I wanted to stick with Emacs, for the built-in lisp, and several of my favorite programmers highly advocate it. But, I wanted to pick up vim, because it is obviously the far superior text editor, and the default on Linux, and probably will help me not get Emacs RSI but, perversely, it is not nearly as easy to extend as Emacs.

So, the debate raged in my head for three years, and I stupidly got better at neither. Then, the other day, it clicked. Vim is the greatest text editor of them all, with text objects, highly combine-able commands, and modal editing. Emacs is the greatest IDE of all, with an awesome programming language built-in and thousands of classes and libraries to build on. Vim is built in the tradition of a small, sharp UNIX tool; Emacs in the tradition of HAVING thousands of small sharp tools.

Finally, in a rush, it clicked into place with earth-shattering force: I can make Vim inside Emacs, with lisp, but I really could not remake Emacs inside Vim.

Suddenly, in one glorious moment, the world all made sense. Vim, the greatest text editor, should be a part of Emacs, the greatest IDE! My searching had been in vain, there was no way to compare them, they are totally different tools!

In my typical child-like innocence, I rolled up my sleeves, opened up an instance of Emacs, and started making Vim. A few hours later, Google pointed out the obvious: Emacs already has a vi mode built-in (viper). Better yet, with a simple file in the right place, I had vimpulse (the practically complete Vim mode) installed and ready to go. Suddenly, a huge weight lifted off my chest. I am free to use the best tool for the job, and, like Huck Finn, float off down the river, leaving silly feuds behind me. If my actions here seem unnatural, an abomination, an unholy union, I encourage you, leave behind the fan-boyism, pick up your tools, and come build something with men who see their tools for what they truly are: not a good hill to die on.

steve shogren

software developer, manager, author, speaker

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