• The Editor

    Sat, 21 May 2016 14:32:11 +0200Posted by Andre Landwehr


    Just as important as the window manager, or maybe even more, is the editor. When I started to write software as a 10 year old or so, the IDEs from Borland were state of the art, with Pascal being my favorite. The Borland IDE not only had clearly structured menus, but most notably it had a color scheme that was not black on white like most of todays editors but grey on blue, which imposes a lot less stress on the eyes.
    A few years later when I got in touch with Linux, there was the vital question of which editor to learn: vi or emacs. There were other editors as well, but those were the two big ones that next to everybody seemed to use. Nobody talked about Eclipse back then of course, I think Java did not exist at the time.
    I chose to learn vi mainly because of one reason: vi was small and so it had a higher probability to be found everywhere. I frankly don't remember if Bram Moolenaar's vim was out already, but as soon as I learned to know it, vim became my favourite editor and the one I use for coding, configuring things and taking notes for more than 15 years now. I even wrote my diploma thesis in it!
    What I really like in vi is the concept of having different modes, thereby allowing to use each key on itself (as opposed to combined with ctrl or meta keys) to issue a command. There are strange and powerful commands in vim and even more in the plugins, but you can do amazing things by combining simple commands like delete with the very powerful commands to move inside the text already (e.g. to the end of the current word, to the next word, to the next match of a search, to the closing bracket of the current block and so on). That combined with the possibility to record a macro with two keystrokes and play it back with another two speeds up editing of texts by several orders of magnitude compared to what is possible with "modern" IDEs like Eclipse.
    I hope that the invaluable tool vim will be maintained for another few decades, despite the dwindling number of installations!