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Why I Don't Use Vim

This is a contentious and nerdy topic to write about but I don’t use Vim (or neovim, helix, emacs, etc…) for editing files, even on GNU + Linux.

First of all, I didn’t know any better and had no memorable influence from computer-knowledgeable people growing up a generation before me. Everything ran on Windows operating systems and was made in Visual Basic for all I knew. I didn’t start using personal computers until maybe the late 90s or early 2000s and by then the GUI was ubiquitous.

A gentoo-based distribution was my first non-Windows operating system and shortly after I used Ubuntu. About every five years since then I dived back into Unix-like operating systems to see what’s changed — with genuine interest and purpose too.

It wasn’t until I started configuring Raspberry Pi’s and web hosting that I needed network tools to configure multiple system setups remotely, before then I used software-as-a-service for everything and had the keybinds to graphical software packages memorised.

When I’d be required to access any headless terminal I would almost always be greeted with Nano; the default terminal text editor. Just like using Vim I would brute-force my way to getting to the end goal — change a configuration line, save, and close file. This didn’t build any long term memory because my process wasn’t worth optimising or habitual. I tried studying the man (command shortened from word manual) pages and using vimtutor several times over the past years, but I still couldn’t see the road ahead.

Micro Habits #

Having the basics memorised in an emergency was useful, but I soon discovered a piece of software that would allow my previous habits to continue — Micro editor. Micro is very competent and quick; written in GoLang and is generally a competent notepad; but overall lacking the depth of Vim. I really enjoyed using it because it was comfortable and is intuitive for people who didn’t make the leap of faith — like me.

Generic keybinds are still my favourite things to use when interacting with different operating systems; I realised that these keybinds and QWERTY are left-hand intensive and non-optimal for using operating systems the way I do, but I feel like I’m living in two incompatible worlds if I try comitting to this system environment that integrates badly when put outside of its nest. With everyday software, I do enjoy spending my time solving problems, not inventing problems to solve; a thing I was guilty of doing a lot whenever I used unix-like operating systems.

If perhaps if I lose a limb or if I get to live and breathe behind a terminal for a job, then I have this particular need that would be a primary force of motivation rather than a backup as it is now. I actively sought reasons to convince myself of better ways to write and edit, coming from someone who had always tried teaching people (and even teachers) new and more efficient ways of doing things on computers (usually falling on deaf ears, but I disgress).

The Numpad Example #

People who have only typed numbers using numpads have that habit formed for the rest of their lives, it’s more necessity and repetitiveness that caused it — merely having access to the technology was not enough for me to use it.

My efficiencies are lost when I try to use a numpad; no touch-typing or being able to be “in the zone” with what I’m doing. Digital calculators still emulate the layout of a numpad this way, but spreadsheets and linearly-typed mathematics (sort of LaTeX-like, Microsoft Word’s maths facilities or Google Search maths) were my favourite methods for everything not done on paper.

What Did Vim Do to Me? #

We got far together, Vim and I, but we’re not meant for each other yet. Like I stated before, I use Micro for most things that could have been done through Vim, but I still prefer editing in a notepad that has a pretty standard GUI and keyboard shortcuts that overlap with many operating systems and pieces of software.

I always have access to Vim in many ways (like Visual Studio Code) that could be handy should I renounce my old habits, but I think I’m more of a writer than an editor these days, so I’d be probably be inefficiently living in insert mode.

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