You might mistake a text editor for a word processor, such as Microsoft Word, because they both allow you to edit text and open, close, and save text files. Text editors are different because they do not add formatting to the text. Instead, they allow you to edit functions using plaintext.
I remember learning to code in the early 2000’s and professors would encourage us to not use computers or compilers for coding. Instead, we were encouraged to write code down on paper first.(Silly, right?)
Later, I started to code directly into text editors, most of which were unhelpful because they lacked automatic code formatting, syntax highlighting, and the ability to compile a program by simply clicking a button. VIM changed that for me because it is a text editor, but it has some of the functionality of IDEs, only without the unnecessarily fancy user interface.
What is VIM?
Text editors have phased in and out of popularity over the past few decades. Very few of them have stuck around for any significant period of time. VIM is the exception. It is in almost every operating system released since the 1990s. There is good reason why VIM has stood the test of time.
The idea for VIM started with Bram Moolenaar. He was looking for something that would allow him to expand the functionality of the VI editor. When it was first created, it is probable that Bram had no idea of the impact the text editor he was creating would have. He definitely did not think that it would eventually become the go-to tool for developers who wanted a powerful and customizable text editor that is open source.
In the 90s, VI was a popular text editor that UNIX developers could use. But if you were not using UNIX, you are out of luck. The goal was to design something that could support syntax highlighting for various programming languages. It would also need to allow for remote editing using SSH. Programmers wanted to fine tune their element environment, making the most of plug-ins and other tools that would allow them to maximize their efficiency.
When Bram created VIM, profit was not his primary motivator. That’s why he made the software open source and free for everyone. Shortly after the product’s release, Bram took a trip to Uganda where he volunteered at a children’s center.
It was then that Bram decided to change the software from being shareware to being charityware. This is where additional funds donated for the use of the software are used to support a charity.
The Benefits of Using VIM
Developers may spend hours of their day working in a text editor. It is understandable that developers are picky when it comes to the text editor that they choose.
VIM owes its popularity to a number of features not included in the original vi:
- It Is Portable: VIM works on Mac OS, Linux, and Windows. It can be ran remotely using a SSH connection, it can be ran through a graphics user interface, or it can be launched with a terminal.
- No Mouse Functionality: This might seem counterproductive. However, from a programmer’s point of view, being able to use keystrokes to switch between visual mode, normal mode, command line, and insert mode allows them to maximize productivity.
- Multiple Customizable Plug-Ins: VIM is free and open source (FOSS) , so passionate developers have created a number of custom configurations, features, and plug-ins to make the text editor better.
- Motions and Text Objects: These work for programming languages in the same way verbs and adjectives work for human language. This allows a coder to work in a more efficient way.
Latest VIM Updates
The latest update for VIM is version 8.1. This represents a minor update from version 8.0. However a .0 was an overhaul from version 7.4. Some of the features noticeable in this update include:
- Timestamp, which makes keeping track of recent logs easier
- Extra features for JSON
- Asynchronous I/O support, allowing you to communicate with background processes
- New style testing, jobs, timers, partials, and closers are now supported
- Unique IDs for accessing and opening VIM Windows
Please Support VIM
Many people mistakenly think that VIM has outlived its usefulness. The truth is that VIM is better than most text editors. It is available in more than 200 languages. If your language isn’t, you have the option of creating your own.
It’s free to use, it’s customizable, and it’s supported by an active online community. And what’s best is that by supporting VIM, you are supporting worthy causes around the world designed to help those in need.