Hiatus - And a voyage of vim

Monday, February 15, 2010 :: Tagged under: pablolife engineering. ⏰ 4 minutes.


Hey! Thanks for reading! Just a reminder that I wrote this some years ago, and may have much more complicated feelings about this topic than I did when I wrote it. Happy to elaborate, feel free to reach out to me! 😄


Sorry for the lack of updates. I hate when blogs say that, but publishing less than once a month defeats the purpose of a blog. I blame what I always have: my insistence that what I publish be Significant (the last two posts were more than epic enough), even when it goes against the interests of a) myself, and b) my readers (are there any there)?

But let's continue. What am I up to? Oh, yes! These are things I'm working on in school, and am likely to write about (if I ever do, in fact, write):

Solving Hard Problems with Combinatorial Optimization is one of the 5-6 legendary courses everyone at Brown CS is told to take, something like a rite of passage. I missed the chance to take one of those classes (Operating Systems) in lieu of another (Programming Languages Seminar), and while I loved loved loved PL, I won't allow myself to graduate without taking this course.

I'm also taking an independent study on Android Game Development, with some pretty awesome partners. It's something very different than I'm used to: whereas I'm used to writing programs that run on your terminal, performing computation or purely manipulating data, Android is framework programming with GUI's and graphics. The data in this case is usually mundane plumbing, and the easy part of your application.

Altogether, good fun. Hopefully I'll still have time (and this is dubious) to continue pursuing my lovely programming puzzles.

In the meantime, I'll bloviate some. Today I'll talk a bit about my tools with a focus on text editing.

I feel like refining and expanding upon your coding environment is something like building your own lightsaber: you can use someone else's, but you really only work productively (and more importantly, happily) when you find the tools to fit your needs yourself, and through much experimentation. For me, that environment is usually all-out vim + Makefiles (or in Java, vim + ant), and as much from the Terminal as possible.

A lot of junior hackers feel this way, but most 'enterprise developers' (those who know everything there is to know about the JVM and its classloading process but have no notion of first-class functions, or final vs. const in C#) love to stick it to me on their IDE's. Similarly, when I witnessed an emacs vs. vim brawl (one of our professors left their terminal exposed, revealing which side they were on), the emacs user felt under attack before I said my first words.

Here is why I use vim instead of emacs: because I learned it first. Alternatively, you can use any of the equally compelling reasons in the list below:

None of these are real reasons, folks. They're all true, and honest-to-Baal the only things that pushed me to vim. Since I have a soft spot for Lisp, I hope one day to pick up emacs, and remain open to the possibility that it may suit me better.

What I learned in the aforementioned editor brawl (and I hope we as an industry have outgrown the lame fighting*): if you see someone warring over their editor, don't feed the animals. It's clear that very smart and productive people use one or the other; that you don't like it is not reason for indignation. Further, who cares what someone else uses?

I would extend this to Tabs vs. Spaces as well, or where to put your open braces in if/else blocks. There are tools to convert to your preferred style. Change it, work on it, change it back.


For now, I use vim because I know it, and only started using it last year. Before that? Kate on the department filesystems, SubEthaEdit on my home computer, and nano when I ssh-ed from the terminal. I edited Java in Eclipse.

Do I recommend switching as I did? Yes. Keeping it general, if you are a coder who uses a primarily graphical environment, I highly recommend you become proficient with a serious, terminal-based text editor. You don't have to love it, you don't have to keep it, but try it, and give it a fair shot. Why?

Of course, you lose some conveniences as well (especially in the case of Eclipse), but so far they haven't outweighed the benefits.

Of course, if you are an IDE user, there's a very (very) good chance you're a more premium coder than I am. I'm not making a value judgement on you; I simply suggest you try loving your Mother Terminal, who paved the way for the sexier IDE's.

* = Open question: What is our generation's equivalent? Ruby vs. Python? More generally, the static typers vs. dynamic typers? Chip in, as a former actor in training, the only things I love more than Computer Science is Drama ^_^

Thanks for the read! Disagreed? Violent agreement!? Feel free to drop me a line at , or leave a comment below! I'd love to hear from you 😄