I first encountered the text editor Vim back in the late 1990s. I needed to edit some configuration settings in my first Linux install ever and the tutorials I found all told me to use Vim.
I cussed that program until the ears of the guy who created it had to burn. I hated that text editing program with a purple passion so I abandoned it with glee as soon as I completed my task.
A few years later I found myself with an ancient Windows 95 laptop that was far too old to even think about using Windows so I installed Damn Small Linux (DSL Linux for the polite) on the machine to restore functionality. My goal was to do a bit of surfing and to write my journal entries on that old beast. I was far too broke and entirely too stubborn to discard a laptop that was perfectly functional, if old and slow.
I hated the graphical text editor that came with DSL. I can’t remember why I didn’t like it, only that I did. When I eventually discovered that the battery on that ancient laptop lasted a lot longer when I used a shell (think really old school – no pictures), I cringed and tried to use Vim once again.
It wasn’t pleasant but I figured out how to operate the program enough to do what I needed. I used Vim on that laptop daily until that old computer died.
I forgot about Vim after that but after spending this last decade trying to find a blessed program that was comfortable to write in, a program that didn’t randomly delete chunks of my file or whatever, and didn’t cost a small fortune I became so annoyed that I decided to try again. I installed Vim on my writing computer and told myself that I would learn that program or die trying.
I spent the first few days searching up how-to pages but managed to knock out a few paragraphs. There was a bit of cursing involved but with this hillbilly, that’s par for the course.
But when I decided to move a chunk of text around, things changed. I looked up a tutorial and discovered that two teeny-tiny commands would allow me to rip a chunk of whatever size from one place and either delete it, create another file with it, or move it wherever in the document I desired.
Oh. My. God.
Anyone who has used a standard word processor like Word or even a basic graphical text editor knows what a nightmare that can be. You’ve got to fight with the mouse to highlight the chunk (the bigger the chunk the greater the pain), then scroll to where you want to stick it, and pray that it pastes it properly. It took what used to be an event I dreaded and made it amazingly simple.
Then I discovered that when you add another command to the process called folding, the task gets infinitely easier. You can fold up chunks of a document so that you only see the headings so that you can actually SEE the spot where you want to go. You can arrange those folds however you like in a way that is only seen in a Wordsmith’s wet dream.
I wasted 20 years of my life and thousands of dollars searching for a program that would allow me to write and edit my words easily. And I am more than embarrassed at the fact that I possessed the perfect program the whole time. Even more embarrassing, that program is FREE.
Bram Moolenaar, I owe you an apology. I have cussed you and your program for more years than I care to admit. But I am mature enough to admit when I’m wrong so that is what I am going to do.
I was wrong to dismiss the ancient text editing program Vim. You have created the best damn program for writing books, blogs, journal entries, and anything else a writer wants to write. I’ve just sent you a small donation and I intend to send more as money allows.
Thank you, Bram Moolenaar. Thank you from the bottom of this old woman’s heart.
If you happen to be a writer, you need to use Vim. You will curse that program until you’re hoarse the first few days because the way it works and the commands you use will be utterly unfamiliar to you. Keep a browser tab open and search for whatever it is you want to do. Make some notes as you go along, and don’t hesitate to look for tutorials to learn how to do stuff you think is completely impossible. Chances are there’s a command in Vim that will let you do whatever it is by punching a couple of letters.
I won’t go into the details about basic Vim commands here. There are pages enough about that subject so there’s no point. I am just going to tell you that Vim has changed my entire writing life for the better.
I cannot thank Bram enough.
We have all been programmed to believe that newer is better. Newer models, newer features must always be better than the old and tried and true. For writers, that means that we spend small fortunes on programs or subscriptions to programs that are supposed to make writing easier. Yet I have discovered that a 30-year old program, a 30-year old FREE program trumps them all.
Don’t dismiss the old stuff, folks. You may find yourself eating your hat like I have with Vim.
Do you have something old in your life that you’ve found more useful than the modern stuff? Please share your stories in the comments below.
It is hypocritical to run a website about buying and living on less while begging your readers to buy your crap so I refuse to do it. That said, I live on the money I receive from book sales, so if you can find it in your heart to pitch in I would be immensely grateful.
I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:
Barnes and Noble