Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Vim: Interesting-sounding text editor

with 2 comments

Vim was featured on Cool Tools and sounds like something that could be useful to many.

For working on lengthy manuscripts, though—long enough to have sections that you work on separately—I highly recommend Scrivener (Windows and Mac, 30-day free trial—the Windows link is to their public beta, which seems pretty solid to me). I use Scrivener on both my MacBook and my Windows Dell, and I keep the files I’m working on in DropBox on both computers so that each computer has the most recent versions.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 April 2011 at 8:55 am

2 Responses

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  1. Realize that Scrivener and Vim solve different problems. Scrivener helps writers manage characters, scenes, plots, etc. in a story. Vim is more atomic. It helps for actually editing text: rearranging and changing characters, words, sentences and paragraphs. Its commands are designed to keep the writer’s hands on the keyboard at the touch typing position, meaning there is no need to divert attention from the text for something as common as moving the cursor or copying and pasting, or even for saving your file.

    Once mastered it is possible to edit by simply thinking of what you want done to the text, and your fingers just do it, similar to how they type your words when you compose at the keyboard. As fast as you can touch type is as fast as you can control the editor.

    There is no other software with a command set and user interface that comes as close as Vim does to touch typing. It really is a natural fit for anyone who touch types and spends a lot of time composing and editing text. Unfortunately, it is perceived as being difficult to learn, and it is more difficult than most other software, but certainly no more difficult than learning to ride a bicycle or drive a car. Its interface is designed for power, not hand-holding newcomers.

    Rather than static commands accessed through menus or key-chords, it offers a mini-language consisting of nouns and verbs in the form of single characters typed sequentially, and they are combined into command sentences to tell the program what to do. For instance, d3w means “delete three words forward from the current cursor position.” It consists of two commands: d and w, along with a numeric modifier specifying how many words to delete. w could also be used simply to move the cursor, or d could be used with ‘as’ to “delete a sentence” or ‘ap’ to “delete a paragraph”. More useful still is the c command for changing text. ‘cas’ (change a sentence) will remove the sentence the cursor is in and let you immediately type replacement text.

    These are just small examples of what can be done and how quickly it can be done. There is no reason programs like Scrivener cannot be complemented by Vim to enhance the editing power of the writer.


    30 April 2011 at 1:33 pm

  2. Good thoughts. Thanks.

    BTW, Scrivener is not only for fiction writing: I’m writing a nonfiction book with it now. It seems to be intended for any lengthy writing that will be done in parts: proposals, reports, rfps, academic papers, instructional manuals, screenplays, scripts, etc.

    This is not to say that it addresses the same issues and needs as Vim—merely to point out that Scrivener has a much wider range of uses than fiction.


    30 April 2011 at 2:28 pm

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