A few weeks ago, I started using vim as my main text editor. Soon after that, I installed the vimperator Firefox extension on my main computer. A few days into the use of these two tools, I was really excited about both of them. It takes more than a few days for me to know whether I’m comfortable with using a particular piece of software regularly, though.

I’m still using vim every day, and I like it. It’s powerful, ergonomic, and customizable. There are a few annoyances. I still haven’t figured out how to properly configure Firefox to use MacVim as an external editor. Vim doesn’t support having multiple frames for a single instance of vim (emacs does). The official wiki, hosted by Wikia, has horrible ads, and I refuse to install an ad blocker, because I don’t want to turn a blind eye to virtual blight like the maintainers of vim have. Nevertheless, I’ve become quite comfortable with vim and will continue using it. While I’d like it much more if it didn’t have these annoyances, it has relatively few annoyances compared to some other editors I’ve tried, and the good things about it outweigh the bad.

My experience with Vimperator was different. As with vim, I really enjoyed using it at first. Over time, though, I found myself growing tired of it, even though it enabled me to browse faster. The biggest problem for me was that the commands only work if I’m in the normal mode, and it’s very easy to get thrown out of the normal mode. The two things that most often put me in the wrong mode were full-page Flash files and JavaScript that placed the focus in text boxes. Another issue was that I couldn’t easily use the keyboard to scroll in a div. I can’t easily do that with normal Firefox either, but Vimperator is supposed to make browsing with the keyboard easy, and it does it for the most part.

I uninstalled vimperator, but I miss its functionality. I’d like a lightweight extension that makes it easy to click links or jump between form fields with the keyboard. I don’t think that the vim input model is suitable for keyboard navigation within a browser, because the browser environment is too unpredictable. I’d like to see a couple of multi-key combinations that activate keyboard input, though. These would work inside of text fields. Flash would probably still break them some of the time, but to deal with that I could install FlashBlock.

I really enjoy trying out new development tools. I think the next thing I’ll try out is a visual CSS editor. Any suggestions?

One thought on “vim and vimperator, a few weeks later

  1. Fascinating! That is EXACTLY the same experience as i had. I really, REALLY like Vim, especially because it means i can have the same development environment at home and at work. But Vimperator soon lost its shine. For the exact reasons that you said, plus on Linux it overrides the copy-paste behaviour and introduces something called a PASS-THROUGH which is confusing as anything.

    It’s also what it *doesn’t* do like ‘u’ for undo in a text field.

    Last night i uninstalled Vimperator but quickly realised how much i’d come to rely on it for some things, like ‘t’, ‘y’ and ‘gh’. It was disappointing to be without those. So i’ve installed it back again but made some tweaks in my ~/.vimperatorrc file.

    The ‘awesome bar’ behaviour is well worth having if you don’t already use it: http://www.developernotes.com/post/Vimperator-Tip.aspx

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