Gvim and vigour

I had the urge to blog tonight. I haven’t for a while and I feel like I’ve lots to say. However it’s getting late and I don’t want to be too long.

So I’ll try to be quick on the subject of gvim.


Gvim is “graphical vim” and of course vim is “Vi IMproved” and vi is an editor on Unix/Linux. So what I’ve done is set up gvim. I’m going to use it to write with. At this point anyone who knows what vi is like is probably thinking I’m crazy. For those who don’t, vi is not a word processor, it’s a text editor. It’s an editor with an obscure, esoteric and out of date way of doing things.

But I’m used to it. It’s been on every Unix/Linux computer I’ve ever used going back nearly 20 years. I already use vim to make posts to AFO. You may recall I use tin


as my newsreader, but tin allows you to configure your own editor. So I went with vi, or rather vim. The difference between vi and vim are subtle but important. Vim has many more features. I’ve only scratched the surface but it’s the ability to customise and configure shortcuts that I like. So I’m basically using those well-worn vi commands, but I have an auto-wrap at 78 columns. I can re-align a paragraph with a single keystroke. I get colour-coding of my headers and quoted text.

Since at the moment, I’m mainly writing for AFO, and AFO is usenet which is a ‘bare text’ medium, I don’t need fancy word processor features (by which I really mean simple stuff like bold, italic, font sizes). And as much as I like OpenOffice, especially the not-having-to-buy-MS-Office part, it’s slow to start and feels like overkill to type what is essentially text, maybe with the occasional underline.

Actually OO has downsides for text as I’ve discovered. It converts double-quote characters into left- and right- curved quote characters. Which look cool – in OO – but are in some extended, probably unicode, character set. When I Save As text and then copy and paste into tin, which is configured for plain ol’ ASCII, I get ? instead. Now I could figure out how to get OO to stop converting them, or figure out how to get it to convert them back when I save, or configure tin for full character set support – but in the end it’s easier just to write ASCII.

Usenet has conventions for most simple formatting. Behold bold: *bold text is between asterisks*. Observe italics: _underscores mark italics_. So I am mostly ok. If at some point I want to start writing for other outlets and want a .DOC, .RTF or .PDF file, OO will still be there and I can adapt any text docs easily enough. I may even figure out a little script to convert usenet formatted text to something OO could import. That’s the sort of thing I’d enjoy.

The only remaining question is why the g? Why gvim? No real reason. It has a few buttons to do common tasks. All of which are merely doing the equivalent of various keystrokes. It stands alone and can run from the desktop. But then I could run regular vim in a terminal, even create a shortcut for it. No, the only real reason was that the simply excitement of installing gvim, configuring it the way I like it and setting it up with a desktop shortcut,


is a motivation for me to actually use it. In other words, it helps getting me writing again. Which is important. I’m enjoying writing at the moment but getting myself down to it is still a bit of a challenge and the inner child in me can go “ooh shiny new toy” at gvim to get me over that initial hurdle.

(Those of you who are laughing at the idea that a) gvim is a shiny toy or b) that installing and configuring a text editor is in any way exciting can just go… Well my bet is you stopped reading after the pictures. 😛 as we say in usenet land)


About shuggie

My name is Shuggie, Paul or LatePaul depending on where you know me from. I work in computers (databases) and occasionally write about softw
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