From Emacs to Vim – Chapter #1 – Vim plug-ins

This is the continuation of the first post.

As you get the feeling and overview of vim, the first thing you’ll probably miss [as an probable-soon-to-be-emacs-orphan (actually, not really, I’ve already told you I’m not going to abandon emacs – for example, this post is being written within it, with org2blog – (too many level of parenthesis, please help me!!))] are your customizations and custom plug-ins and extensions.

A couple of google searches would bring me to projects like janus and vim bootstrap. Those look nice and I would probably appreciate them if I were a beginner. However, as a super user – if you read this statement as bragging, then you are probably not understanding the purpose of this mini series –, I like to be in control of the personalization and settings of my text editor. Right? So, I’ve chosen to control my own plug-ins. In other words: bottom-up instead of top-down.

Now, the two state-of-the-art plug-in managers you’ll find out there to manage your vimscripts are vundle and pathogen. I began using Vundle, but after a few hours I realized that pathogen was KISS and superior. Period.

Not that Vundle is bad. It looks (works) okay too; in this case it was simply a matter of personal choice. The way Vundle works is as follows: your .vimrc will be populated with several lines such as:

Plugin 'tpope/vim-surround'
Plugin 'username-from-github/repository-name'
Plugin 'matchit'
Plugin 'vimscript-name-from-vim-dot-org'
Plugin 'git://www.absolute-path-to-my-site-here.com/repository-name.git'

Then, you just have to install those plug-ins with a simple command:

:PluginInstall

Done. It is simple, yes, but I liked more the approach of pathogen: you maintain a git repository with your plug-ins. Each new plug-in is a git submodule within your repository. Yay, this means it is super-easy to set up and share your plug-ins with other people. This is exactly what I’ve done: you can peek out my vim repository here.

Now, there is one super good advantage here over emacs. The cost of adding a new plug-in is practically zero. This has two meanings, actually:

  1. vim start-up time is ridiculously fast. Even with a dozen plug-ins, I still don’t notice it. With emacs, if I don’t run it as a daemon, it is a nightmare: a couple of seconds (yeah, a couple of seconds is really a nightmare, not kidding) of start-up time.
  2. I don’t even have to touch my .vimrc to add a new plug-in. I just have to clone a new repository into my $HOME/.vim/bundle folder. Period. With emacs, I have to continuously poke my .emacs file to add, remove and constantly tweak my extensions. Yeah, I’ve been doing that for a while, and it does provoke a lot of stress and anxiety. You already have to tolerate a little bit of RSI with emacs, so you don’t need more problems.

Now, don’t undermine my (our) dear Emacs! Emacs Lisp will (and will always be) superior to vimscript. I have no doubt of this fact and therefore I won’t even discuss it here. Emacs is much more extensible than vim.

Okay, then what? You have to find a few plug-ins, right? In Emacs, most plug-ins with decent quality you might find will be available either on MELPA or Marmalade and, of course, on GitHub too. In vim, it looks like the home of scripts is the vim website itself ((1) and (2)) and GitHub. I couldn’t find a central repo or website hosting the majority of its plug-ins, as with emacs. However, there is vim-awesome, which indexes existing ones (this concept is like the ruby toolbox, godoc.org and Emacs paradox extension by Bruce Connor.

I won’t discuss the plug-ins I’m using right now, however here is a snapshot of my $HOME/.vim/bundle directory at the time of this post (19 plug-ins, yay):

- YouCompleteMe
- ack.vim
- ag.vim
- ctrlp.vim
- delimitMate
- nerdtree
- syntastic
- tagbar
- vim-airline
- vim-bufferline
- vim-commentary
- vim-easytags
- vim-fugitive
- vim-gitgutter
- vim-markdown
- vim-misc
- vim-repeat
- vim-sensible
- vim-surround

Most of those have an emacs equivalent. Okay, I’m stopping here for now, until the next post 🙂

Update: next post.

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From Emacs to Vim – Chapter #1 – Vim plug-ins

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