Persistent Undo in Vim

This post presents a chapter from my upcoming book Mastering Vim Quickly: From WTF to OMG in no time

As you already saw in the chapter on Undo/redo, Vim is pretty powerful when it comes to these features. However, there’s one more feature which I didn’t mention, as it takes a bit of configuration.

In Vim, like in every other text editor, you can perform undo/redo in your current session. Once the session is closed, and you reopen the same file, running undo will do nothing – as you will be already at the oldest change.

Vim supports persistent undo, which means that you can run undo/redo even from your previous sessions.

This is great feature indeed. This way you can go back historically through changes of any of your files.

How this works? Vim creates hidden file where it stores the undo history, for every file you edit. Now, configuration is very simple. You could add only this line to your .vimrc:

set undofile " Maintain undo history between sessions

and it would work.

However, Vim will write undo history files in the same directory as the file you edit. Overtime, this will become messy. You don’t want that. That’s why, I recommend you complete the next two steps as well.

First, create a dedicated directory for these undo history files, by running a command like:

$ mkdir ~/.vim/undodir

My assumption is that ~/.vim is your Vim directory, where your .vimrc, among others, is located.

Then, once you have created the directory, you need to add only one more line to your .vimrc file:

set undodir=~/.vim/undodir

That’s all. Vim will store all the undo history files in that directory, and you’ll have persistent undo working flawlessly.

 

 


If you want to get notified when I publish the book or get more content from the book for free, leave me your email below, and I’ll make sure to keep you updated. You could also go to Mastering Vim Quickly page and check it out.


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5 Phases of Vim Use

 

1. WTF is going on here?

 

2. Hmm… this is cool. I want to see other interesting features this thing has.

 

3. OMG. <mind blown>

 

4. The worst thing about Vim…

worst_thing_vim

 

5. I’m actually a wizard… and this is how I feel when someone sees me using Vim

 

vim_wizard

 


Over the years, Vim got a reputation that it’s really difficult to learn it. I’ve heard many times from guys who are convinced it will take them months to reach proficiency. That’s simply wrong.

That’s why I’m writing a book: Mastering Vim Quickly (from WTF to OMG in no time) which will teach you Vim the way I learned it – easily and quickly.

If you want to get updates and sample content from the book, leave me your email below, and I’ll make sure to keep you updated. You could also go to Mastering Vim Quickly page and check it out.


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Saving Read-only Files in Vim – The sudo tee trick

How many times you had the following situation: You open a file with Vim and make some changes. When you try to save the file, you realize that you didn’t run Vim with sudo?!

There is a solution for this. The next time when you get into this situation, you can use the following command in order to save the changes you made:

:w !sudo tee % >/dev/null

There’s just one problem – it’s a bit hard to remember it. That’s why, if you’re going to need it often, add the following line to your .vimrc:

cmap w!! w !sudo tee % >/dev/null

This way, when you get to the same situation again, you can just type :w!! to save the file, even if you did not run Vim with sudo.


Over the years, Vim got a reputation that it’s really difficult to learn it. I’ve heard many times from guys who are convinced it will take them months to reach proficiency. That’s simply wrong.

That’s why I’ve started to write a book: Mastering Vim Quickly (from WTF to OMG in no time) which will teach you Vim the way I learned it – easily and quickly.

If you want to get updates and sample content from the book, leave me your email below, and I’ll make sure to keep you updated. You could also go to Mastering Vim Quickly page and check it out.


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Why Vim – 21 Reasons to Learn Vim

 

After writing about the history of Vim, I wrote a post where I told you what you can expect from my upcoming book Mastering Vim Quickly.

Today, I will try to mention as many as possible reasons to learn Vim. So, if you’re a beginner with Vim and you’re not sure should you keep learning it, or if you only think about learning Vim, this post if for you.

This post is not going to cover awesome Vim features as reasons to learn Vim, so if this is what you expect, don’t lose your time on reading.

So, here is the list of reasons why to learn Vim:

  1. Vi is guaranteed to exist on all Unix systems and exists on most Linux ones as well. That kind of broad coverage makes learning it worth it – because, if you know Vim then you know Vi as well.

  2. Vim is free and has a vibrant community

  3. Vim works over telnet & SSH connections. There’s no better way to edit files remotely via terminal than using Vim. Sysadmins know this.

  4. Vim’s configuration is portable. You just need to copy a few directories and files, and that’s all.

  5. Vim compiles/has precompiled binaries for almost every OS out there. You will never have to post “I need a [some text editor] alternative for [some OS]” anymore. You’ll have Vim instead!

  6. It’s also usually very fast and lightweight even when editing huge files of source code. Seriously huge.

  7. If you’re a programmer who edits a lot of text, then it’s important to learn an serious text editor like Vim. Serious text editors are highly optimized to perform the kinds of tasks that you will be doing a lot. For example, adding the same bit of text to the end of every line is trivial in Vim, but ridiculously tiresome otherwise.

  8. If you plan to configure anything in a Unix based system likelihood is you going to be editing a fair few config files, therefore you’ll want to learn a terminal based editor, of which Vim is one of the best.

  9. Vim allows you to easily code without taking your hands off the keyboard.

  10. Your fingers very rarely have to leave the home row, which means you’ll be able to edit text very, very quickly.

  11. It starts up faster than any IDE or text editor I’ve used, and it has many powerful features.

  12. It helps you focus on the coding process itself, you won’t be using the mouse at all to deal with it, that’ll save you a lot of time when you’re just writing code.

  13. It’s fun! Editing text is like a game to me now. I sincerely enjoy it – which is pretty ridiculous, when you think about it.

  14. If you’re working remotely, there is no choice to use Eclipse or similar GTK based IDE. You can do everything with Vim: source control, SQL, debug, compile, browsing – really fast browsing even over 1 GB source code. Visual Studio or Eclipse couldn’t handle all of this.

  15. There are a lot of good plugins out there which add a lot of functionality.

  16. Vim is a really good tool once you familiarize yourself with it.

  17. It has a reputation for the quality and the completeness of its docs. That’s true. Vim is thoroughly documented. You will find most of the  answers to your questions in its help system as soon as you will manage to stick the proper keywords in your help queries.

  18. You might want to learn Vim because many people think it is cool.

  19. You don’t have to press Ctrl or Alt all the time in order to run commands or shortcuts.

  20. It’s much quicker to use vi for a sudo edit: $ sudo vi. For example, if you run text editor 100 times a day, with typing sudo emacs, you’ll have to make 300 keypresses more! Okay, this is a joke :) chill out emacs guys (and yes, I know that there’s something like alias :) )

  21. Vim is addictive. You will find yourself wishing you could use Vim commands in all your computing, and cursing whenever you can’t. For example, I use Google Chrome with Vimium extension, so I surf the Internet without a mouse or touchpad. How cool is that!

On the end, have have to add that Vim’s usefulness depends on what you’re working with. If you’re an Java/C#/etc developer, you’ll most probably be more comfortable with an IDE.

But if you work with Python, Perl, Ruby, C, web, etc. or you’re a system admin/devops, Vim is the way to go. Vim is fast, powerful and does everything you need.


Over the years, Vim got a reputation that it’s really difficult to learn it. I’ve heard many times from guys who are convinced it will take them months to reach proficiency. That’s simply wrong.

That’s why I’ve started to write a book: Mastering Vim Quickly (from WTF to OMG in no time) which will teach you Vim the way I learned it – easily and quickly.

If you want to get updates and sample content from the book, leave me your email below, and I’ll make sure to keep you updated. You could also go to Mastering Vim Quickly page and check it out.

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What to Expect from Mastering Vim Quickly book

 

This is a post which should give you some basic info about my upcoming book, Mastering Vim Quickly The purpose of the Mastering Vim Quickly is to help you get from beginner to master of Vim in short time. That’s why the subtitle of my book is: from WTF to OMG in no time :)

 

The Reputation of Vim

There’s so much you want to do in life, and so little time. The story of our modern lives.
Take a moment to consider how many things you want to learn.

Seriously, don’t read further, but take a moment and think  :)

 

Okay. Since you’re reading this, I guess that Vim is in your to-learn list.
Now think, what’s holding you back from getting started? It’s hard? It takes time? Something else?

I can guess. You’ve heard about the reputation Vim has.

You’ve probably heard that Vim has a reputation for being difficult to learn. Or that Vim has the steep learning curve.  Or that it takes months, even years to get good at it.

 

learning_curves

Learning curves

 

Truth to be told, Vim has a deserved reputation for being difficult to learn. But, this can be avoided. There is a way to learn Vim faster that you ever imagined. Read further, and you’ll find out how.

 

The Art of Learning

Before I say anything about learning Vim, let’s just cover some general basics of learning.

Here is one uncomfortable truth: skills take time and effort to master.
There’s another one: many things aren’t fun until you’re good at them.

While learning any new skill, there is a period of time in which you’re horribly unskilled, and you’re totally aware of that fact. The same goes when learning Vim.

Mastering Vim Quickly will present my successful personal quest to quickly learn Vim, and as such, it will help you to acquire new Vim skills in record time.

One of the beautiful things about learning any subject is the fact that you don’t need to know everything.
What’s important is that you only need to understand a few critically important concepts that provide the most of the value. The same goes for Vim. Even only this kind of approach to learning Vim will help you learn it much faster that everyone else.

Mastering Vim Quickly represents a set of fundamental Vim concepts you can use to get things done.
Once you master the fundamentals, you can accomplish even the most challenging Vim magic with surprising ease.
And you will love it! I can tell you that. You’ll enjoy even more while writing your code. You will enjoy even while editing a simple text.

Over the past few years, I’ve picked up several books on Vim, passed through hundreds of tutorials and tips, used Vim from few to 10+ hours a day while coding, writing documentation, writing blog posts, tweeting, etc. Yes, I do all of that from Vim. Along the way, I’ve collected, distilled and refined my findings into concepts and best tips. They will be presented in this book.

If you invest the time and energy necessary to learn these concepts, I believe that you will easily be in top 10% of the the human population when it comes to productivity in coding, programming and text editing.

Think of this book as a filter. Instead of trying to absorb all of the Vim knowledge – and there’s really a lot out there, you will use this book to help you to get what matters the most. This way you can focus on what’s actually important: getting stuff done.

 

Why another book on Vim?

You might be thinking, if there are already books on Vim, why would I write one more?

Well, what I don’t like about books on Vim is that they are too long. One of them: ~300 pages. Second: 500 pages. Third:  900 pages! That’s just way too much. I understand, Vim is really complex and powerful text editor, and has really a lot of features, but anyway, this is too much. They take too much time.

That’s just one of the reasons why I started with writing my own book on learning Vim.
Yes, I am aware that there’s big possibility that my book will become larger then I want, so that’s why I’ve decided to give myself limit right away. I think it would be ideal to have 100 pages book. But I’m not strict – I even if I reach ~120 pages, I think that’s acceptable.

So, for all of you interested in my upcoming book – now you know. It’s going to be short and really effective.

 

 

No Experience Necessary

Don’t worry if you’re a complete beginner. I don’t assume that you’re already good in Vim (but this book will still be very useful if you are!).

You’ll find the information in Mastering Vim Quickly more valuable and practical than anything you learned from other Vim resources.

I want to save you from all the difficulties that I faced, and help you understand how Vim really works.

 

The Importance of Strategy

In order to learn Vim quickly, I have created few different strategies which helped me do it. Of course, I will present those strategies in the book.

You’ve most likely heard of the 80/20 rule, or Pareto Principle. It suggests that in any endeavor, 80% of the results come from 20% of the input. For example, for a company, 80% of revenue usually comes from around 20% of its customers.  The ratios won’t always be 20% and 80%, but the point is that in anything you do, there are a few things that matter far more than everything else.

My goal is that you get that knowledge that matter the most. My book, Mastering Vim Quickly, will provide you the most important 20% of Vim knowledge.

You will learn the most important 20% things about Vim. That will get you 80% of the power of Vim and working productively with it. Simple as that.

I have to admit, I’m a learning addict. I love to read, and learn new stuff. I read 80-100 books a year in average. This helped me to actually learn how to learn effectively. I found a way to learn Vim effectively, so if I could do it – you can do it as well.

For example: when learning a new skill, what you learn and the order in which you learn it makes a big difference. In his book The 4-Hour Chef, Tim Ferriss shares his methodology for rapid skill acquisition. He says that you must first deconstruct the skill into manageable blocks, select the most important blocks (the 20%), and then learn those blocks in a logical sequence. This is exactly what I am doing.

Or another example: When you learn something new, and you have all the material you need, what else can you do to speed up learning? In his book The First 20 Hours, Josh Kaufman discusses the keys to achieving rapid progress during the early stages of acquiring a new skill.

 

“The major barrier to skill acquisition isn’t intellectual… it’s emotional” – Josh Kaufman

 

The biggest obstacle you will face in your quest to learn Vim is yourself. The fact is, like any new skill, learning Vim is tough. What makes it tough, though, is not the content, but rather the fact that you will get frustrated and feel stupid at times. Trust me, you will feel like this when you start with Vim. The road will seem too long, and it would be much easier to just give up and get back to your old text editor instead.

But I’ve passed through all of this. I’ve been there, I’ve done that. And I’ll help you to overcome this, just the way I did. Note that this is just one of the few strategies which will be presented in my book, in order to help you learn Vim quickly.

 

Work in Progress

Since there’s so much to learn about Vim, it’s not an easy task to filter all of it and keep only the best. It takes time. Also, this is going to be the first book I’ve ever published. So, I’m really trying hard to make it a good one. That’s why, book will not be ready in the next month or two – just in case you were wondering.

One more thing. You should also know that each chapter of my book will be packed with examples that support detailed explanations of all the important concepts, and they will be presented in a way that helps you avoid the confusion that I faced when I was learning. Like I said – I’ve been there, I’ve done that. I know how it feels when shit’s being weird.

With this book and plenty of practice, I truly believe that you will be amazed at how quickly you can go from complete beginner to super productive pro. From WTF (is this) to OMG (I can’t believe how awesome things I can do with Vim).

Mastering Vim Quickly is for anyone who wants to learn Vim, but either doesn’t know where to start, has tried to learn but struggled to make progress, or is intimidated by how difficult Vim appears to be.

This book is designed to give you the head start I didn’t have. Wherever you are, if you want to learn Vim, the book will help you learn smarter, faster and easier.

 

If you want to get updates and sample content from the book, leave me your email below (if you did not already) , and I’ll make sure to keep you updated. You could also go to Mastering Vim Quickly page and check it out.

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The History of Vim

What is Vim?

If, for some strange reason, you don’t know what Vim is, here’s the short answer:

Vim is a highly configurable text editor built to enable efficient text editing. It is an improved version of the vi editor distributed with most UNIX systems. Vim is distributed free as charityware.  – http://www.vim.org/

 

You should also know that Vim (a contraction of Vi IMproved) is a text editor written by Bram Moolenaar and first released publicly in 1991. Based on the vi editor common to Unix-like systems, Vim is designed for use both from a command line interface and as a standalone application in a graphical user interface.

Simply saying, Vim is a powerful text editor for programmers, power users and command-line gurus.

 

The History of Vim

When Bram Moolenaar had bought an Amiga computer, he wanted to use the editor he learned on Unix. Since there was no good Vi for the Amiga, he started with the best that was available (a program called Stevie) and started improving it.

At first, his goal was to imitate Vi. Later new functionality was added, and  by version 1.22 Vim included more features than Vi. That time it was renamed from Vi IMitation to Vi IMproved. Over time the gap has grown wider, now it’s hard to think of a reason to use Vi instead of Vim. I would recommend all Vi users to switch to Vim.

Of course, ports to various operating systems have been done by different people. The port to Unix was a milestone, since Vim started competing with Vi. Currently Vim runs on more than a dozen different operating systems. That is awesome indeed.

Vim was made such that it works on many different operating systems. This wasn’t easy. Just supporting the most popular Unix versions is already a big task. Adding support for MS-DOS and MS-Windows gives the additional problem of using file names with a backslash in them. Machines such as the Amiga and the Macintosh have a different kind of operating system, which require specific solutions. – Bram Moolenaar for Free Software Magazine

 

The first version of Vim that was released to the general public was 1.14, which was published on November 2, 1991. Over time Vim has grown constantly. It has become a complex program. Adding functionality is taking much more effort now than before.

Here’s the timeline of Vim development:

1988       Vim 1.0     Vi IMitation on the Amiga
1991       Vim 1.14    First public release (on Fred Fish disk #591)
1992       Vim 1.22   Port to Unix, renamed to Vi IMproved
1994       Vim 3.0     Multiple windows
1996       Vim 4.0     GUI
1998       Vim 5.0     Syntax highlighting
2001       Vim 6.0      Folding, multi-language
2006       Vim 7.0      On the fly spell checker, support for tabs

The list shows only the most important features, but each version brought us a lot of nice features. For example, if we take version 6.0: the major new feature was folding. But, there were other great features such as UTF-8 support, multi-language support (translated messages and menus), vertical window split, improved performance for syntax highlighting, etc.

Vim has grown to an big open source project, but it’s also important to mention that it’s charityware. The basic idea with charityware is that everybody who uses Vim is asked to donate to a charity. Thus the use of Vim is free, if you think it’s worth something, you can give that money to a good cause.  Moolenaar helped with establishing a foundation called ICCF Holland that works to support to a children’s center in Uganda.

 

Vim today

Unlike the other vi clones, Vim is still actively developed and has a large base of contributors. New features are still being developed and added to the text editor every year, making it even more powerful. Besides that, number of Vim plugins is rapidly growing.

At the moment, Vim 7.4 is the latest stable version. It is highly recommended to update your Vim if you didn’t, because many bugs have been fixed since 7.2 and earlier.

Vim has been my editor of choice since 2008, few months after Linux became my main desktop operating system. In a meanwhile, I have changed few different distributions of Linux, but Vim was always there.

I’ve used it to write many lines of code, edit lots of configuration files, and write tons of documentation. Although I’ve tried to use some of the modern text editors, I haven’t found any that match Vim’s efficiency.

I’m not the only one who, after using Vim almost every day for so many years, is still discovering new features, capabilities, and useful tips that further improve my productivity.

At the moment, my favorite work environment is Gentoo with i3 window manageroh-my-zsh and Vim. I have never been more productive.

Over the years, Vim got a reputation – that it’s really difficult to learn it. I’ve heard many times from guys who are convinced it will take them months to reach proficiency. That’s simply wrong.

That’s why I’ve started to write a book: Mastering Vim Quickly (from WTF to OMG in no time) which will teach you Vim the way I learned it – easily and quickly.

Sign up below for updates about the book.

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