Vim Tips to Make Yourself Faster

I use Vim because it’s faster for me than other text editors. Sure, you could use vim-mode for Atom or one of the various packages for Sublime, but they all have shortcomings — and Vim works everywhere. Here are five things I do to make Vim faster for me.

Relative Line Numbers

Most people know that you can use numbers with Vim commands to make a change multiple times, across multiple lines, or multiple characters. That’s not super useful if you have to stop to count the number of lines in a block of code before deleting it, for example. I use relative line numbers in Vim. The current line is always 0. I can instantly see that a block of code is 14 lines long and d14d to delete it.

https://gist.github.com/joshbetz/271f612479de27f6d958

Relative line numbers in Vim

Use . to repeat the last command

This one is pretty self explanatory. Any command can be repeated with .. If you delete a line with dd and realize that you also want to delete a few more lines, pressing . three times will delete the next three lines. It may seem like a small thing, but that’s half as many keystrokes.

Use = to format code

Often, when you copy and paste code from somewhere else, it won’t be formatted properly. The = command can help here. You can either do something like gg=G to format the entire document or highlight the block of code that needs to be formatted (in visual mode) and press = to format just that block.

Make shifts keep selection

When you highlight a block of code for the purpose of indenting it, the selection is lost when you do the first shift. Often times, you need to shift it more than one position though. The following snippet keeps the current selection in visual mode after you perform a shift.

https://gist.github.com/joshbetz/7f9fca420fae26d04794

Search to find what you’re looking for

I think one of the reasons I’m slower in other text editors is that I use the mouse to browse for specific code instead of using the search function. Start searching with /. After you enter the search and press return, you can jump the next and previous matches with n and N respectively.

Sublime Text 3 Packages

Since I recently switched from VIM back to Sublime Text 3, I thought I’d share some of the packages that I’m using.

While Sublime Text 3 is still in beta, it seems to be stable enough to use. That being said, many of the packages have limited or no support for Python 3 at this point, which is necessary for ST3. Some of the more popular packages have branches on GitHub dedicated to Sublime Text 3 support. You can install those packages through Package Control by first adding the URL associated with that branch as a repository. For example, “https://github.com/weslly/Nettuts-Fetch/tree/st3“.

First, since I came from VIM, I thought it would be nice to use Vintage. I’ve used Vintage in the past and haven’t necessarily loved it though. Luckily, while I was searching for other packages that have Sublime Text 3 support, I stumbled upon Vintageous which has been excellent so far. At this point it’s kind of the reason that I don’t want to go back to Sublime Text 2.

Package Control

I was very happy to find that Package Control works in ST3. There are special installation instructions that involve manually cloning the repository, but nothing too complicated. After the initial install process, everything seems to work like normal.

Theme

Since the theme and color definitions aren’t dependent on a particular version of Python, the old themes and color schemes should still work. As always, I’m using the Soda theme with the Tomorrow Night color scheme. For now, I’m using the Tomorrow Night Eighties variant because it’s so hipster. 😉

Languages

Like the themes, language definitions aren’t dependent on a particular version of Python. The additional language definitions I’ve installed are CoffeeScript and Sass.

Other

Lastly, I’m using a few other utility packages that just make life easier.

  • GitGutter: I used something similar to this in VIM and I couldn’t imagine life without it. Basically, it tells you what changes have been made to the current file since the last commit.
  • Alignment: The standard version of this one doesn’t work, so you’ll have to find a working fork. I’m using https://github.com/kevinsperrine/sublime_alignment/tree/python3 and it works so far. This one lines up stuff in your code. I primarily use it on long lists of variable definitions or similar blocks so that all the equals symbols line up, making the code easier to read.
  • Fetch: Another package that needs the correct branch to be manually added to package control at this point. https://github.com/weslly/Nettuts-Fetch/tree/st3 is what I’m using. Since it’s made by Nettuts, I’ll let them explain in their article, Introducing Nettuts+ Fetch.
  • SublimeLinter: While SublimeLinter theoretically works with ST3, I haven’t been able to use it so far. Even though I normally don’t have an issue missing semicolons and such, it’s nice to have a linter watching your code so you don’t waste time tracking down bugs based on syntax errors.

P2 Theme

After trying to sort out the best way to facilitate asynchronous communication for a group project, I was reminded of P2. This talk by Pete Davies at WordCamp SF this past year tells a very compelling story about why you should use P2 on your project. You can use it for free on WordPress.com or download it to run on hosted WordPress. It took all of a few minutes to sign up for a free WordPress.com site and switch to the P2 theme. After that it was all work.

Secure Shared Files with Hazel

Occasionally I need to send sensitive files to someone on the internet. I took a tip I once heard from Merlin Mann and built a script to automate this as much as possible. It requires Hazel and a cloud sharing service that syncs to your Mac. I’m using Dropbox.

The basic idea is to use Dropbox as a place to share files safely and automate the process with Hazel. We’re going to rely on long, obscure filenames along with randomly generated passwords and short availability windows to protoct our files. We can automate all of this through a couple Hazel commands and an Applescript.

The Hazel commands are set up as follows. The first one looks for any file or folder older than 7 days that is a zip archive and deletes it. This enforces our short availability window. You could make the window anything you like. The second command looks for anything that’s not a zip archive and runs the following Applescript on it.

https://gist.github.com/4686756

We generate a random password with openssl rand -base64 32 — this means we’ll get 32 random base64 characters. We also create a SHA1 hash of the file to append to the filename. After that, just zip the file with the random password and put the password on the clipboard. You can do more, like generating a notification when the script is done. I have a TextExander snippet that lets you fill in the filename and grabs the password off the clipboard.

Ideally, you wouldn’t send the password along with the link to document. Try to use two different methods to notify someone where the file is located and what the password is — even if it’s just two different email accounts on a separate server.

For now this won’t work with directories because the SHA1 hash of a directory is blank. An easy way to fix that would be to zip the directory first and then get the hash and rename the zip file.

Email

MG Siegler recently wrote about his choice to archive 50,000+ emails one night. And how he used that to decide to archive everyone once a week from now on.

A week ago, I came home after a long night of drinking and wanted to vomit. It wasn’t the whiskey. It was the email.

The way I deal with email is only slightly different from MG’s. The ammount of email I get is extremely tame, but I still think the workflow could help a lot of people. It’s something I’ve worked into after hours of listening to Merlin Mann, in various formats, speak about email and time management.

I use my email in very tight conjunction with Things. It could be any “to do” list style app. OmniFocus is another good one. I like Things for its simplicity.

There’s one rule that I have with email, only read it once. That’s not the perfect way to say it. Of course I read emails multiple times, but when I read and email there are three things that can happen.

  1. Junk. Delete.
  2. I can do this in a minute or two. Do it. Archive or Delete.
  3. I don’t have time to do this right now. Put it in Things. Archive.

When it’s something I don’t have time for, I’ll drop a link to the email in the notes field of Things if I’m going to need to reference it again. This obviously requires you have an active to do list that you keep up with. It might seem like you’re just pushing the problem out of email and into another list, but ideally your to do list is more organized that your email. If you read the same email six times before you do something about it, you were wasting your time the first five times. With a GTD type approach, you can quickly look at your list and know what needs to get done and what things you can currently do based on contexts.

This works for me with a small volume of email. I imagine it gets even better the more email you get. The more email you get, the more time you waste re-reading everything.1

MG writes about how relieving it can be to have the weight of 50,000 emails moved out of your inbox, to a place that you only ever see them when/if you need to. It’s funny because I’m the same way, though I don’t clear my RSS reader every night, it’s something I do regularly. And those red Push Notifications. I don’t think this is uncommon though.

It’s essentially out-of-sight, out-of-mind. I should have known this would be the case since I’m also obsessed with clearing my RSS reader every night (even though I barely use it anymore) and am a slave to clearing red Push Notification dots on the iPhone/iPad.

I only slightly disagree with the final point:

Read most of it. Respond to some of it. Keep all of it. But hide it. Then forget about it. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

I don’t keep all my email. There’s a lot of email that I know I’ll never need again. I delete them. Maybe you never get email like that.


  1. Now if Sparrow would only have an option to check my mail every hour instead of pushing it to me as it comes in. I know I can set it to manual, but that’s too hard.