Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Art of Edits I - Weaponry

When faced with vicious hordes of marauding tweaks, ghastly repeats and soul shaking changes to the landscape that would make a lesser mortal wine and pule under their desks, Vimmers do not wince or cringe or shy away from their keyboards. This is their domain. This is what they've been practising for. The accomplished warrior does not foolhardily rush in to battle without first examining his lot carefully. What is the nature of the beast? What weapon shall I vanquish it with? How many scalps will I collect before my anime starts?

The Armoury

Various weapons adorn the armoury of the Valiant Vimmer:


A small hand-held weapon, most effective in cramped and dynamic situations. CAUTION: Sole reliance on this weapon will cause fatigue. Remember to sheathe your Insert Edits when you're not using them. These are the normal, insert and visual mode commands that constitute a lot of ordinary editing work. Read the left column of topics in the table of contents of :help quickref for a summary of awesome tips, tricks and techniques this weapon offers.


Grips and tactics to wield Edits more gracefully.  These are rehearsed and prepared shortenings that automatically expand out to longer forms while we're typing. They're available in both insert and command-line modes. Read :help :abbreviate for the craft and maintenance of this weapon.


A mystical amulet that bestows upon the wearer the ability to complete an attack automatically. Adept users of this power can call on recent battlefield attacks, those from historic battles, from battlefield manuals or even from an omniscient guiding hand. Read :help ins-completion for access to this gem of valour.


The most devastating hand-held weapon in the Vimmer's arsenal. Due to its ungainly size and the need to retreat from battle while preparing an offensive with this weapon, it is not recommended for close quarter or highly dynamic combat. Often best suited for ranged attacks. The adept Vimmer is an effective user of Vim's regular expressions. To sharpen your regex skills, read :help pattern.txt and you can practise with VimRegexTutor.


One of a warrior's greatest strengths is the ability to command his troops amidst the frenzy of battle. Ex is the powerful tool Vimmers use to coordinate and execute larger strategies on the battlefield. Raining fire down upon your enemies from afar, changing the very landscape beneath their feet, and even travelling in time are but a few of the awesome powers at the command of a Vimmer versed in Ex. These are all of the : (colon) commands in Vim. These commands are inherently linewise and can therefore be ungainly on multiline monsters (macros are the recommended weapon when facing multi-lined monstrosities). Read :help ex-cmd-index for an overview of battlefield orders you can issue.


The map is a ranged weapon providing a sortie of commands with the flick of a wrist. Skilled Vimmers spend hours in training creating map weapons for special purpose attacks. The builtin Edits occupy a vast majority of the available body (keyboard) space.  Careless novices unwittingly replace valuable original Edits with inferior maps, only to be defeated or fatigued in extreme battle.  The master Vimmer chooses his maps carefully, regularly preferring to place them on the purpose-built shield (:help mapleader) so as not to interfere with his perfected mastery of the native Edits. Read :help map.txt to start crafting your own maps of devastation.


Macros are pre-rehearsed battle maneuvers that can be performed instantly with precise execution. A powerful weapon but dangerous when employed on the wrong terrain. The macro will blindly repeat the instructions it was established with. Regardless of whether this weapon is fired when facing the wrong enemy or even friendly troops, it will charge headlong in to battle until its target is demolished or it has been overcome (an error occurs).  Here are several good explanations of macros and their uses.


The arcane language of the truly wizened Vimmer, capable of wreaking havoc on even the most worthy opponent. Once a spell is cast its effects are almost instantaneous, but the incantation process is long and complicated. This discipline is better practised at quieter times of relative peace whereupon its power may be distilled into volatile potions, sacred scrolls, charged wands and ready tomes that can be more freely and immediately used on the battlefield. Such artefacts in the land of Vim are called plugins.  To begin on your path as a Vim Mage, read Damian Conway's excellent introduction to Vimscript. The accomplished Vimlglot might prefer a deeper analysis. The holy arcanum is kept in :help usr_41.txt.

Veteran Vimmers and Alacritous Acolytes alike are well advised to review their personal arsenal frequently, polishing tarnished weapons and sharpening dull and forgotten ones. Develop a regimen of daily practise in each of these tools and skills so that you may face your next editing evil with brave heart, right mind and quick hand.

Being virtuous in preparation and valiant in battle,
the nature of a Vimmer is irrepressible!

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