Geek Igor

Learning VIM with Spacemacs

18 Apr 2018 #emacs

I just don't grok the vi (yet).


Three weeks ago, I’ve ditched most of my emacs config and installed spacemacs. The main driver was that I wanted to try modal editing instead of emacs key chords. I could’ve tried vim of course, but I’m already invested in emacs and feel at home there.


Luckily, there is a brilliant vim emulation in emacs, called evil mode. I didn’t want to spend too much time configuring it though plus I have no idea which vim plugins ported to emacs are worth looking at, so I’ve given spacemacs a go. Spacemacs is a distribution of emacs preconfigured with evil and with an extensive documentation.

Actually, I’m positively surprised how polished it is. Note: I’m using develop branch. Whether you’re an emacs user who wants to try vim-style editing or a vim user who wants to switch to emacs and its superior package ecosystem (well, I just <3 magit) then spacecmacs is worth giving a shot.

Note to future self: doom-emacs is another evil-preconfigured distribution which gets a lot of good feedback recently.

Zen of Vim

The only problem is that I just don’t know vim :) Of course, I can change a config option on a remote server or scroll through a config file. But my vim knowledge is super limited, I don’t know useful shortcuts or even the philosophy.

I’ve found this a nice post on StackOverflow about the Zen of vim. This motivated me to go through the first series of wonderful vim screencast by Derek Wyatt. My notes form the videos are below in case I’ve ever need to reference them.

How do I like it so far?

Well, the modal editing is quite a change. I think that after three weeks I’m still a bit less efficient. Actually, the navigation in normal mode feels quite efficient, even if I don’t have the muscle memory yet. I struggle a bit more with writing (like this blog post), the mental shift from modeless, chord-full editing is a bit harder.

On the upside, there is a good IntelliJ plugin emulating vim, so I can work on my muscle memory more :) I use IntelliJ to write Java / Scala at work.

Again, the Derek Wyatt’s set of videos was super helpful (I’ve checked the novice, for now, once I’m comfortable with that I’ll probably go further).

What’ve started as an experiment, to see if there is a better way may become may permanent mode of operation. Stay tuned.

Learning to vi


Some of my favorite vi / spacemacs tricks

Vim Videos by Derek Wyatt

BASIC Movement (Screencast 1)

Key Description
h  j  k  l arrows
0  $ start / end of line
w  W next word / WORD
e  E end of word / WORD
b  B start of word / WORD backwards
ge  gE end of previous word / WORD
f<char> follow — search for next occurrence of
F<char> follow backwards
t<char> until — similar to f but places the cursor before
T<char> until backwards
; repeat f/F/t/T movement
gg go to the top

BASIC Movement (Screencast 2)

Key Description
C-f  C-b full page forward / backward
C-u  C-d half page up / down
H  M L head / middle / last line on screen
gg  G top / bottom
17G go to line 17
*  # search for word under cursor forward / backward (then n / N)
/<term>  ?<term> search for forward / backwards
zz center on screen

Basic Movement (Screencast 3)

Key Description
]]  [[ next / previous { in 0th column
][  [] next / previous } in 0th colunn
% matching parentesis
:marks list current marks
m<char> mark position as
'<char> jump to line of mark at ^
\<char> jump to line and column of mark
'' jump to previous location

Basic Editing (Screencast 1)

Key Description
i  I start inserting under the cursor / at the beginning of the line
a  A append after the cursor / the line
o  O open line below / above current
x  X delete / backspace
d<motion> delete (e.g. `dw` delete word)
dd delete line
. repeat last editing command
c<motion> change (e.g. `cw` change word)
C change to the end of the line
R replace (overwrite) mode
r replace character under cursor
s substitute (replace a character and put you into insert mode)
S change whole line

Basic Editing (Screencast 2)

Key Description
yy  Y yank line
y<motion> yank
p paste after (cursor / line)
P paste before (cursor / line)
J  gJ join line / without space
v  V visual selection by character / line
C-v visual block (then I to insert at the beginning, etc.)
gv re-do last visual selection

Working with many files

A bit less useful from spacemacs perspective, but surprisingly most of the keys still work; I’ve aggregated the screencasts here

Vimeo #1

Vimeo #2 (not applicable to spacemacs)

Vimeo #3 (about windows, surprisingly applicable)

Key Description
:ls list buffers (helm in spacemacs)
:b <name> switch to (w/o name to alt buffer, in vim this is `:b#`)
:bd <name> delete (current buffer without name)
C-w leader key for windows, usually equivalent to SPC w in spacemacs, noted otherwise
C-w o  SPC w m only buffer (maximize buffer in spacemacs)
:sp  :split  (<fname>) split horizontally
C-w s  SPC w - .same
:vsp  :vsplit (<fname>) split vertically
C-w v  SPC w / .same
SPC w M exchange windows (the closes equivalent to C-w x in vim)
C-w hjkl switch to window right / down / up / left (accepts count)
C-w HJKL move window right / down / up / left
C-w c  SPC w d close window (delete window in spacemacs)
C-w p  SPC w w previous window (other window in spacemacs)

Why, oh WHY, do those #?@! nutheads use vi?

Another zen-of-vim style article.

Doom emacs

Key Description
SPC p p open project
SPC SPC open other file in the same project
SPC , switch to workspace buffer
SPC w v split windows side-by-side
C h/j/k/l move between windows
SPC w c close the window
SPC o n neotree
SPC o t terminal