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Practical Vim: Edit Text at the Speed of Thought

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Vim is a fast and efficient text editor that will make you a faster and more efficient developer. It's available on almost every OS--if you master the techniques in this book, you'll never need another text editor. Practical Vim shows you 120 vim recipes so you can quickly learn the editor's core functionality and tackle your trickiest editing and writing tasks.

Vim, like its classic ancestor vi, is a serious tool for programmers, web developers, and sysadmins. No other text editor comes close to Vim for speed and efficiency; it runs on almost every system imaginable and supports most coding and markup languages.

Learn how to edit text the "Vim way:" complete a series of repetitive changes with The Dot Formula, using one keystroke to strike the target, followed by one keystroke to execute the change. Automate complex tasks by recording your keystrokes as a macro. Run the same command on a selection of lines, or a set of files.

Discover the "very magic" switch, which makes Vim's regular expression syntax more like Perl's. Build complex patterns by iterating on your search history. Search inside multiple files, then run Vim's substitute command on the result set for a project-wide search and replace. All without installing a single plugin!

You'll learn how to navigate text documents as fast as the eye moves--with only a few keystrokes. Jump from a method call to its definition with a single command. Use Vim's jumplist, so that you can always follow the breadcrumb trail back to the file you were working on before. Discover a multilingual spell-checker that does what it's told.

Practical Vim will show you new ways to work with Vim more efficiently, whether you're a beginner or an intermediate Vim user.

All this, without having to touch the mouse.

What You Need:

Vim version 7

300 pages, Paperback

First published September 1, 2012

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About the author

Drew Neil

2 books20 followers

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5 stars
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389 (29%)
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105 (8%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 137 reviews
Profile Image for Vít Kotačka.
397 reviews77 followers
November 27, 2017
I tell you a story. True story. Thirteen years ago I had a classic, archetypal dilemma - Emacs, or Vim? By fortune, or by accident, I had chosen Vim and have used it for pleasant twelve years. I thought that I know something and that I've learned something...

But boy, I was wrong. After reading Practical Vim I already know that I've known very little. Even though I was quite efficient and fluent in Vim usage, all the time, I was staying at the Gates.

This book is the right key to the Gates. Use it and you can enter. Will be there any difference? Yes and no. You will be still editing some text. But this time, you will know. And knowledge is bless.

By the way, don't be fooled by my review - you don't have to wait twelve years to start with this book. You can start any time, even as beginner, once you decide that Vim is your tool.
Profile Image for James Tomasino.
658 reviews32 followers
November 20, 2012

This was hands down one of the very best technical books I've ever had the pleasure to read. Drew Neil has found a way to organize the book into a tip format without making it lose focus or seem endlessly unimaginative. Rather, by organizing the tips into themes, he gives the editor itself structure where before there was only the grey void of endless features.

I was an intermediate vim user before this book. It was my primary editor, and I used navigation keys and some basic yank and put operations regularly. I knew how to jump to lines, zip between words, and some mediocre regular expressions. After having read this book, I don't bother opening up gvim or macvim anymore. I'm so comfortable working without the mouse, I prefer to keep myself in the console all the time. My speed has increased dramatically, as has my confidence. I participated in vimgolf for the first time just last week.

If you are a vim user with a strong basic understanding, this book is for you. Don't pick it up if you are brand new to the editor, though. Complete the vimtutor first and give it some time to sink in.

Wouldn't you know it... Just this short review was incredibly painful to write since I'm not using my favorite text editor. What a snob I've become!

311 reviews3 followers
December 27, 2020
This was the best technical book I've read in a while! It covers a lot of topics and the author takes his time to explain the thought behind his own approach to solving different problems instead of just presenting the solution. It's easy to read given the quite technical nature of it. I even read the few boring parts. :-)

This is a book that I will get back to many times.

Note on the ebook: Although I usually read technical literature on paper, I was amazed by the simplicity of reading it on my iPad. Whenever I found something interesting, I wrote a comment or highlighted a section. Afterwards, I just tell the application to only display the pages with my edits.
Profile Image for Vishal.
7 reviews3 followers
June 1, 2016
If you've ever wondered what text editor you should learn to use and master for either your programming needs or your normal editing purposes, then my answer would be Vim. Sure, you might use other text editors depending on your circumstances, whether at home or work, but I would recommend making Vim as your primary text editor for your daily use. With that out of the way, the best way to learn Vim, if you are an absolute beginner, is by typing 'vimtutor' on the command line, and going through the Vim tutorial until you've mastered its contents thoroughly. It really is important that you master the very basic Vim commands before moving on to more advanced stuff. Get to know and grok Vim's powerful modal interface, even though in the beginning it will seem weird and cumbersome to use. That's okay, everyone learning Vim for the first time feels that way. But, once you begin to appreciate the power of all the different modes (normal, insert, visual, operator-pending, and a few others) that Vim's modal interface offers, you will be on your way to mastering Vim with a little bit of daily effort (half an hour, say) in no time.

As soon as you are done with 'vimtutor', immediately purchase a copy of 'Practical Vim, Second Edition: Edit Text at the Speed of Thought' by Drew Neil. This book will provide you a glimpse of the Zen of Vim. Seriously! Obviously, the aforesaid book doesn't cover every important detail about using Vim, but it has enough - a lot, really - to show you the path to becoming a Vim expert/master. After reading this book from cover to cover and practicing all the tips, which are arranged under suitable and easy-to-understand themes, you won't leave Vim for any other text editor, I assure you. I experienced a lot of happy, joyful and aha! moments reading this book. I wish the same to you!
Profile Image for Mr. Banks.
64 reviews
January 19, 2022
Read the majority of it and now using it as a reference book. I go to this before :help and then if I want to learn more, I dig into the hidden VIM documentation.
Profile Image for Hussein Elsayed.
19 reviews2 followers
September 8, 2019
Thanks to this book now I’ve finally use vim as the default text/code editor. Its helped me discovering all the powerful commands and the reasoning behind them and now I can combine them to build more set of commands performing complex tasks without even thinking about how or what to combine. I totally recommend the book as its full of useful and easy to follow examples, It also follows a good way to explain tips and tricks of vim as a very powerful editor.
9 reviews2 followers
February 8, 2013
You hear it from everyone who uses Vim, "tough learning curve, but totally worth it in the end." This book takes the tough learning curve and flattens it dramatically. I think every page of this book has made me love Vim more. I wonder how much time the world would save if all text fields allowed vim-style movements and editing commands. If they come out with a second volume, I'd buy that too.
Profile Image for Jared.
3 reviews
August 22, 2021
Great technical read. Written to show the reader approaches to using the editor through practical examples rather than a mass information dump.

Personally, learned a ton of functionality and new ways to optimize how I use vim. Will definitely come back for more.
14 reviews3 followers
December 28, 2018
I highly recommend this book to vim users, who got familiar with basic commands and want to unleash the true power of vim. It will teach you the philosophy of the editor, so you could put it to your use instead of fighting it.

If you are just starting with “:wq”, you may want to get some experience before starting with this book.
August 18, 2019
A great read for Vim enthusiasts. Quite possibly a must read as well as it teaches tons of things that you would never think that Vim was ever capable of.
Profile Image for Yedhu.
60 reviews47 followers
April 25, 2020
I never thought I would ever read a book about some text editor. But I read this from cover to cover! I use Vim daily. I realized I was just a noob. This book helped me to learn a lot of practical tricks. I'm planning to read the next book from the same author: 'Modern Vim'
46 reviews1 follower
September 2, 2019
I knew about vim for a long while, since the how to exit vim memes and since I heard so many about it, especially seeing it in action at a very fast programmer, twitch streamer, Pajlada(weirdest songs ever, on that stream...) I decided to give it a try. I downloaded it and at the beginning I didn't know how to use it(nor how to exit, kappa, so I had to restart my computer...) so I just put it aside and kept using Atom, that was a while ago. But now I decided to give it another try, and also to learn how it works, and this book not only did that, but taught me a lot of secrets and smart things about it, basically made me fall in love with vim, praise our lord and savior, VIM <3 Pogchamp. The way the author used the tips method, made it actually fun to read, I enjoyed each time I began a new tip, also when I would finish one, but it feels like Vim still has a lot of hidden features and I don't know a lot of things about it, this editor is not something you just install and learn it in a day or two, but actually requires a lot of research and time, mastering it takes probably years, BUT it's all worth since you can write code like a speedy maniac when you get gud xD. Also probably I will come back to this book countless times since it is impossible remembering all the information in one go.
Profile Image for Arjen.
160 reviews91 followers
December 27, 2013
If you do anything at all with computers, make sure you get really good at text editing. If you want to get really good at text editing, pick a really good text editor and get to know that editor really well. Vim is a really good text editor. I picked vim as my editor of choice and this book is invaluable in my journey to becoming a vim master.

I already had some working knowledge of vim and was using it as my day to day programming evironment for some years. After reading this book I realised I knew only maybe 1% of the true power of vim. Now I maybe know 5%. But that doesn't matter. I browse this book once in a while for inspiration, learn some new tricks and add another percentage point to my skills.

Aside: vim is not the only really good text editors. There are a lot. The point is, pick one and get good at it.
Profile Image for Kevin Plattret.
16 reviews8 followers
January 8, 2023
I have been using Vim as my main code editor for over a year now and I picked this up to take things to the next level. It is full of useful tips; most of which I already knew, but I also learnt quite a few tricks that will save me loads of time! I enjoyed the read overall and I definitely recommend it if you're considering reading it, no matter if you're a beginner or a more advanced Vim user, there will be something in there for you to learn. I will certainly get back to some sections myself to fine-tune my workflow.
Profile Image for Marcin.
27 reviews11 followers
July 11, 2019
I can't say I've read the book and that's my only problem with it. It doesn't have beginning and end, it's set of tricks and instructions categorized into few groups.
Why that was a problem? Because I'm not VIM master yet. I was looking for a book to would help me get from 'almost zero' to somewhat proficient VIM user and I think that's not the best one.
Don't get me wrong, it's great book (hence four stars) with lot's of knowledge, you just need to be a bit better prepared to get most of it.
Profile Image for Michał Szajbe.
31 reviews5 followers
April 2, 2013
Changed my way of thinking when working with vim. I will be picking this book again and again as it is not possible and not expected to turn all into practice at once. Great reference and nice read too.
Profile Image for Thiago.
53 reviews1 follower
October 19, 2014
Drew's book is very clean and well-polished for a non-linear book, and it is both a nice introduction to the text editor [for newbies] *and* a good curated list of small "formulae" and recipes on how to get better on vim, but presented without being annoying. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Pahlevi.
7 reviews7 followers
December 31, 2018
If you never heard of vim, read the first few chapter. You will be amazed with what vim can do. If you already knew vim, this book explains practical tips to effectively use vim.

I read this book a few years ago. Although not all tips are memorized my muscle, I am still happy vim user now.
45 reviews2 followers
May 25, 2015
the content is comprehensive,and not read and practise every tricks.you can learn some trick,and use it feel the efficiency of vim,and be used to vim.
and then dip more trick of vim
Profile Image for dmitri.
11 reviews
June 8, 2019
Пока самый четкий и вдохновляющий источник знаний про вим.
7 reviews36 followers
September 4, 2012
Vimtutor is > this book. Would not recommend had I not gotten it for free.
Profile Image for Max Darling.
64 reviews1 follower
March 10, 2022
A cohesive and comprehensive tour of vanilla Vim. And all the more valuable considering the content landscape for Vim is dominated by shallow "tips and tricks" style articles and videos. For instance, at time of writing, programming "content creator" Ben Awad has 400,000+ views on YouTube for his "Vim Tutorial", in which he showcases his tentative grasp of basic motions and editing to his audience's apparent delight. New Vim users seem to jump on colorschemes and the hottest new plugins, but haven't even grokked Vi. If you want to learn vim the Right Way, do yourself a favor and toss out the vimrc you downloaded and get to work on this book. Do the exercises. Read the help pages. And then go shit talk Ben Awad after you surpass him in your 3rd week.
Profile Image for Josh Friedlander.
731 reviews107 followers
July 17, 2023
Users of the Unix operating system might be interested to learn that the vi(1) screen-oriented text editor has recently gotten an upgrade, vim(1), or Vi improved, the product of a programming enthusiast from the Netherlands. It is completely free and implements most of the features of the original. This is a fun, useful guide to getting the most out of it.

(Ok, the 1991 tone is a joke but this is a great guide to a great text editor. For those who have migrated to Neovim, plugins and frameworks and generally using Vim as an IDE, the author has a sequel, Modern Vim.)
Profile Image for Tony.
48 reviews13 followers
June 7, 2020
This book encourages atomic, repeatable, composable actions to refine your vim workflow. Combine this with the developments in language server protocol (e.g. use tsserver for linting, completions, go-to-def etc for js in vim) makes for a powerful editing experience. I'm a convert.

If you'd like a taste for what vim's capable of, start with "Learn vim For the Last Time", an article by Daniel Miessler. Then when you're wondering how you'd browse through files, read the top StackOverflow answer to "Why do Vim experts prefer buffers over tabs?" and look into fzf.vim for fuzzy searching for and through files. It's a game changer.
Profile Image for Bugzmanov.
192 reviews37 followers
December 14, 2020
Discovering VIM mode in Intellij Idea and VSCode was my best productivity hint this year.
Good portion of this book(70% maybe) is applicable to both real vim (& clones) and vim emulators. But some is very vim-core specific and wouldn't fly in VSCode or Idea or Both.
I wouldn't recommend this book for vim newbies as the "Tip" format implies that you have core understanding that can be enrich with tips. But if you have some vim experience, this book is a gem.
I've learned a ton of power moves from it. It's a really good book if you're a comfortable using vim, but always looking for a ways to improve your game
Profile Image for Srijan R Shetty.
2 reviews3 followers
April 5, 2018
I've been eyeing this book since my days at college. The three months it took to complete this book is a testament for the amount of word for word knowledge this book presents.

The book is an easy read but not a light one. Having spent close to seven years using vim, I realized that I had barely scratched the surface of this powerful beast, and with this book I take home numerous little snippets which will make my day to day life much easier.

Would definitely recommend reading this book if you want to wield vim's power.
Profile Image for Tuomas.
13 reviews1 follower
September 19, 2018
The best single resource to learn the Vim as far as I know. Covers lot of techniques and lists recipes for different situations. Remembering all the features might be difficult after one read over so I recommend you to pick the book up occasionally and study and learn a tip or two and start using them.

I recommend to work through at least Vim tutor before this book, since while it actually covers the very basics of the Vim, I think knowing the very basics before hand helps you a lot to get most out of this book.
Profile Image for Željko Filipin.
892 reviews7 followers
October 15, 2018
I read a lot of books, 50-150 in a year. A lot of those are audiobooks, a lot are books for kids, but some of them are work related, like Practical Vim. For every book I have read in the last few years, I have an 1-5 rating and at least one sentence written. Work related books deserve a few more sentences.

I’ve been using Vim since 2014. I’ve started reading this book in December 2017, so it took me almost a year to finish it. The book is divided into more than a hundred tips. I was reading a tip or two a day, or about 10 minutes.

Now that I’ve read the entire book, I’ll be referring to specific tips from time to time, as I need them. I’m looking forward to reading Modern Vim.
Profile Image for Victor.
23 reviews2 followers
April 2, 2022
Even though I've been using Vim daily for over 4 year I still got a lot out of this book.

I would suggest focusing heavily on the basics (macro's, fast navigation, normal commands) instead of installing 10 different plugins and rebinding everything.

Start with the simple and work your way up!

PS: Using a good IDE like IntelliJ is still a big chunk of my software development workflow which imo can't be replaced by Vim. But the fast nature of Vim is ideal for scripts/devopsy/quick code lookups/configurations stuff.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 137 reviews

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