Vim Has No Keyboard Shortcuts
In this StackOverflow post, a question about the ‘Most productive Vim keyboard shortcut’ sparks a long discussion about Vim and productivity. In this answer, titled ‘Your problem with Vim is that you don’t grok vi.’ which is easily one of the most influential pieces of Vim documentation and intro material on the internet, user Jim Dennis takes the question apart and shows how Vim is not about shortcuts but about a language for manipulating text. If you read and understood this answer, you probably don’t need to read this post here, since it is just my personal take on the Vim philosophy.
‘Shortcuts’ and Vim
A shortcut in any other program is like a certain event that causes the program
to do a certain action. Like
F5 in a browser or
CTRL+D in most
In Sublime Text, there is a shortcut to delete a line:
cannot be remembered easily, involves
CTRL, is generally hard to do and
impossible with just one hand (yes, I know there is also
CTRL+X). In Vim,
the same action happens on
dd. This seems arbitrary too, but actually it
fits well into the rest of the vim language, where ‘d’ means to delete
something and a double tap means to apply an action on an entire line.
Moreover, this command can be combined with others as in a real programming
language and has the side effect of storing the line in some register. This is
not a shortcut, but an action from the language that makes up the way you
manipulate text in vim.
Actions and Macros
The fact that actions in vim can be randomly made up on the fly indefinitely, and combined with each other, is already very powerful. But there are even more benefits: since a text edit is just a sequence of characters constituting the action, the use of a macro is simply recording and playing back such a sequence of characters. Because vim is awesome, it stores a macro in some register (bearing the name you gave to the macro) so you can easily access, save for later, or modify the actions a macro does. You can also call a macro from itself for multi-line edits - to vim it is simply a long chain of characters that it must interpret. Macros can be nested - you can call a macro b from within macro a since macro invocation is only a sequence of characters. Finally, it is easy to parameterize macros with register contents.
For example, you might have a macro ‘a’ that finds a word matching a certain pattern and yanks it to register ‘w’, and then calls a macro ‘b’ which finds another word and substitutes the contents of the ‘w’ register. This could be done with regex back references, but to do it with macros in vim feels much cleaner to me - it is like programming with functions.
Why all the ramble about Macros?
Because all the other text editors which use shortcuts cannot really do this and that is precisely the benefit of not having shortcuts, duh!