Why I use spf13-vim

spf13-vim, a completely cross platform distribution of vim plugins and resources for Vim, GVim and MacVim stays true to it’s vim roots while adding modern features including a plugin management system, a curated plugin set with customized configuration, advanced autocomplete, tags, support for dozens of languages and much more.

I recently read a thread where the author asked for feedback on whether or not to use spf13-vim. Responses varied greatly with some people loving it to others claiming it was bloated and overkill. Some suggested everyone should create their own configuration from scratch. Not surprisingly many of these criticisms were accompanied by links to people’s own vim configurations. With so many options out there, why would anyone use spf13-vim. While I can’t speak for anyone else, here are four reasons why I use spf13-vim.

First, a bit of history… spf13-vim started as my personal vim configuration. As long as I can remember I’ve obsessed with user experience and spent an embarrassingly large amount of time customizing each and every single action. As many others have, I put my configuration on github, not with the intent to share it with others, but to have a safe place to keep it for when I setup new computers.

1. Vanilla Vim like

In designing spf13-vim I took extreme caution with every decision I made and made certain to not override any essential Vim functionality . I had invested years in becoming proficient in vanilla Vim and didn’t want to throw any of those muscle memories away. I also wanted to remain completely comfortable in vanilla Vim. At the same time I wanted to smooth over some of the rougher parts and provide additive features. Virtually every one of the vanilla keystrokes and actions remain untouched.

A handful of default keystrokes have been remapped. A few of what I consider some of the less useful behaviors have been adjusted to be more consistent with the overall vim experience. For example, the first thing people learn in Vim is how uses ‘hjkl’ for cursor movement, spf13-vim adds ctrl+hjkl to move around windows and ‘HL’ (shift+hl) to move between tabs. Since these are common actions, it felt decidedly unvim-like to hide them behind commands or multiple keystrokes. These tab movements override Vim’s default behavior of moving to the top ‘H’ and bottom ‘L’ of the window. Something I don’t ever use.

2. Customizability

Continuing with the history, over time people found it and began to use it for themselves. Recognizing this I adding more flexibility to spf13-vim which provided the ability for people to use spf13-vim as a foundation, but add their own customizations to configure it precisely to fit their own needs.

Perhaps you work differently than I do and use the default ‘H’ & ‘L’ functionality. spf13-vim wraps each one of the overrides with an conditional statement enabling users to easily customize it exactly to their needs. Most users find spf13-vim default requires little customization but are happy to discover how easy it is to craft their personalized vim experience.

3. Power of the masses

The strength and heart of open source comes from people recognizing together we can make something better than any of us could alone. As more and more people began to use spf13-vim, many of them desired to contribute back. While spf13-vim started as my personal project, it has grown from mine to ours. I use vim to write in a few languages, and invested time discovering and customizing the best plugins for those languages, collectively the users of spf13-vim support far more languages than any one person would be able to. I love when I edit a file in a language I haven’t used before and someone else has already crafted a customized experience in spf13-vim.

spf13-vim benefits greatly from contributions from it’s completely diverse user base. This ensures regardless of your development stack or purpose, spf13-vim likely meets your needs. With support for many different languages, plugins and uses, vim could become weighted down. spf13-vim makes it trivial to include only the features you would use by defining a simple list.

One of the primary reasons I hear for people abandoning Vim is properly configuring vim is too difficult and plugins tend to be incompatible with each other. With many active and engaged users working together issues and incompatibilities are discovered and fixed by the users together quickly.

The vim plugin community is always evolving. New plugins come out daily. With many different users exploring and experimenting with new plugins this results in vim configuration using the latest and greatest. Without investing countless hours exploring, each user benefits greatly from the combined efforts of everyone. spf13-vim receives many pull requests each week keeping our collective vim experience fresh.

4. The community

The primary reason I love using spf13-vim is the great community. This goes beyond the power of the masses, the spf13-vim users are some of the most patient and kind people I’ve ever encountered. The spf13-vim mailing list is full of people, sometimes naive, asking for help. I am consistently impressed with the willingness of spf13-vim users to help.

I remember back to when I first learned Vim. It was overwhelming at times and frustrating. After 8 years using Vim full time I still feel this way from time to time. Anyone who has tried to use Vim can likely relate. How wonderful it is to have a group of helpful users available and willing to assist.

When I speak at conferences I’m most often recognized for vim configurations. People come up and tell me how happy they are to “use me”. How lucky I am to be part of this great project that bears my name. A big thanks to the talented users (and contributors) of the greatest vim experience.

That’s why I use spf13-vim. Why do you?