Forcing yourself to use shell aliases

Fact: Shell aliases save you time.

Fact: Saving time increases your productivity.

Fact: Everybody wants to be more productive.

Fact: Retraining muscle memory can be a pain in the ass.

I have been fighting that last fact for a while now. I have the single character
alias v pointed to vim. A whopping 67% decrease in characters I need to type
to run vim. After 10+ years of typing in vim, I found it very hard to break
the habit and transition over to the single character alias.

Then it hit me! Why not break vim so that I couldn’t run it directly, thus
forcing me to use the alias! And that’s what I set out to do.

To start, I created a bin directory in my dotfiles, added a new file named
vim and made it executable:

mkdir ~/.dotfiles/bin
touch ~/.dotfiles/bin/vim
chmod +x ~/.dotfiles/bin/vim

I then opened up the vim file and wrote the following:

#!/usr/bin/env bash

if [[ `ps -o stat= -p $PPID` == *"s"* ]] then
  echo ""
  echo -e "e`v`e[0m"
  echo -e "ee[0m"
  exit 1
  /usr/local/bin/vim $@

The conditional checks to see if the script is being invoked directly or not.
Without that I was running into issues with other scripts that would call vim
and updating my $EDITOR didn’t seem to resolve anything.

After the script was in place, I made a few adjustments to some variables in my
.zshrc file. First, I updated my v alias to use the full path for my vim
executable instead of just vim:

alias v="/usr/loca/bin/vim"

And updated my $PATH to check the bin I created in my dot files:

export PATH=~/.dotfiles/bin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/local/sbin:$PATH

With these changes made, I restarted my terminal and am now greeted by this
whenever I try to run vim:

vim flip

Extreme? Yeah it is, but it’s going to force me to adapt, which is a very good
thing. I’ve spent the last week using that and have absolutely no regrets. I’m
even planning to do the same thing with a handful of other aliases as well!

If you’re interested in seeing which commands you type often and where you would
benefit from some aliases, check out HuffShell, a gem for
suggesting new aliases based on your history.

Also, my dotfiles are available for perusing and poaching if you’re

Josh Sherman - The Man, The Myth, The Avatar

About Josh

Husband. Father. Pug dad. Musician. Founder of Holiday API, Head of Engineering and Emoji Specialist at Mailshake, and author of the best damn Lorem Ipsum Library for PHP.

If you found this article helpful, please consider buying me a coffee.