Stop over configuring Vim

Josh Sherman
2 min read
Software Development Vim / Neovim

Over the year, I’ve waxed and waned with the size of my .vimrc.

In the early days, it was trim but so was my knowledge of Vim.

Once I learned how to disable my arrow keys, I started to configure more and more.

It wasn’t until I fully understood the key that the over configuration madness began.

But wait, there’s more!

Later on, plugins started to become all the rage. Of course I needed those!

Damn, so many plugins that I need another plugin just to manage them.

This is fine.

It wasn’t until my stint with vim-airline that my configuration overflowed to the rest of my system. My system fonts weren’t going to patch themselves, amirite?

The best part about all of this is that most people I know that use Vim are the same way.

I dare say we’re proud of the bloat. It’s a badge of honor to have a configuration file that’s been tweaked for a decade or more.

Over the last year I’ve been fortunate to meet and work alongside a Vim config minimalist and somebody that takes learning Vim seriously.

Absolutely inspired by both a lack of configuration and a tenacity to figure out how to do things more “Vim-like” I decided to drop my 207 line .vimrc (with 25+ plugins) and get back to basics.

That was two weeks ago and I couldn’t be happier!

In the time since the great Vim config purge of 2017, I’ve grown a brand new .vimrc to 20 lines, 5 of which are blank lines.

Full disclosure, I do have one plugin in the mix. Asynchronous Lint Engine (ALE). It’s an amazing linter plugin and can work pretty amazingly out of the box with zero configuration.

I had two major takeaways during this process. First, I had no idea what a lot of my configuration was doing. Stuff that wound up in there a lifetime ago and I don’t remember why. Things that I added but actually never use.

Cruft for days.

The other huge takeaway for me personally is that I was configuring my way out of knowing how to do things in Vim. A lot of my hotkeys and such were just insulating me from doing things the way Vim intended.

This makes it very hard to jump on another box (server or otherwise) and be productive. No bueno, IMHO.

So yeah, I highly recommend that you stop over configuring Vim and actually take the time to learn how to use it.

If nothing else, I think you’ll be amazed at how much you can actually accomplish without most of the popular plugins that are out there.

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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.

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