Geek Smithology

February 28, 2006

The Miracle of Muscle Memory

Filed under: Craft of Dev by Nathan @ 9:52 pm

The Pragmatic Programmers suggest learning a powerful text editor inside and out (instead of, say, learning Emacs) and this is a story about where you end up after 10 years…

I was editing some text in VIM. Because it’s very good for that and not very good at anything else[1]. I wanted to start a new line below the one I was on and for some reason my mind had a short and thought “press i”, but before I could finish that thought, my fingers had already pressed the proper key (o) and were merrily typing their way across the screen. Of course, since it was before I thought, what I typed looked something like this:

And so then we see that the tangential nature of the trancendental aspects of the larch corresponds directly to Kierkegaard’s third principle of thermodynamics, namely that he was standing on the shoulders of Abe Vigoda.

That of course, makes no sense whatsoever, and is one of the dangers of typing without thinking. Luckily, VIM is prepared for this – simply press “Esc d ^ i” and you’re back on your merry way. The point of this post isn’t to start an editor war; it’s not a preference, it’s a religion.

In VIM’s case, that religion is Zen.

[1] Emacs is a wonderful operating system. The one thing it lacks is a decent text editor.

One response to “The Miracle of Muscle Memory”

  1. Harold Shore says:

    Actually, muscle memory is just why I use Emacs – I was able to build a .emacs file to nurse my old habits into a few years further usefulness. But it’s hard to compare VIM and Emacs because they are wildly different tools, overlapping in their editing functions but really going in different directions. Emacs starts off by offering an odd and awkward editor, but like a self-fitting glove, the longer you wear it, the better it fits. Not because you adjust to it, but because, exposing a full programming language, you can progressively adjust it to your own ways. For example, I’m really a lousy typist, so I have Emacs check my typing and capitalization whenever I hit [Enter], a function something that has saved me no end of grief. Of course, this comment is being written just on an HTML textarea 🙁

    If Vim is zen, presumeable because of its terseness, what would Emacs be? The Abhidamma? The Classic of Changes? Or maybe Catholic Scholasticism. I’m sure good ol’ St. Thomas would have used Emacs if it had been available. (‘M-x expound-scholastic-argument’ should have been a hot one the the 14th century.)

    It comes down to this: some people like solo violins , and others like overwhelming polyphonic organ counterpoint, and I prefer Bach to Paganini. Let one hundred flowers bloom.

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