Configuring Vim

Compared to editors like Sublime Text and Atom, Vim comes completely unconfigured, making it nearly unusable. That’s really unfortunate–Vim is actually an incredibly powerful editor if you set it up correctly.


Configuring Vim basically boils down to plugins, and to install plugins we need a plugin manager. Vim doesn’t come with a plugin manager by default, but the Vim community has come together to to build a couple good options. The first real plugin manager was Tim Pope’s Pathogen, though the simplest plugin manager today is Vundle. Since both do basically the same things, we recommend Vundle.

To get up and running with Vundle, check out the Vundle Quick Start. It should show you how to install Vundle and also the syntax for installing plugins. For the most part, you’ll find plugins on GitHub and just use the Plugin <github user>/<plugin name> syntax in your ~/.vimrc.

Ben McCormick has a lengthy list of plugins that are pretty popular. At the bare minimum, you’ll need a color scheme. Solarized and Molokai are popular ones.

Browse around, and try out plugins even if you think you might not initially like them. Vundle makes installing and uninstalling plugins easy, so it’s easy to give a plugin a test drive and install it once you’ve determined that you don’t want it if that becomes the case.

Common Options

The other half of configuring Vim is enabling some (admittedly hidden) settings. The best way to unearth these hidden settings is to browse through others’ ~/.vimrc files. Luckily, many people have put their entire dotfiles collection on GitHub, so browsing these files to find interesting settings is relatively easy. Ben McCormick also has a page on configuring Vim, but it’s less informative than just browsing GitHub yourself.

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