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Vim, or "vi improved" is a text editor by Bram Moolenaar. It is an enhanced version of "the unix text editor," vi, which is in turn based on ed and ex.


The Linux Journal magazine in its annual Readers' Choice Award selected vim as favorite text editor four years in a row!


Editing files that use non-Unix end-of-line characters

Sometimes, you open a text file and the line formatting is all wrong and there are loads of annoying '^M' characters spread all throughout it. If you're using vim on a Mac, you are likely to encounter this problem a lot because it is caused when a Mac-formatted text file is opened in vim because vim prefers text files that are Unix-formatted. You could also run into similar problems with Windows-formatted text files. Luckily, this is an easy thing to deal with in vim.

Solution #1: Type :set fileformat unix and hit enter while in edit (not insert) mode. This should reformat the file for you and solve the problem.

Solution #2: Sometimes solution #1 doesn't work. So it is not recommended that you use it. Instead, use global search and replace to fix the files. While in edit mode, type :%s/\r/\r/g and hit enter. This will replace all Mac-formatted carriage returns with unix-formatted newlines. This seems counter-intuitive since you're telling the editor to replace carriage returns with carriage returns, but it works because of how vim interprets a carriage return command. Using the same fix to change a Windows file to a Unix file would require a different pattern, like this: :%s/^M//g (be sure to use ctrl-M when typing the ^M in the pattern, don't type a '^' character followed by a 'M' character).

If typing that pattern in every time you need it seems a bit much, just map it to a key command. For example, put the following lines in your .vimrc file in your home directory:

nnoremap M :%s/\r/\r/g <CR>
vnoremap M :%s/\r/\r/g <CR>
nnoremap W :%s/^M//g <CR> # Remember to type the ^M with ctrl-M and not with '^' followed by 'M'
vnoremap W :%s/^M//g <CR> 

Now the command to convert Mac text files into Unix text files is mapped to the uppercase 'M' in edit mode, so you can just type that command the instant you load the file and see that it's broken. Similarly, the command to convert Windows text files to Unix files is mapped to the uppercase 'W'. Additionally, if you use the commands while you have selected text in the file, the changes will only occur to that portion of the file that you have selected.

If you want to better understand these commands, use vim's built-in help with these commands:

:help mapping
:help substitute
:help pattern

Using text files as a proto-Wiki

Have you ever tried the gf command? It parses whatever word is under the cursor and tries to open that file in a new buffer. You don't need to use WikiCase for jump words, but it might be helpful. (On *nixes this operation will be case sensitive, I'm guessing on Windows it would be case insensitive.)

By way of example, this allows one to have a "todo" file containing text like projects/foo - Foo, the generic project. If you have your cursor over projects/foo and hit gf in command mode, the foo file in the projects directory will open in a new buffer. To navigate the jump history, use Tab or Ctrl-I to go forward and Ctrl-O to move backwards. Your todo file can now link to related files without any actual link markup! Maximum laziness. Of course, you don't need to organize them in subdirectories, either.

Since vim 6.x can also open directory listings, if you have a bunch of files in the projects directory and wish to link to a list of them, just use projects/!

For further wiki-like behavior, add this mapping to your .vimrc: (See the vim help on gf)

:map gf :e <cfile><CR>

Now if you gf on a word that doesn't have a file yet, vim will create a buffer that will save to that file name - just like a wiki, essentially.

See Also

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