From Vim to Emacs and back again

This is the story of how I moved from Vim to Emacs and then back again. It’s a story of modes, plugins, stock configs, mobile devices and eBooks.

Why switch to Emacs?

My initial interest for Emacs was triggered by a blog post about org-mode. Org mode looked like the plain text productivity solution I had been looking for for a long time. Apart from everything being plain text based, the functionality offered covered most of my bases. Not only is it a terrific outliner, it’s also a very good todo list, note taking app and publishing solution. For my blog I was using pelican and for my Android app I was generating separate versions of the documentation (one for on the web, one for in app). The switch to emacs with org mode allowed me to have one set of master files in org format, which where then org-publish{.sourceCode}-ed to the different target formats.

This approach served me quite well. There were some lingering doubts though.

  1. Publishig to my blog was not as frictionless as it used to be with pelican.
  2. I liked the reStructuredText format better, which is simple when possible and allows advanced use when needed.
  3. I missed Vim’s modal editing. Emacs evil doesn’t seem to be a good replacement for me. It mixes two paradigms, which I find very confusing.
  4. Vim works better on my Android tablet and phones. The port is more stable than the Emacs one. And Vim’s modal nature makes it easier to use with limited keyboards.

What were my problems with Vim?

My problems with Vim were two fold.

  1. No org-mode. I really love org-mode.
  2. Too many plugins: In order to replicate Sublime Text and Emacs features, the number of plugins I used increased. This makes it difficult to drag my Vim config around to places which don’t have git (such as my phone or tablet).

How I switched back

I decided to try to fix both shortcomings. Even though Vim doesn’t have org-mode I already have a great task manager in Simpletask. And notes can easily be kept in .rst files.

The second point was a bigger deal, but after re-reading Practical Vim it finally clicked. I was trying to mold Vim into something it wasn’t (a SublimeText clone). Since then I have gone cold turkey on the plugins and I am quite happy with it, even though it does take some getting used to.

The fact that VimL is not a language I enjoy using is unchanged, but because I only use Vim now to edit text, that’s less of an issue.