Category Archives: tools

cool vim tips and tricks you might not know

Vim has tons of awesome shortcuts and features you pick up over time. Some of those I don’t use every day so I have to write them down so I can look them back up when I can’t remember exactly how it works. Instead of keeping them locked away in a text file, I’ll throw them online here and spread the Vim love. None of these need any special plugins. They should all work right out of the box with plain old Vim.

If you want to know more about a specific command listed here, use the Vim :help command to find out more. There are usually more options and possibilities for each of these commands and the Vim documentation is excellent.

Here we go!

When you are on the command line using a console application and you want to edit the output in Vim right away, or open that long list of possible command line switches in Vim for reference, this one will come in handy.
I’m using GVim here because since that opens in a separate window from your shell, this is the most useful.

ls *.txt | gvim -
docker -h | gvim -
git --help | gvim -

This one is for opening a ton of files in a single Vim instance from Powershell, in different tabs. This means you are running this from a Powershell console of course.

gvim -p (ls *.ps1)

For more Vim command line options run this in your favorite shell environment:

vim -h
gvim -h

How about opening a remote file, or fetch HTML from a page over HTTP using Vim:

:e https://n3wjack.net/

When you work with log files a lot, being able to delete lines containing or not containing a specific word can be just what you need.
These two commands are perfect to filter out obsolete exceptions and figure out what is causing that nasty production issue:

:g/DeleteAll/d
:v/DeleteAllButThis/d

Did you know that Vim has a spell checker? I didn’t know that at the beginning (try :h spell for more details).
To activate/deactivate:

:set (no)spell

To jump to the next / previous misspelled word:

]s
[s

To get a list of spelling suggestions (or use the mouse in GVim, which is quite practical):

z=

You can add a simple XML-tidy shortcut to your .vimrc file by adding the following command.
What it does is setting the file type to XML, removes spaces between opening & closing brackets, add a return character in-between the opening & closing brackets and finally formats the document so it looks all nice and indented.

nmap <leader>ppx <Esc>:set filetype=xml<CR>:%s/> *</></g<CR>:%s/></>\r</g<CR><ESC>gg=G<Esc>:noh<CR>

You can force syntax highlighting in Vim as follows for e.g. HTML, XML and Markdown.
Of course this works for a ton of other file types as well, as long as you can figure out what the extension/file type key is. But that’s pretty easy in most cases.

:set syntax=html
:set syntax=xml
:set syntax=md

I add shortcuts for any files I frequently edit by using the leader key and a letter combination that’s easy to remember.
For example this one to edit my custom .vimrc file when I press the leader key followed by “e” and “v” (edit vimrc).

nnoremap <Leader>ev :tabe ~\vimfiles\nj-vimrc.vim<CR>

That’s about it. For more nice Vim tips check out more Vim posts. Another good resource for bite sized Vim tips is the MasteringVim on twitter and it’s newsletter.

make vim awesome with plugins

.vimrc

Vim is a great lightweight editor as it is. But after setting it all up on your windows box and tweaking your _vimrc it still might lack that bit of awesome you’re looking for in a modern text editor.

Time to spice things up with plugins!

Vim plugins are written in viml or vimscript, an internal script language in the vim editor, and are plain .vim files containing scripting code which extend vim in all sorts of wonderful ways. There are tons of vim scripts out there so finding the right ones for your needs takes a bit of time. There are however some helpful guides out there and blog posts like this one to help you on your way. I’ll list some of those and links to more plugins at the end.

Installing those scripts and plugins can be tedious though. Download a zip, unpack, copy files, yada-yada-yada. Since we’re into package managers these days we want things to go automatically with a few keystrokes.

Enter Vundle.

You’ve probably guessed by now this is a vim plugin manager (and a plugin by itself). It allows you to install, update and search for available vim scripts among other things. I like this one in particular because it does this all from vim itself with a number of specific commands.
To get started you’ll have to install this one manually though, but it only takes a few command line statements and some .vimrc edits. Once you have this up and running, you’ll be able to install most plugins using it so it’s worth the hassle.

Check out the info on the Vundle github page on how to install and then come back here. ;)

Alright. Now, what plugins should we get?
Well it depends on what you want to do of course, but here are some general purpose ones you might like.

vim-airline

A pretty looking status bar you’ll see in a lot of vim screenshots. It’s tweakable so you choose what kind of info you want it to show.

vim airline status bar plugin

ervandew/supertab

Adds tab completion to vim using the tab-key. That might sound odd but the default use a bunch of control keys so this just comes more “natural”.

The-NERD-tree

This is a directory browsing plugin which is just better than Netrw which comes out of the box. Visually you can fold/unfold folders, search (use any vim command in the window), manipulate files etc. Very handy to keep track of a project when programming or just see what other files are in a folder without having to exit vim.

vim nerdtree plugin

CtrlP

A fuzzy file search plugin. Press Ctrl-P and you’ll get list at the bottom of files in your current directory. Type in some characters of the filename you are looking for and it will filter the files matching those characters. So you don’t need to know the full name, and you can skip parts. Check out this video to get an idea of how it works.

One note on this. If you have a folder with a lot of files in the sub-folder tree (like a C# application with build files in the sub-folder) be sure to exclude any non relevant types like object & dll files. CtrlP has a maximum file limit and those irrelevant files can stop you from finding those you actually want to see.

In my _vimrc I use this to exclude the .NET build artifacts and some more irrelevant file types:

set wildignore+=*\\obj\\*,*\\bin\\*,*.swp,*.zip,*.exe,*.dll

vim-fontzoom

vim-fontzoom is a simple plugin that allows you to increase or decrease your vim font size using the plus or minus key when you are in command mode. Note that this doesn’t work with the +/- on your numeric pad, just with the regular keys on your keyboard. But you can remap the keys if you want to change this.

chriskempson/base16-vim themes

Not really a functional plugin but hey, you want your editor to look pretty right? I’ve tried a ton of themes already but lately I’m sticking with the chriskempson/base16-vim set. In this package you get a bunch of nicely crafted and balanced color themes which will definitely have something you like. Dark and light themes, monokai, solarized and other classics, it has it all. The last theme plugin you’ll ever need.

Moar!

Depending on you workload there are plenty of more specific plugins out there. Google is your friend, but here’s a few places to get started:

  • The easiest to use and most awesome Vim plugin directory is called VimAwesome. Great to find new plugins, or great to find old ones and how to install them. Each plugin lists how to install it with Vundle or another plugin manager, which is super handy.
  • The 15 best vim plugins according to Steve Francia who made a vim distro called The Ultimate Vim Distribution, so I guess he knows what he’s talking about. :)

 

indent selected lines with tab in vim

.vimrcOne thing that annoyed me about using Vim was how much keystrokes it took to indent or un-indent a few selected lines of code. My (probably less than ideal) way of doing that was to go into visual mode, select the lines with the movement keys J or K, then use the keys to change the indenting which are < or >.
To indent another level, pressing dot after this would work.

In Visual Studio or a typical Windows text editor I’m used to simply selecting the lines by holding shift & moving the cursor keys up or down, then pressing TAB to indent and shift-TAB to un-indent.

I’m so used to using the cursor keys for text manipulation that it’s hard to unlearn this, so I was looking for key mappings to do the same thing in Vim.
Luckily this turned out to be rather easy. If you add the following to your vimrc file, you can shift-tab away to indent your code:

" TAB-mappings to allow indenting of selected text instead of using < & >
vnoremap <Tab> >
vnoremap <S-Tab> <

chocolatey package update quick reference

gingerbread2011_18

Chocolatey rocks when it comes to updating a bunch of installed software from the command line. If you’re not doing that often however it can be hard to remember exactly what commands you can use to do that quickly. So here’s a little run-down on the most helpful commands when you are updating your system.

First you might want to check what’s installed on your machine.
You can get the list of the local package Chocolatey installed like this:

choco list -localonly

or for short:

clist -localonly

To check if any package have updates available chocolatey now has the outdated command:

choco outdated

Ready to update all packages at once? Nice. So let’s disable those confirmation prompts while we’re at it too by adding the -y switch.

choco upgrade all -y

or

cup all -y

If you want to upgrade individual packages you can specify them by listing them after the upgrade command:

choco upgrade conemu irfanview vlc vim -y

Edited 26th February 2017 : replaced deprecated update command with the new Chocolatey 1.0 upgrade command.
Edited 1st April 2018: include the outdated command instead of using  update all -whatif.

Photo by elidr, cc-licensed.

the ultimate android space clearing guide

If you’re running into that annoying problem where you can’t install yet another awesome app on your Android phone because you are running out of space, here’s the ultimate guide to freeing up app space *dramatic music*

1. Clean up app cache

Bansky street cleaner - Chalk Farm

Your phone stores apps on its internal memory card (not RAM, but the disk) including some temporary data for each app. That cached data is the first thing you can go and remove to free up space. Depending on the app, this can be quite some data. Think apps that download resources like video or images, create thumbnails etc.

You can do this manually with the internal app settings screens and go over each app individually. I bet you have better things to do though. Instead you can install ES Task Manager, which has a cache cleaner built-in and does the job for you. Sweet. There are plenty of alternative cache cleaning tools available if you don’t like the ES one.

2. Move apps to the external memory card

Still not enough space? Damn. To free up space on the internal memory card, you can also move some apps to the external card. If you have that option, you can use the application tools to move apps individually. Not all apps support this and it usually doesn’t free up all the space either. There’s always some core files that stay on the internal drive, so don’t expect any miracles. The best way to go about it, is to sort the apps by size and try to move the biggest ones first. But if that doesn’t do the trick you might want to…

3. Uninstall some apps

Yep. Makes sense doesn’t it. The bigger the better too. It sucks, but there’s probably some stuff in there you haven’t used in months. Time to say goodbye and press the delete button. Aah, instant free space.

4. When all else fails.

Still not working? I had that. My internal memory was showing 250MB of free space and I couldn’t get a 40MB app like Chrome to update anymore. Same thing with any other app around that size. They all failed to update.
It doesn’t make sense when you look at the numbers, but my guess is that it’s like with a fragmented disk drive on a PC. At some point there isn’t a large enough open space to fit the update file in one piece. Or that 250MB of free space isn’t just for apps. I’m not sure. But what I am sure is that resetting the phone wipes the internal disk space, and frees everything up again.

Photo by Dan Brady, cc-licensed.

configuring vim: tweaking your _vimrc file

.vimrc

In my earlier post on setting up Vim on Windows I already talked about a few vimrc changes to make vim behave on windows and look a bit better.
I learned that checking out other people’s vimrc files is a great way to learn how you can configure vim to become the kick-ass text editor you always wanted. In this post I’m going to run over the settings I have in my _vimrc file to make vim work better for me. Feel free to copy bits your find useful.
If you don’t know what that vimrc file is, or how to edit it, check out my previous post on how to set things up.

I tend to document my vimrc changes with some comments. That way I still know what I was trying to do months later and or what lines can be removed when a wicked plugin makes them obsolete. Most of it is self-explanatory, so I’ll just paste them right here.

First some system settings.

" Activate all the handy Windows key-bindings we're used to.
source $VIMRUNTIME/mswin.vim

" Have gvim behave properly on Windows.
behave mswin

" Use unicode/utf-8 encoding by default for keyboard, display and files.
set encoding=utf-8

" Set a more convenient leader key on an AZERTY layout than the default backslash
let mapleader = ","

Now let’s make things prettier.
First of all, we need to set a nicer fixed-width font, Consolas in this case. Then I hide the toolbar which I never use. Then, of course, a nice theme.

if has("gui_running")
  " Set a nicer font.
  set guifont=Consolas:h11:cDEFAULT
  " Hide the toolbar.
  set guioptions-=T
endif

" Set theme.
color badwolf

Then a number of visual things to make programming, editing and searching text easier.

" Display line and column number in bottom ruler.
set ruler
" Display the line numbers.
set number
" Turn sounds off.
set visualbell
" Shows a horizontal highlight on the line with the cursor.
set cursorline

" Activate highlighting search pattern matches & incremental search.
" Incremental search means your cursor will jump to the first match as you
" type.
set hlsearch
set incsearch
" Allow using  to kill the current search highlighting.
nnoremap   :nohlsearch

" Activate case-insensitive & smart case search (if a capital letter is used
" in your search query, Vim will search case-sensitive).
set ignorecase 
set smartcase

" Set wildchar visual completion awesomeness.
" This is enhanced command line completion and it rocks.
set wildmenu 
set wildmode=full

" Turning on line wrapping and line-break for easy text-file editing.
" Line-break wraps full words at the end of a sentence for readability.
set wrap
set linebreak

Programming settings. Who would have thought!
Tweak tab settings according to your religious preference of course. I can’t say I have used the folding a lot, but these settings come from another .vimrc somewhere and they seem sensible.

" Activate syntax highlighting.
syntax enable

" Set tabs to 4 characters and expand to spaces, activate smart indentation.
" See tabstop help for more info.
" Setting tabstop & softtabstop to the same value to avoid messy layout with mixed tabs & spaces.
set tabstop=4
set shiftwidth=4
set softtabstop=4
set expandtab
set smartindent

" Enabled folding on indent level. That way it works on any code & html, xml
" etc. 
" Setting foldlevelstart ensures that for newly opened files folds are open
" unless they are 10 levels deep.
set foldmethod=indent
set foldenable
set foldlevelstart=10
set foldnestmax=10      " no more than 10 fold levels please

At the end of my vimrc I add my custom tweaks. They might not be useful for everybody, but they work well for me.

First, some syntax highlighting for file types vim doesn’t know about by default for .NET development.

" Set syntax highlighting for some .NET file types as XML files, cause that's what they are really.
autocmd BufNewFile,BufReadPost *.config set filetype=xml
autocmd BufNewFile,BufReadPost *.csproj set filetype=xml
autocmd BufNewFile,BufReadPost *.sln set filetype=xml

Then, some key mappings to access plugin features or plain vim commands quicker.

" Add a mapping to open a new tab with CTRL-T.
map  :tabe 
" F11 toggles menu visibility
nnoremap  :if &go=~#'m'set go-=melseset go+=mendif

" cd sets path to the path of the file in the current buffer.
nnoremap cd :cd %:p:h
" Open the NERDTree on the path of the file in the current buffer.
nnoremap t :NERDTree %:p:h

That’s about it. I hope this helps getting your own .vimrc set up the way you want it to. I’m not a vim expert so there are probably better ways to do some of these things. I you know how, feel free to let me know in the comments. I’m eager to learn some nice vim hacks.

As I said before, don’t just copy paste stuff in your vimrc you don’t understand. Take a look at the vim help first. Also check out other people’s vimrc and see how they do things. There are plenty of good blog posts around on the subject and a github search turns up some good stuff too.