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on October 10, 2012
In the past couple of years, you couldn't really get far with learning Vim without eventually bumping into--and going back to--VimCasts. And now the author of the popular screencast series took this experience of teaching people and materialized it in a book far more comprehensible than a collection of bite-sized videos could ever be. With a copy of Practival Vim handy, I now reach for it as a reference instead of returning to VimCasts or searching the Web.

For some, Vim is this daunting program that seems almost impenetrable. Practical Vim completely disarms this mantra by taking a lighthearted approach that makes Vim seem completely unlike that hard, unfriendly editor we once considered it to be. Even if this was the single takeaway from this book--and Practical Vim holds much more--it would be so worth it.
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on October 10, 2012
Vim has such enthusiastic users that you would expect there to be many excellent books about it, but previous books on Vim are frankly mediocre. Luckily, Practical Vim more than makes up for the problem. Saying that it's far and away the best Vim book available is true, but (unfortunately) faint praise. This is one of the best technical books I've ever read: comprehensive but never dry. It's a must-own if you are a serious Vim user.

The book is aimed primarily at intermediate Vim users, and it does a oustanding job leading such users to Vim mastery. (You could use Practical Vim as a way to learn Vim, but it would require a lot of effort initially.) Practical Vim is made up of 121 tips, and the material is divided into six large sections.

* Section I - Modes
Detailed coverage of Vim's normal, insert, visual and command-line modes

* Section II - Files
Managing multiple files at once and opening and saving files

* Section III - Getting Around Faster
Navigating more quickly within files as well as between files

* Section IV - Registers
Copy/paste registers and macros

* Section V - Patterns
Everything you ever wanted to know about Vim's (many) pattern-matching flavors as well as how to use patterns for searching and replacing text; also discusses the :global command

* Section VI - Tools
Covers various external tools (ctags, grep, ack, make, linters) that go nicely with Vim as well as internal tools like Vim's spellchecker.

I was sceptical of the tip-style at first, but it makes the book much easier to dip into as needed or wanted. It also helps to break down the material (which can get dense) into more manageable chunks, even if you read it from cover to cover.
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on October 11, 2012
At the end of the day all text editors serve the following core purposes. They allow you to:

* generate text
* remove text
* navigate through text
* spot-edit text

for this Notepad, emacs, Textmate all suffice. But a *great* editor, in the hands of a master allows you to perform these tasks as efficiently as possible.

Lastly, *great* editors excel in one more criterion:

* it allows you to extend itself with complex, arbitrary collections of the above operations easily

Consider "generate text:" while one *could* type in a word character by character, a vim wizard notes that the line was entered previously and uses autocomplete-line to summon a long line of text back with two keystrokes (tip 115).

Consider "navigate through text:" again, one *could* navigate an editor by arrow keys or some key combination but Vim lets you move by word, WORD (Neil explains what a WORD is), sentence, or paragraph (tips 48-53). If you move by one character more than twice, you're probably missing something.

Consider "spot edit text:" If you need to add titles to several paragraphs and then paste them at the top of your document (say, copying chapter headers from the document and pasting them at the top to make a table of contents), one *could* make the title addition, copy header, scroll up, paste it in a table of contents, scroll back down to next header, rinse-wash-repeat OR, scroll through the document, store the titles and then hop to the top and unload the copies titles all at once, rapid-rapid fire (tips 60, 62).

It is thinking like this that makes watching a bad Vim user (or any other non-wizard editor) such a frustrating experience for Vim pros (which you will be after you grok this book). It is by this change in your neural design that you will grow to hate any text editing experience that isn't vim.

This book helps you see opportunities to think about text editing differently. The sections "The Vim Way" and "Normal Mode" - brilliantly set at the beginning of the book - help you find the Buddhic heart of the tool: to see its nature. Thereafter all the "tricks," while handy, when approached from this philosophical point of view go from "neat command" to "this will save so much time / typing"

As I read this book I kept notes of a series of "need to use this more!" lines that I ultimately printed out and hung on the wall. When I started on an anti-pattern, I would look at this list (or re-open the book) and find the Practical Vim way, change my habit, and become even more fearsome to visually arrays of text on screens.

The book shines also when it approaches some of the more confusing / incredibly powerful aspects of the vim editor: this is the first explanation of vim's regular expression engine that made sense to me. The coverage on macros, macro editing, and "recursive macros" will have you refactoring and updating your code in ways hitherto unimaginable (bufdo, you scare me with your power).

Just as many never learn to touch type and proclaim "I don't really need to learn that I'm pretty fast as is." They simply do not know what touch-typists know: the ability to look over your shoulder and keep typing is what links thought to on-screen change. In the same way, many think their editor is good enough or their standard use of it is good enough, but after Practical Vim, your changes are linked to the speed of your thinking about them. It's the same refreshing bolt of air one gets when you finally learn to touch type well or ride a bicycle.

You should never cheap out on your bed: you're going to spend one-third of your life there, make it great. You shouldn't cheap out on your workspace either: amortized a great office chair and laptop are cheap and provide a quality experience every day that you will be thankful for, even if only at a subconscious level. DO NOT WASTE YOUR LIFE editing text inefficiently. All those words are designed to do something else: create a great app, convey a point, tell a story, etc. The more time you spend turning thought into text that reaches your purpose, the more you accomplish, the richer a life you lead, the more likely you are to reach someone else and change their life.

Vim's nature is to change much with little effort. This book is your guide in learning to stop fighting its current and learning to let it carry you further and faster than you imagined possible.
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on November 6, 2012
I learned on my own. After about 6 months, I realized I had stagnated in my use. I bought this book to fill in the gaps, to code faster, and to know what was possible with vim. Turns out, damn near everything is possible in vim, and faster than you usually do it. It also has a curated list of plugins you should use (most by Tim Pope, vim god).

It's the way for those who learned vim informally, to become one a ridiculous edit-at-the-speed-of-thought neckbeards.

Plus, his videos are great. Soothing Irish voice.
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on October 9, 2012
I thought I was pretty proficient at using vim, but that assumption was completely shattered within a few chapters into the book. Drew Neil, of Vimcasts fame manages to present the dustier corners of Vim in an extremely practical way, complete with real world examples.

If I could give this book 6 stars, I would. If you are interested in becoming more proficient in Vim or are obsessed with Vim, you definitely owe it to yourself to get this book, satisfaction guaranteed.
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on February 19, 2013
I got curious about Vim after watching a video tutorial on the Zencoding plugin, so I decided to get Arnold Robbins' "Learning the vi and Vim Editors". I think the first chapters of Robbins' book is a good introduction to the editor, and the book is overall a great source of information on the history and the different flavors of vi, but I was still struggling to use as my main editor.

That was when I heard about this book. Reading it made me fall in love with Vim! I now use Vim not because I "need" it, but because it can be such a pleasant editor. It has become my editor of choice even (and specially) on tablets and smartphones.

The author does a great job by taking you through examples and teaching the philosophy (the "Vim way") behind the operators and motions. For future editions, I would suggest adding an appendix with a short overview of the commands, organizing them by tip.

For anyone still learning, I suggesting the digital version for its hyperlinks on the documentation - or, even better, read it in front of a terminal to practice.
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on November 15, 2014
After having used Emacs as my primary editor -- indeed as my primary shell -- for forty years, I felt that it's high time I learned more about the vi family of editors than the scant few commands I had learned in order to do minor editing tasks (or, more important: to get out of vi when I'd really rather have been in Emacs). I was motivated to make this change by several factors: (1) while Emacs isn't always available on the Unix-/Linux-like platforms where I do the bulk of my work, vi is omnipresent, (2) although a lot of Emacs commands are in my muscle memory, I've faced the growing concern that Emacs' command language is on the verbose side, being heavy-handed (no pun intended) in its use of prefixes, modifier keys and spelled-out (even with completion) commands, (3) I've become increasingly aware that heavy use of Emacs has led me to depend upon Emacs-isms (e.g. it's interesting methods of completion) that are not available in other environments, and (4) the ever-present differences between an Emacs shell and a normal shell made for repeated mistakes and accommodations.

Over the years I've made brief attempts to learn vi, using mostly the man pages and online cheat sheets. While well-intentioned, and even entirely correct, none of these resources helped me to grok vi.

This time around, I started by looking for tutorials. I found Drew Neil's book to be appealing based upon a perusal of the sample pages available online. The reasonable price charged by the publisher, "The Pragmatic Bookshelf", was an additional inducement.

Over the years I've become jaded by technical books, particularly those dealing with less specialized topics. The formula seems to be: look for a trending software package, find an early adopter who can write, and throw together a book in a hurry. The result is invariably predictable: a book that reveals little more than freely-available documentation, often "adding value" with obscure tweaks and customizations of questionable value.

"Practical Vim" is different. Author Drew Neil is clearly an experienced Vim user. His task-oriented approach explains not only the "what" of editing with Vim, but also the "why". This is crucial information that one can't learn from a man page, a cheat sheet or a half-baked dead-tree rehash of an online manual. Kudos to Mr. Neil for taking the time and care to share his expertise in a form that actually makes sense, and for sticking mostly to the core of the program rather than relying upon blanket recommendations of a mixed bag of personalizations and add-ons in order to justify the existence of the book.

Kudos as well for the useful index and the clean layout of the book.

I don't give a lot of five-star product ratings. This book exceeded my expectations and has become an indispensable companion as I learn Vim.
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on October 28, 2012
Practical Vim: Edit text at the speed of Thought is an intermediate to advanced book on Vim published by The Pragmatic Bookshelf. This book teaches a lot of Vim skills in 121 tips. Some are easy, others advanced, but above all they teach the Vim way! Following the examples you start to approach text edit challenges differently. Even feeling comfortable with most editing tasks, there is probably a better way to do it. This book had quite a few eye-openers for me, for example the Dot Formula. The examples are based on real-life scenarios, and compare different approaches, explaining why one is better than the other. The examples are also very well illustrated with tables showing how the Buffer Content looks after one or more keystrokes.

* Mode of use
Cover-to-cover read, or as reference guide, both approaches work. Practicing the examples in Vim while reading is recommended, it helped me memorizing the keystrokes better. Apart from that, as noted here, changing 100% to Vim for all my projects and text editing has been a great help to get better.

* I learned a lot
I added quite some things to my standard repertoire: diw, df, dt, use s instead of x + i, ctrl+r to paste a register, the "+ to copy/paste to/from OS clipboard, macros, better navigation between words (w b e ge vs W B E GE), CTRL-O and CTRL-I to navigate the jumplist (across open files), nmap ,c :%s///gn in .vimrc as a shortcut for number of search hits, make power searches, better use of regex, and more ... A lot of good stuff, but I am glad with the tips structure, so I can easily go back and commit more to my muscle memory (it is all about making it a habit, see Seven habits of effective text editing).

* Other things I liked
Two more things I liked about this book: 1. Practical Vim shows you how to get by with Vim's core functionality (almost no plugins), 2. a lot of links to Vim's Built-in Documentation and external resources.

I think this book and the author's screencasts are both unmissable to become proficient in Vim.
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on October 2, 2013
I've been using vi (and later VIM) as my editor of choice since I first started programming on UNIX workstations 25 years ago. The wonderful thing about vi is that memorizing about 30 keystrokes is all you need to edit any text file in existence. The power of VIM is all the other keystrokes that make complicated tasks easy. I thought I knew a lot of those keystrokes, but wow, was I mistaken. This book covers a lot of ground, from simple keystrokes I'd never known about (like "*p to paste a highlighted selection from another X11 window) to editing across large multi-directory source code repositories effortlessly, and everything in between. It's way too much for me to digest in one sitting, or even by attempting to read it from front to back. Learning VIM-fu doesn't work that way, and the author understands that. Instead, the book is organized by major topic Parts and Chapters (like 'Search', 'Macros', 'Substitution', etc.), and those are then broken down into multiple sequentially numbered 'Tips'. The way I digest this book is by practice. When I'm editing and hit a 'how should I do this?' moment, I'll look up the appropriate tip (and almost without fail there is one) and try it out. Slowly but surely, those that I find continually useful soon become muscle memory.

As the author of this book notes right up front, VIM is only efficient if you're a touch typist. This is also not a book for teaching yourself VIM--it gets deep fast. As other reviewers rightly note, this is a book for intermediate and above VIM users who want to learn the secrets of the VIM wizards. If ":g/{/ .+1,/}/-1 sort" makes some sense to you, or you would like it to, this is your book.
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on November 4, 2012
I hesitated buying this book because I naively thought I knew everything I would need to use vim. Boy was a completely wrong! I was learning valuable information from the very first tip!

For years I never really understood the dot command. It seemed every time I used it, it would mess up my text, or not do anything. For some reason, i'm not sure why, I had it in my head that the dot command was for repeating the last command, not the last change. When I read the very first line of this first tip, "The dot command repeats the last change." I thought to myself "Ooooh really??". It instantly occurred to me how powerful this new found knowledge could be. After that revelation, I could not put the book down. Tip after tip I was learning how the pros use vim. I now keep it next to me while I am coding to see what other jewels of knowledge it contains while i'm "plugged in".

Excellent work this is.
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