Around our office, everything happens in BBEdit: from invoicing to site design, if it has to be done, it goes through BBEdit and AppleScript at some point or another. Our clients are usually set up with a shiny TextWrangler installation or given pointers as to why TextEdit is Not That Bad. Today however, I undertook the ultimate challenge: learning Vim.
Why Vim? I honestly don’t know and far from me the thought of starting on the Text Editor debate again. When I picked BBEdit, I really had no idea what I was doing: I was twelve and receiving CDs that came with the only French Mac magazine of the time. Yet, even after discovering the Internet and the other options that went with it, I never regretted my choice - and yes, I did look at a lot of applications, for a long time, before settling back. So I went the same way with Vi: I love tarsiers, I trust Tim O’Reilly in his choice and well, I find the name cute.
To me, Vi is not about learning a text editor, it is about tackling my biggest fear. Vi is the application I did not know how to quit for years. Vi is the application I always dreamt of using. So today, I am getting on the Vi board, learning my first commands - this entry was, in fact, typed in Vim, Mac OS X’s on board Vi replacement. Think of it as a personal challenge more than anything: the day these pages of blue tildes and “:wq” commands will no longer scare me, I know I will have reached my ultimate goal in computing - look forward for an exciting new career path in 31.4116 minute meals education.
BBEdit is safe and sound and I am not planning on replacing it. In any case, BBEdit and Vi - much like BBEdit and TextMate - have different core competencies and it would be silly to compare them. In fact, both can work hand in hand in different contexts and, from what I see, getting comfortable with Vi would allow me to make the most out of any text editor.
Philosophy aside, I am yearning to see how the “old tools” can work today. Is learning Vi and Mutt still reasonable in a world of BBEdits and Mailsmiths, SubEthaEdit and Kiwis? Would it still bring something exciting to our workflow? Any research on the topic would drive anyone nuts: yes say the long time UNIX users - who are, by nature, very comfortable in the Terminal world -, no yell the new Linux users for whom Gnome and KDE are the way of the future. In the communication business, our office is quite the alien with its AppleScripts and blue icons. Many of my colleagues have heavy .Net infrastructures and big database servers for their billing. Others are running Ubuntu on eBay hardware. Others still have no idea what a computer actually does, despite selling web sites to the unsuspecting masses. The fun thing, of course, is that, except for that last group, things work and none of us would do it any other way. In fact, these widely and wildly different approaches all seem, in their own ways, to be “just right”, despite their inherent flaws and peculiarities.
So, can a workflow be yanked back, streamlined to the extreme? Does it make sense? Or are we best served by the bubbling mess each of us created for himself over time? Could one run a business on some bare bones OpenBSD install?
I shall keep you posted, dear readers. In the meantime, whether you use Vi or Emacs, BBEdit or TextMate, SubEthaEdit or Notepad - let’s not forget our Windows friends -, I would be delighted to hear your constructive thoughts.