Monday, April 24, 2006

 

Learn these advanced vim features

By Vincent Danen, TechRepublic
10 Apr 2006


One extremely convenient feature of vim is its ability to fold text. With this feature, you can make parts of a text file disappear, without actually removing it.

Think of it as getting unimportant stuff out of the way--a real boon for developers who want to make functions disappear that aren't important to what's being worked on at the moment.

In order to fold a section of text, place the cursor on the line to start the fold and press V when you're in command mode (not in insert mode). Move the cursor to highlight the selection of text you wish to fold. Once everything is highlighted, type zf in command mode, and the text will disappear and be replaced by text like the following:
+-- 16 lines: function print_help()----------------------------------

To expand the fold, type zo or use the right arrow key with the cursor on the folded line. The summary line will be replaced with the hidden text. To re-close the text, type zc anywhere within the fold; vim remembers the settings for the fold and will fold it appropriately.

Another neat feature here is that if you make changes to the fold and add or remove text, vim still remembers the start and end markers and will fold it accordingly. For example, if the original fold was 16 lines and you added four lines, vim will fold all 20 lines, provided the added lines were within the previously defined fold.

To get more help on vim's folding features, type :help folding.

Another quick tip on vim is its abbreviation feature. With it, you can create abbreviations for text. By typing this in command mode:
:abbr ap Apache Web Server

Anytime that you type ap[space] in your document, it will automatically expand to the "Apache Web Server". This is a useful way of automatically correcting often misspelled words, for example, :abbr hte the and so forth.

If you need to sort a block of text in vim, you can easily do so by highlighting the text to sort (pressing [V] in command mode and moving the cursor to select the text) and, when all the text to sort is highlighted, typing !sort. You can do all kinds of nifty things here because vim is using the external program "sort" as a filter, so to do a reverse sort you would use !sort -r instead. You can use any text-filtering or transformation program here that you like.

vim has more features than you can shake a stick at; these are just a few samplings of how versatile vim really is.

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