thoughtbot is filled with vim and vigor

Slowly over the past year thoughtbot has turned from an all-TextMate (and one Emacs) group into a mostly-vim group. Here are some tips, tricks, and scripts we’ve mastered along the way:

From Mike Burns

I’ve been a vim user for six years, and brought the vim fever to thoughtbot. I tend to rely more on the built-in commands than on scripts and plugins. My favorite commands start with f and t (think first and ‘till - see :help f or :help t):

Finding characters with f and t rocks. For example, if you’re at the beginning of:

{:foo => 1, :bar => 3, :baz => 8, :barney => -1}

And you want to put a newline after the comma, you can do:


To jump to the next comma and repeat the prior action you can do:


This is because ; repeats the prior f or t, and . repeats the prior modification.

If you have to do this a lot in a row, you could make a macro from it:


This sets the macro named ’a‘ as: go to the beginning of the line, find the first comma, and append a newline after it. You can then repeat this macro with @a and repeat that macro (the one you just did) with @@.

You can also use t and f as a motion for, say, c and d. Like if you’re at the beginning of:


And you need to change the image source to /images/giant_french_spider.jpg. It goes like this:

2f/ ct"giant_french_spider.jpg<ESC>

The 2 in front of f finds the second /; the space immediately after moves to the next character (could also use l (lowercase L) instead). Then change the text up to (but not including) the doublequote with ct"; type the text and hit escape to get back to command mode.

From Jason Morrison

Three of my favorite things in Vim are the rails.vim plugin, the ack.vim plugin, and visual block mode.

The rails.vim plugin does an excellent job of syntax highlighting, navigating from one file to another (type :help :RT for a description of how to quickly jump between e.g. models and tests or a controller action and its view), and a slew of other things.

The Ack plugin for Vim nicely integrates Ack search results into a new buffer.

Finally, visual block mode, a killer feature available in several editors, comes in handy when changing swaths of similar code. Let’s say you start with this:

  :first_name    => (primary_contact && primary_contact.first_name),
  :last_name     => (primary_contact && primary_contact.last_name),
  :organization  => (primary_contact &&

and then you:

  • Place the cursor after the first primary_contact
  • Type control-v to enter visual block mode
  • Type f. to move onto the first period
  • Type jj to move down twice
  • Type c to change the highlighted text
  • Type an underscore, and hit escape to apply the change to all selected lines.

then you end up with:

  :first_name    => (primary_contact_first_name),
  :last_name     => (primary_contact_last_name),
  :organization  => (primary_contact_company)

Often this can be done with a search/replace, but this is the technique I usually favor due to its brevity.

From Chad Pytel

vim was my first programming text editor, and its been fun to come back to it after all this time. It fits like an old glove.

I haven’t gotten used to visual editing mode yet, so I tend to use line numbers to quickly do things. for example, to move lines 40 through 50 to line 30, you can do:


Many of the commands you’d use with visual mode, work with line numbers too, for example:


From Jon Yurek

Getting around in vim is way quicker than just holding down the arrow keys. If you’re checking a bit of code and moving between it and somewhere else, you should set a mark. <letter> sets a mark, which you can jump to with '<letter>. Likewise, jumping to a specific line is as simple as :<line-number>. Got a failing test on line 146? :146 and you’re there. So you can set a mark for the line you’re on with ma, jump to line 20 with :20, fix your typo, then jump back with 'a, and you don’t have to remember exactly what line you’re on.

Thing is, when you do that, you may find your cursor is at the bottom of the screen, making further code hard to read. Fix that with z., which will zip the line the cursor is on to the middle of the window. You can also snap it to the top (z<ENTER>) or bottom (z-) just as easily.

When you cut a line with d (or yank it with y), the text you paste goes into a register. You can control the register it goes into by hitting "<letter> first. For example, "gyy will copy the current line into the g buffer. You can paste this text back by specifying the register before your p command: "gp.

From Dan Croak

I’m a casual vim user, mostly when pairing with Joe. My favorite commands are basic, but nice:


Say I’m in app/models/user.rb. This opens the Alternate file (unit test) in a Vertical window split next to the model.


From Tim Pope’s rails.vim:. When I put my cursor over a piece of text and type gf in a Rails app, I go to the file I’d expect. It works for partials, requires, and more.

My configuration comes directly from thoughtbot/dotfiles.