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Easier (and Free) Keyboard Shortcuts with VsVim

A reader responded to an earlier tip on Visual Studio keyboard shortcuts by recommending VsVim, by Jared Parker. If the idea of never taking your fingers off the home row of your keyboard again, never having to use a menu, and never, ever reaching for the mouse sounds like heaven to you, then Jared's right: you should be looking at VsVim.

If using the letter d to delete, using uppercase D to delete to end of line, and using dd to delete a whole line is something you'll remember, then you're probably a veteran Unix programmer. In that case, you'll find the Visual Studio focus on WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointer), well, wimpy. VsVim will put you back in control.

If you're as old as me, you remember vi as the world's most powerful keyboard editor -- the populariser (if not the inventor) of the Ctrl-Alt-Shift-meta-Coke-Bottle keyboard shortcut combination. You could do anything with vi if you knew the right keyboard combination. I've never been a keyboard-oriented person, but even I grew to have a nagging affection for the power of vi's keystroke combinations -- and my co-workers who were keyboard oriented loved what they could do with vi without taking their hands off the home row keyboard.

Vi gave birth to vim (vi iMproved), which added mouse support and even more editing commands. Now there's VsVim, which delivers vim functionality as a Visual Studio add-in. You can get VsVim from the Visual Studio Gallery site, or through Extension Manager from within Visual Studio.

It's an excellent package: reliable, quick, and it doesn't seem to fight with other add-ins (I used it with ReSharper installed, for instance). It's not overbearing in re-assigning your keys, so while you'll pick up lots of new keyboard commands, you shouldn't lose any of the ones you're used to. From the time I spent playing with it, it looks like a great tool for the keyboard oriented (and a free one).

However, VsVim is also a single-developer project and you might be more comfortable with a product that has a whole company behind it. If so, you should check out ViEmu. ViEmu adds more vi-related features and also works in Outlook and SQL Server (but costs actual money).

Posted by Peter Vogel on 09/25/2012 at 1:16 PM


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