My Text Editor Of Choice

Day 11 of the #100DaysToOffload Series:

Text editors are a funny thing. Something so simple can inspire such loyalty and even vitriol. Which editor you use can be as polarizing as talking about religion or politics at Thanksgiving dinner. So why not jump right in with both feet?

I didn’t get my first computer until around 1993. My parents thought computers were a passing fad, and a waste of money. I played with a couple when I was fortunate enough to be in a store that had one, or at a friends house if they owned one, but never had one of my own. That’s why up until around 1993, I don’t have an editor of choice.

In 1993 I bought my first computer. It ran Windows 3.1, so naturally I gravitated towards “edit” at the DOS prompt. I honestly can’t remember why. Probably because sometimes I had to deal with system stuff and edit files without the benefit of a GUI, so I picked the best possible option. I rarely, if ever, used Notepad for anything significant.

When I went to college, first years CS students all got accounts on the local VAX/VMS system, and we were expected to use it to code. To edit that code, we all pretty much used the EVE editor. I don’t really remember much about the EVE editor to be honest. It was what we used, and that’s why we used it.

After the first year, we moved over to a Digital Unix server, and we vastly broadened our horizons from there. We were given a choice in our editors, and the server had a selection. There was vi, emacs, pico, and nano. Probably some others, but I settled on emacs.

Here’s where things get super dicey. I used emacs for a while, but it was slow and felt clunky. I didn’t like it much, so I switched over to nano or pico. I think it was pico, but it might have been nano. Neither one left much of an impression.

In the infamous Y2K I got a job working for a financial company, and all our servers ran Linux. It was the start of something beautiful. Not only did I start using Linux daily, I taught myself to shell script in my spare time. The guy that helped me out when I had questions suggested I give vim a try instead of pico/nano/whatever. So I did, and I’ve never looked back.

To this day, vim is my default editor. Even when I have to use Windows, I install the Windows version. It’s always there. It’s a coin flip whether emacs will be installed on a Linux machine by default, but vim is always there.