Don't Overuse hjkl in Vim

Don't Overuse hjkl in Vim

hjkl is a remarkable improvement over arrow keys, since they keep your fingers in the home row. However, overusing them could be another hindrance to an efficient use of Vim, for they only move by a character at a time, whereas Vim provides many efficient motions that allows you to move faster.

Go to a line

If you find yourself pressing jjjj or kkkk all the time, then you probably should check out <line>gg (e.g. go to the 12nd line with 12gg).

<line>G is equivalent to <line>gg, but I find it much easier to press g twice than holding the shift key.

Word-based motions

Instead of holding h or l, you can use w and b; w moves forward to the start of next word, and b moves backward. There is another similar command e that moves forward to end of next word.

If there are too many punctuations in the line under cursor, then you might find w and b a little annoying, since each punctuation is regarded as an individual word (due to the definition that a word is a sequence of alphabetic and digital characters, check out :h iskeyword).

Most of the time, I find W, B and E more convenient than their lowercase friends, because they regard a word as a sequence of characters separated by spaces. Thus the way they move is more predictable.

Find next character

f<char> and F<char> jump forward/backward to the next occurrence of <char> in the current line. They are very convenient if you want to jump between parentheses and brackets, e.g. with f) or F[.

After using f<char> and F<char>, you can use ; and , to jump forward/backward to the same character, just like how n and N work after searching with /.

Another slightly different command is t<char>; it jumps to the character before <char>.

A good use of t<char> is to combine it with y, c, d, e.g. using ct) to delete all the characters before the next ) and enter the insert mode.

I mostly use f to jump to punctuations instead of letters, for it is much easier for our eyes to distinguish punctuations from a sentence than a letter. If you don’t believe me, just try to find the previous n in this paragraph and then try dot “.” instead.

Keyword searching

One of the most overlooked command in Vim is *; it jumps to the next occurrence of the keyword under cursor.

After initiating a search with *, you can jump between all the occurrences with n and N.

* can be very efficient for jumping between different uses of a keyword in a buffer.

It also has a companion that searches backward: g*.

Should I use easymotion?

Easymotion is a very creative plugin that presents a brand new way to motion. First you initiate a search, and then jump to the position within one or two more keys.

However, it has some drawbacks in practice.

If you have an on-the-fly syntax checker installed in Vim, then it might mess up with the syntax checker because it temporarily changes the content of the buffer.

Another problem is that it lacks predictability – you don’t know which key to press until the moment it prompts you. This could be a problem for muscle memory, since it requires additional visual–muscular coordination.

Nevertheless, it’s a good plugin and definitely worth a try. You can decide whether to keep it in your Vim configuration after experimenting by yourself.