The sys admin’s daily grind: Customizing Vim

Working with the infamous Vim is part of every sys admin’s daily work. Charly spices up the veteran editor with personal settings for syntax highlighting and indentations.

The Vim text editor accompanies every sys admin throughout their entire professional life, just like the classic corny joke about it: “I’ve been using Vim for 15 years – but mainly because I have no idea how to quit it.” It takes a few years for some admins to grudgingly resign themselves to the text editor. Others claim to really like Vim, but that could be Stockholm syndrome. Either way, the basics have to be drilled in because Vim is one of the constants you can and must rely on with any Linux system.

Beyond the basics, Vim offers a few functions that enhance the user experience. There are two ways to customize the editor: globally or per user. The global settings are located in the /etc/vim/vimrc file; each user can also create a file named .vimrc in their home directory. Settings made there overwrite and supplement the global settings. Many distributions do not specify global settings from the outset (i.e., /etc/vim/vimrc is empty), knowing that adjustments are always a matter of taste.

Let’s look at the most important customizations that can be made as a user in .vimrc. The most popular of these relates to syntax highlighting. When programming, Vim displays certain elements such as variables, mathematical characters, loop entry and exit points, comments, and much more in different colors. The syntax on line in .vimrc enables highlighting.

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