43 Folders

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”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Remainders: Vim, The One-Fork Rule, dashes, and ETech, ho!

  • Vim: The Journey Begins - It’s official. I’m learning Vim, one of the storied UNIX text editors that so many geeks live in. My copy of Learning the vi Editor arrived last week, and I’ve been spending at least an hour each night getting through the basics. I can definitely see why this is so popular with people (even though I’m having a heckuva time un-learning five years of what I now realize are Emacs key bindings). It's totally configurable and scriptable, and once you get the hang of switching between command and insert modes, it's just faster than hell. If you want to join in with me for the long walk, ala Oprah’s Book Club, feel free. I’ll be posting on my progress periodically, and have been bookmarking good vi/Vim links to help us out. Also, I do recommend grabbing the Vim carbon app, since it behaves and interacts more like a Mac program and is much easier to customize and use. (Vim studs in the house? Got a good trick I need to know? Dish!)
  • Plan before you buy - I keep running lists of all the features and geegaws that I know I’ll want in the next version of a costly product I’ll need to buy someday—from little stuff like a mobile phone or TV to bigger stuff like a car or a house. Capturing these ideas as they occur to you over 1-5 years is a lot less stressful than having to pore manically over a bunch of spec sheets on the day your cell phone falls in the toilet.
  • The One-Fork Rule - At one point in my third year of college, my housemates and I felt entropy’s hot breath on the back of our necks. As the dishwasher overflowed with week-old plates and the crisper teemed with blue and brown goo, we acknowledged it was time for a radical change. Thus, Richard, Jake, and I made a pact to instantiate what we called “The One-Fork Rule.” Each of us was issued one and only one of each eating tool: cutlery, plate, bowl, glass, etc. We were to bond with our tools like an infantryman with his rifle. If your fork was dirty when it was time to eat, you were to clean it. You were not to breach the sacred seal of the duct-tape-sealed boxes containing all the additional forks and plates. Like all emergency measures “The One-Fork Rule” passed in time, but I can tell you, it really works if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed by the crufty multiples in your kitchen—or elsewhere your life. Consider trying it for a week or so whenever you need to simplify or just get it together.
  • Research dashes - I keep a plaintext file with a long-ass list of stuff to learn, fix, or improve on my computer. Stuff like “learn Perl,” “find out why Mail crashes on CTRL-click,” or “research cheap external hard drives.” These kinds of items represent very low-pressure and low-priority on my radar screen, but I do like to make progress on a few of them from time to time. Try scheduling “a dash”, 2 to 4 hours, twice a month for researching and conquering little stuff that’s been driving you nuts. This not only gives you a chance to review, update, and solve the stuff that’s probably stealing seconds from every day, but you can also start to watch for interesting patterns that might indicate bigger problems and opportunities (“Whoa: time to get a new laptop”).
  • Mass-mailing Customer Service - I sometimes fantasize that I can breach the gates of “Customer Service” at a given company by sending regular old email to several logical addresses. It doesn’t always work—I mean, gracious me, why would you ever want dissatisfied customers to contact you—but I wanted a way to quickly try it without a lot of hassle.

    Fellow TextMate fans can make the following bit into a Snippet and assign it a key command.

    support@${1:`echo $TM_SELECTED_TEXT`}, help@${1:`echo $TM_SELECTED_TEXT`}, customerservice@${1:`echo $TM_SELECTED_TEXT`}, web@${1:`echo $TM_SELECTED_TEXT`}, webhelp@${1:`echo $TM_SELECTED_TEXT`}$0

    In a blank TM document, type the domain of the company (“example.com”), select it, then apply the Snippet via menu or key command to quickly generate a handy, comma-delimited list of potential help sources.

  • General ETech slowdown - Things have gotten a bit busy around here with ETech and a few other pet projects coming to the fore, so I’ve decided to hold off on a couple announcements until next week; sorry to be a tease. Check back next Monday (I hope). Since I’ll be pretty heads-down on all things ETech (and post-ETech catchup) over the next week, the volume here will likely stay fairly quiet until then. Still, I’ll probably be posting occasionally here, and watch for ETech related stuff from me on del.icio.us (link | rss) and Flickr (link | rss). Like my friends currently at SxSW, I'll probably be posting lots of pictures of pleasant-looking people you don’t know eating and sitting in chairs.

Thanks, have a great week, and if you see me in San Diego, please do say hi, and introduce yourself.

Erik Westra's picture

I've just discovered some really...

I've just discovered some really nice ways of getting VIM under OSX to work the way I want it to, so I thought I'd share my discoveries...

Firstly, there's:

set showcmd

which tells vim to show lots of useful information, like the number of characters you've selected, and the prefix you've typed for a command (eg, I often go "77a-", which adds a line of 77 hyphens to my document). With "showcmd" set, you see the "77" as you type the command -- most handy!

There's also the:

map ddp map ddP

commands, which I've got permanently set in my _vimrc file (I mentioned these on the 43 folders mailing list, but thought I'd repeat them here as this seems to be the more "official" place to put vim tips). With these, you can quickly rearrange lines of text by pressing control up-arrow and control down-arrow to move a line of text up or down. I use this all the time to rearrange my To-Do/GTD lists.

Now, for my big "aha" -- I've also put the following into my _vimrc...

autocmd BufReadPost *.txt set formatoptions+=a

What this does is set up vim to work like a normal word processor -- whenever I'm editing a text file, the "formatoptions+=a" bit tells vim to automatically rearrange the text into paragraphs as I type. As I add and delete text, the line breaks in the paragraphs are rearranged automatically -- no more constantly having to type "gq" to reformat text after editing a paragraph!

Just thought I'd add my $0.02 worth to the amazing tips other have already posted. Hopefully all these tips will be put into the 43folders wiki at some stage -- it'd be great to have a "vim tips" page we could all add to as we discover new things...




An Oblique Strategy:
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