I used vim for I think some of 2009, and most of 2009 and 2010. Then there was a brief period of Emacs with poor vim emulation, which ended in January 2011 when I begin using Emacs bindings full time. I’ve been doing that ever since, for almost three years. Nowadays a lot of vim users are switching to Emacs because of the rise of Evil, a really solid vim emulation layer in Emacs that is much more satisfying than its predecessors.

I’m considering following in the footsteps of those vim users, by returning to vim keybindings in Emacs.

This is because I have started using Emacs at work to write my lesson plans, and I am starting to feel the strain on my fingers of constantly chording with the control and alt keys. My little finger sometimes hurts during and after typin. This is known as Emacs pinky.

The worst culprits for me are the keys C-w, C-h and C-m, bound to delete a word, backspace and return respectively. C-w is a pure speed upgrade and C-h and C-m I use in order to avoid stretching my right hand all the way over to the backspace and return keys, which is a matter of speed and comfort. However, this comfort factor is dwindling. I type too fast (though I do use ‘real’ touch-typing) and so I make a huge number of errors, and I busily correct these with C-w and C-h. When I call up Emacs menus to run commands or switch buffers or open files, I’m constantly hitting C-m to make my choices.

This has all made me very fast but I’m not sure that that speed is worth the increasing physical pain, especially on the keyboard on my computer at school which seems to be worse than my laptop at home. And though when writing this post, when I make some quick edit with my Emacs knowledge and it’s fast and natural and without conscious thought, I still know that with my old vim knowledge I’d probably be faster. Also, I should slow down my typing, relax my hands, sit properly and be more accurate. Changing to another set of bindings could help make this happen.

Of course, there are some disadvantages. I am addicted to using C-a, C-e, C-m, C-h, C-u in other text boxes on my unix system and, more importantly, at the command line. But since vim emulation in Emacs would still require me to use these to edit e.g. minibuffer input, I think that the core bindings I’d need to keep knowing will still be in place.

I don’t really want to put the work into taming Emacs with vim emulation. It’ll require a bunch of rebindings and fiddling and also hours of frustration when I can’t do something quickly that I’m used to doing without thinking about it. So I’m going to make an effort to sit well and relax my hands when not actually typing and all the rest in order to see whether the pain resides first, before going the whole hog.

comment XUPK9HTV3TXVT81J

Are you doing all your typing on your laptop’s keyboard? That’s not going to help with RSI.

Also, a quick google suggests hitting ctrl with the side of your hand rather than contorting your finger, which would seem to be a lot easier on a properly-sloped full-height keyboard.

Comment by jgh Thu 16 Oct 2014 01:24:15 UTC

Most of my typing is on my computer at school with its full-sized keyboard.

Hitting control with the side of one’s hand is a really nice idea, but it won’t work on my laptop, and it’s important for speed that I’m doing the same movements on all the computers I regularly use.

Comment by spw Fri 17 Oct 2014 13:26:37 UTC