Writing in Vim

Recently, I uploaded a Vim plugin that lets you post to write.as directly from vim. The response to it was great, but I got some questions from readers regarding my writing process in such a bare-bones application such as Vim.

Here is how I do it.

An Acknowledgement

This guide will not go into heavy detail regarding how to use Vim in its most basic form.

If you need a primer on how to use Vim, type :h tutor into Vim, or check out openvim.

This guide assumes you are starting out with a clean .vimrc, as well, but can easily be applied if you already are comfortable using vim.

Step 1: The Plugin Manager.

I use vim-plug, as in my testing it is significantly faster than both Vundle and Pathogen, but the differences are minimal and if anyone tries to shame you into using a particular manager they should be disregarded.

Installing any of them is as easy as moving a .vim file into your ~/.vim/autoload/ directory. In the case of vim-plug, it is as easy as running curl:

curl -fLo ~/.vim/autoload/plug.vim --create-dirs \

Step 2: The Top of ~/.vimrc

This is a must. Ensure the very top of your ~/.vimrc is this:

set nocompatible	
" Enforces vim defualts instead of vi
set encoding=utf-8	
" Sets encoding to utf-8
scriptencoding utf-8	
" Sometimes the above fails. This corrects that.

Step 3: Installing The Plugins

You need to call plug-vim, define where it should place its plugins, then list the plugins you wish to install. In short, put this near the top of your ~/.vimrc:

call plug#begin('~/.vim/plugged') 
" Call plug and define the plugin folder
	Plug 'reedes/vim-pencil'
	" The mother plugin which makes this all possible
	Plug 'junegunn/goyo.vim'
	" Turn vim into a distraction free editor

	Plug 'junegunn/limelight.vim'
	" Make editor even cleaner
	Plug 'reedes/vim-wordy'
	" Make your writing better
	Plug 'reedes/vim-litecorrect'
	"Annoyance free autocorrect

	Plug 'rhysd/vim-grammarous'	
	"A clean grammar checker.

	Plug 'internationa1/write-as.vim'	
	" Upload straight to write.as

	" Ensure all Plugins are added above the following line
call plug#end()

Step 4: General Settings

Filetype detection must be enabled for some of the plugins to auto-enable, and for markdown syntax to be detected.

" File detection
filetype on
filetype plugin indent on
syntax on

Line numbers are convenient for editing, autocompletion is awesome, unloading buffers are a pain, mouse use is nice, and word wrap is soft handled via vim-pencil. So we'll enable and disable functions accordingly.

set number	"Enable line numbers
set completopt=longest, menuone	 " Autocomplete options
set complete=.,w,b,u,t,i,d	
"Autocomplete options, for more info :h complete
set hidden	"Don't unload buffers
set mouse=a	"Enable mouse
set nowrap	"Disable nowrap
set showbreak="+++ "	" string to show with wrapped lines
set ttyfast	" Render characters quicker
set title	" Use filename in window title
set wildmenu	" Enhance command line completion
set wildchar=<TAB>	" Set tab for command completion
set noerrorbells	" Noises are annoying

Vim 8 comes with baked-in spellcheck. You are running Vim 8, right?

set spellang=en_gb	
"Set spellcheck language. You might want en_us, or en_can

set spellfile=~/.vim/spell/en.utf8.add	
"The dictionary file

hi clear SpellBad
hi SpellBad cterm=underline ctermfg=red	
" Underline spelling errors in red

hi clear SpellCap
hi SpellCap cterm=underline ctermfg=blue	
" Underline spelling warnings in blue

hi clear SpellLocal
hi SpellCap cterm=underline ctermfg=green	
" Underline localization errors in green.

Step 5: Autocommands

Markdown has some particulars when it comes to syntax, so we'll specify what to do when a markdown file is open.

augroup markdown
autocmd FileType markdown,mkd,md
 " Do this when you open a markdown file
	\ setlocal noexpandtab tabstop=4 shiftwidth=4 softtabstop=4
	\ list lcs=tab:+.
	\ set spell spelllang=en_gb	" Enable Spellcheck
	\ call litecorrect#init() 	" Enable autocorrect
	\ call pencil#init	"Enable vim-pencil
	\ setlocal textwidth=80	" Match write.as width-ish
augroup END

autocmd! User GoyoEnter Limelight
autocmd! User GoyoLeave Limelight!
" When Goyo is in use, enable limelight.

" Writeas User Info
let g:writeas_u = 'YOUR_USERNAME'
let g:writeas_p = 'YOUR_PASSWORD'
let g:writeas_b = 'YOUR BLOG'

Step 6: You're set.

When you open a markdown file, spellcheck will turn on, your tab settings will initialize, autocorrect will kick in, vim-pencil will start, and the width will be set to (roughly) what write.as is set to.

When you turn on Goyo – which you do by typing :Goyo – limelight will itself turn on, and when you leave, it will turn off. In short, Vim now looks like this:

Vim Image

Checking for weak wording in your writing is now as easy as typing :WeakWordy.

When you're all finished with writing, uploading to your blog is as easy as typing :BlogPost TITLE. You're now a hardcore writing machine.


Or, why I didn't upload my ~/.vimrc

I know a lot of people who use Vim. I know significantly fewer who actually understand vim script. Sure, the file you copied off Github looks super slick, but are you fully aware of what it does?

Following this tutorial means you built your own .vimrc. You now see how simple and versatile VimScript actually is. Now, extending vim to be a Python or Lua IDE is easy as installing your preferred plugins and setting up autocmds.

Maybe next you should setup Airline or setup Vim to manage your accounting via Ledger. Maybe write your own Vim plugin that will let you preview how your blog post will look once uploaded. The limit is your imagination.

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