Review: Codeulate Screencasts’ “Vim for Rails Developers”

I was given a free copy of Codeulate Screencasts’Vim for Rails Developers“.  The screencast normally costs $9 US and lasts about 36 minutes.  I use Vim (MacVIM) everyday for a number of hours at work and am coding in Rails more and more (through work and other projects).  If you are even thinking about considering contemplating the possibility of developing Rails with Vim, you should buy this screencast.  There is enough distilled wisdom here to make it worth your time, and there is really nothing better than having someone not only tell you but show you how to do what needs to be done.  Screencasts are hands down the best way to get up to speed with a technology (short of having someone holding your hand or looking over your shoulder) and if you haven’t watched any yet, you need to check out learnivore.com. This screencast is among the best thought out and professionally executed.

Contents

Typing Faster

During this section the screencast covers the benefits of being able to touch type and at a somewhat rapid pace, not only in general but in Vim.  Though I’m fairly comfortable in this regard already, I can see how it would be of great benefit for someone who hasn’t used Vim a lot before.  The Vim cheatsheet recommended is really great – everyone should have a copy. More important is developing an understanding of the different modes and how to move around effortlessly.

A few years back I tried switching to Dvorak and found no speed increase in my typing.  One benefit from switching was that the one very common error when typing in QWERTY of transposing two letters is much less likely to happen in Dvorak. Of course your milage may vary.

Vim Rails plugin

This is the real meat of the screencast, and where the most value is.  Tim Pope’s Vim Rails plugin is extremely powerful and the screencast will showcase some of the most common features.

It would have been nice to see some instructions for the Vim newbies on how to install plugins.  Though I used “GetLatestVimScripts” before but have now switched to Vimana, a gem like plugin manager.  As long as you don’t mind a few perl modules on your system, you should really manage all your Vim scripts with Vimana.

Vim snipMate plugin

Again, another power plugin that everyone should be using.  The screencast demonstrates how to both use and customize some of the functionality.

Ctags

I hadn’t heard about ctags until this screencast.  Mac OS X ships with a version of ctags, but it looks like it is severely nerfed.  When I have some free time I’ll definitely build my own copy from source.  The screencast shows how to run and integrate ctags with Vim.

Ack

I recently switched over to start using Ack instead of grep, and have never looked back.  Ack is faster than grep is almost every situation, and intelligently handles source control directories (.svn, .git, etc.).  Ack also doesn’t rely upon a lot of perl modules and so can really install anywhere.  The screencast introduces Ack and shows how to use it as your Vim grep program.

Quick tips

The last section contains some quick tips that just make Vim life easier.  I don’t want to give away any secrets, but the ci” and :jumps commands are probably some of the most useful that will save time.

Verdict: Buy.

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