Adventures in Machine Learning

Mastering Python Development: Elevating Your Coding with VIM

Mastering Python Development with VIM

Have you considered using VIM as an IDE for your Python development needs? This powerful and popular text editor can elevate your programming experience to a whole new level with its customizable features and efficiency.

In this article, we’ll explore the different aspects of VIM that can help you become a better Python coder.

Verifying VIM Install

First things first, let’s ensure that you have VIM installed and configured to support Python development. VIM comes pre-installed on most Unix-based systems, but you can also download it on Windows and Mac.

To verify if VIM supports Python syntax, run the following command in your terminal:

$ vim –version | grep python

If VIM is compiled with Python support, you should see “+python” or “+python3” in the output. Let’s Make an IDE

VIM is not just a text editor, but can also function as a full-fledged Integrated Development Environment (IDE) with the right plugins.

Here are some plugins you can install to enhance your Python development experience:

– YouCompleteMe: This plugin provides auto-completion and syntax checking for Python code. – NERDTree: A file tree explorer that makes navigating your project files intuitive.

Powerline: A customizable status bar that displays relevant information, such as current mode and line numbers. – Vundle: A plugin manager that makes it easy to install and manage your plugins.

Ditch the Mouse

One of the most significant advantages of using VIM is its ability to work without a mouse. This efficient approach to coding helps you stay focused and avoid distractions.

Once you get used to VIM’s keyboard shortcuts, you can quickly move around your code and perform tasks without touching the mouse.

Split Layouts

VIM allows you to split its window into multiple panes, letting you work on different parts of your code simultaneously. You can use the following commands to create split layouts:

– :split: Split the window horizontally

– :vsplit: Split the window vertically

– :new: Create a new buffer in a new window

You can switch between panes using the following commands:

– Ctrl-w Ctrl-w: Move to the next pane

– Ctrl-w j: Move to the pane below the current one

– Ctrl-w k: Move to the pane above the current one

– Ctrl-w h: Move to the pane on the left

– Ctrl-w l: Move to the pane on the right


VIM buffers allow you to switch between recently opened files quickly. You can open a file in a buffer using the following command:

:e filename

To switch between buffers, use the following commands:

– :ls: List all open buffers

– :bnext: Switch to the next buffer

– :bprevious: Switch to the previous buffer

– :bdelete: Delete the current buffer

Python Indentation

Proper Python indentation is crucial for readable code. VIM can help you follow the Python Enhancement Proposal (PEP) 8 indentation guidelines.

To automatically indent your Python code in compliance with PEP 8, add the following lines to your .vimrc file:

autocmd FileType python setlocal expandtab tabstop=4 shiftwidth=4 softtabstop=4 textwidth=79

Better handle auto-indentation

Auto-indentation can be a double-edged sword, and sometimes VIM’s built-in auto-indentation can go wrong. But you can solve this problem by using plugins.

The Python-Indent plugin provides enhanced Python indentation that correctly indents code. You can install it via Vundle:

Plugin ‘Vimjas/vim-python-pep8-indent’


As mentioned before, YouCompleteMe is a plugin that provides auto-completion for your Python code. To use it, install it via Vundle and add this to your .vimrc file:

let g:ycm_python_binary_path = ‘/usr/bin/python3’

File Browsing

NERDTree is an essential plugin for navigating your project files. To use it, install it via Vundle and open it with the following command:


Once you have opened NERDTree, you can move around the file tree using VIM’s keyboard shortcuts.

For example:

– o: Open the selected file

– t: Open the selected file in a new tab

– i: Open the selected file in a split window

– s: Open the selected file in a new vertical split window

System Clipboard

By default, VIM’s copy and paste operations work within the editor only. But, if you want to copy text from VIM to your system clipboard, you can use the following command:


Similarly, to paste text from your system clipboard into VIM, use:


VIM Extensions

The power of VIM lies in its extensive plugin ecosystem, allowing you to add a wealth of functionalities. Here are some VIM plugins that can help improve your coding experience:

Code Folding

Code folding allows you to collapse sections of code, making it easy to read and navigate large files. VIM offers built-in code folding, and you can customize it with the following commands:

– za: Toggle the current fold

– zR: Open all folds

– zM: Close all folds

Flagging Unnecessary Whitespace

Flagging unnecessary whitespace can help make your Python code cleaner and more readable. The following plugins can help you with this task:

– vim-syntastic: Provides syntax checking for various programming languages, including Python.

– vim-polyglot: A script-based vim plugin pack that changes the syntax highlighting of various programming languages, including Python.

UTF-8 Support

VIM has built-in support for UTF-8. To enable it, add the following lines to your .vimrc file:

set encoding=utf-8

set fileencoding=utf-8

Virtualenv Support

The use of virtual environments in Python development makes it easier to manage dependencies. You can use the virtualenv plugin, which detects and activates virtual environments automatically.

Syntax Checking/Highlighting

Syntax checking and highlighting can help you identify errors quickly in your Python code. The vim-syntastic plugin offers syntax checking for various programming languages, including Python.

Color Schemes

The vim-colors-solarized plugin offers a beautiful and easy-on-the-eyes color scheme that makes reading code a more pleasant experience. You can adjust the colors to fit your preferences.

Super Searching


Super Searching allows you to search for text using regular expressions. This powerful feature is helpful when you need to find patterns in your code.

Here are some

Super Searching commands you can use:

– /: Search for text forward

– ?: Search for text backward

– *: Search for the current word under the cursor

– # : Search for the previous occurrence of the current word under the cursor

Line Numbering

Adding line numbers to your VIM editor window can help you keep track of your code’s organization. Here’s the command to add line numbers:

:set number

Git Integration

VIM has many plugins that integrate with Git, making version control easier. The Git Gutter plugin, for example, provides a visual indicator of your Git repository’s state.


Powerline is a status bar that displays relevant information, such as current mode and line numbers. There are many

Powerline themes available, and you can customize them to fit your preferences.

In conclusion,

VIM is a mighty text editor that can help you become a more productive and efficient Python coder. By utilizing the various features and plugins available, such as auto-completion, file browsing, and proper indentation, your coding experience can be greatly improved.

With practice and patience, VIM can make your Python development workflow faster and more enjoyable.

VIM in the Shell: Improving your Workflow

VIM has been around for over four decades, and its flexibility and efficiency have made it a popular choice for coders worldwide. One of the reasons for its longevity is VIM’s ability to be used in a shell environment.

In this article, we’ll explore how VIM can be used in the shell to improve your coding workflow, provide a list of resources for further learning, and discuss the difference between VIM’s VI mode and GNU Readline.

VIM in the Shell

When you’re working in a shell environment, using VIM can make your workflow faster and more efficient. There are several ways to use VIM in the shell, including:

– Editing configuration files: VIM can be used to edit system configuration files, such as /etc/hosts or /etc/rc.conf, and user-specific configuration files like .bash_profile or .vimrc.

– Piping and Filtering: VIM can be used to modify the output of shell commands using pipes, such as:

$ cat /etc/passwd | vim –

– Editing scripts: VIM can be used to edit shell scripts and other script files, allowing you to incorporate VIM’s powerful search and replace functionality into your coding workflow. VI Mode vs.

GNU Readline

When using VIM in the shell, you have two options to choose from: enabling VI mode in GNU Readline or running VIM directly on the command line. VI mode in GNU Readline allows you to use VIM keyboard shortcuts in the shell prompt, allowing you to edit commands efficiently.

You can enable VI mode in the Bash shell by adding the following line to your .bashrc file:

set -o vi

Once you’ve enabled VI mode, you can use VIM keyboard shortcuts like:

– Esc: Switch to command mode

– i: Switch to insert mode

– dd: Delete the current line

– p: Paste after the cursor

Alternatively, you can run VIM directly on the command line by typing “vim”. This approach is useful if you need to edit a long script or configuration file that you can’t easily modify with GNU Readline.

Configuration Resources

If you’re new to VIM and are looking to learn how to use it in a shell environment, here are some resources to get you started:

– VIM-Tutor: An interactive tutorial built into VIM that teaches you VIM basics. – VIM Wiki: A community-driven wiki that offers tips and tricks for using VIM in a shell environment.

– A website that offers tutorials on using the Bash shell, which includes VI mode. – “Practical Vim” by Drew Neil: A book that provides practical tips and solutions for using VIM efficiently and effectively.


VIM is more than just a text editor; it can be used to improve your workflow in a shell environment. By enabling VI mode in GNU Readline or running VIM directly on the command line, you can use VIM’s powerful features to edit scripts and configuration files quickly.

With the right resources and practice, you can unlock the full potential of VIM in the shell. In conclusion, VIM can improve your workflow in a shell environment by providing efficient and powerful editing features.

Whether you enable VI mode in GNU Readline or run VIM directly on the command line, using VIM can make editing configuration files and scripts faster and more manageable. Helpful resources such as VIM-Tutor, the VIM Wiki, and “Practical Vim” by Drew Neil can help improve your proficiency in using VIM in the shell.

The takeaway is that by embracing VIM’s capabilities and learning how to use it effectively, you can greatly increase your productivity and efficiency in a shell environment.