Super-charged IT organisation with gVim

I gathered a lot of IT notes, personal notes, work notes, and notes about things that I was interested in over the last 13 years of being IT-enabled.  Before that I used to write things down, or cut-out-and-file, or photocopy stuff.

A quick digression. I didn’t always keep notes, other than an address book, and my degree notes, which I compressed down beautifully into twenty pages of essential information, but then I did an MSc in which I was flooded with largely useless information, and then I worked as a physicist, and then I kind of crashed, and realising that a lot of fundamentals in my life needed to change I burned all of my academic notes one day. So I lived a few years without notes, but then Alaric Newcombe, one of the most alive people that I’ve met, handed me a photocopy of something he’d received in the post from Motorola:

To Achieve Your Dreams Remember Your ABC’s

And from that point, I began taking notes again, as per:

Read, study and learn about everything important in your life.

Then I got physically ill, and had a lot of time to myself for a few years, and so my notes about everything that I was interested in grew and grew, to near unmanageable quantities – especially because I knew no better than to use Microsoft Word, and then LibreOffice – both heavy weight applications for storing notes in.

Then, August of this year, I had reason to try and rework a story I’d written back in 2008. So, alone for two weeks in a friend’s appartment, I got to work, and ended up writing a sequel to it which had a lot of back-references. I was quickly faced with the technological problems of managing large documents in LibreOffice. I wanted a way to fold up chapters, and add notes easily, and search for things fast, and all at once. So I took some time to search for suitable programs, and there are many good tools for writers, but each had some limitation to do with file format or installation, or useability.

As I’d also this year begun a little coding again (in Perl and Python) I found myself reading more and more about Vim. So I began trying it, and immediately faced the legendary almost vertical learning curve, but I kept going, interested by the possibility to fold up text documents, and navigate quickly.

Two months later, I’m completely converted to gVim (the graphically enhanced version), and I now habitually move stuff into plain text files. Because I can tell Vim how to syntax highlight my files, it picks my notes up as a pure plain text (very few), or Markdown or DokuWiki formats, and I’ve implemented folding for both of the latter, so now when I open, for example, my address book (currently 3108 lines long) it looks like this, the whole list all folded up:

131219_gVim

Searching my existing notes, noting new stuff, and navigation through all of my notes is super fast, as is transfering stuff from my old word-processed files, which I’m now deleting at the rate of about a dozen a day. The fluidity and speed of using a good gVim setup is just beautiful. I feel that I’m cruising again, able to go quickly and easily where I want through my notes. It’s the same feeling that I had when I’d compressed all of my degree notes down into twenty essential pages, and it’s a feeling I also get sometimes in meditation, or when I walk in the woods.  Sweet.

You can find out how to install and use gVim in my IT DokuWiki.

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