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Feature request... non-uniform tabstops

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  • Mark Waggoner
    I ve asked Bram in the past whether he would add this to the voting list. The best I ve been able to get is I ll think about it :) Perhaps if I throw the
    Message 1 of 15 , Aug 27, 2007

      I've asked Bram in the past whether he would add this to the voting list.  The best I've been able to get is "I'll think about it" :)   Perhaps if I throw the idea out to the mailing lists I can garner a little support.

      When editing or viewing text files that contain data with fields separated by tab characters, I would like to be able to set non-uniform tabstops.  This would allow the text to be viewed and edited in a much more readable/understandable format than fixed tabstops can provide.   The usage model I envision is:

      set tabstop=8,10,4,20,8

      This would make (depending on how you are counting) the first tabstop at character 9, the second at character 19, the third at 23, the fourth at 43, and the fifth at 51.  Tabstops beyond those explicitly specified would repeat the last tabstop, making the setting backward compatible with what we have today, where only one value is allowed and it is used for all the tabstops.
       
      Anyone else care to join me in voting to add this to the voting options?

      Mark Waggoner
       
      (I'm trying out mailing to the list with gmail for the first time.  If this ends up "ugly", my apologies.) 

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    • Hari Krishna Dara
      ... I needed something like this a few months back and started writing a plugin for this, but never got around to release it. It is already usable, though user
      Message 2 of 15 , Aug 27, 2007
        On Mon, 27 Aug 2007 at 10:27am, Mark Waggoner wrote:

        > I've asked Bram in the past whether he would add this to the voting
        > list. The best I've been able to get is "I'll think about it" :) Perhaps
        > if I throw the idea out to the mailing lists I can garner a little support.
        >
        > When editing or viewing text files that contain data with fields separated
        > by tab characters, I would like to be able to set non-uniform
        > tabstops. This would allow the text to be viewed and edited in a much more
        > readable/understandable format than fixed tabstops can provide. The usage
        > model I envision is:
        >
        > set tabstop=8,10,4,20,8
        >
        > This would make (depending on how you are counting) the first tabstop at
        > character 9, the second at character 19, the third at 23, the fourth at 43,
        > and the fifth at 51. Tabstops beyond those explicitly specified would
        > repeat the last tabstop, making the setting backward compatible with what we
        > have today, where only one value is allowed and it is used for all the
        > tabstops.
        >
        > Anyone else care to join me in voting to add this to the voting options?
        >
        > Mark Waggoner
        >
        > (I'm trying out mailing to the list with gmail for the first time. If this
        > ends up "ugly", my apologies.)
        >
        > >
        >

        I needed something like this a few months back and started writing a
        plugin for this, but never got around to release it. It is already
        usable, though user testing could bring up several usability issues and
        bugs. If you want to try it out, you can download it from here:

        http://haridara.googlepages.com/softtabstops.zip

        There are some known issues, so watch out the header on
        plugin/softtabstops.vim. A brief usage help can also be found in the
        same place.

        --
        Hari

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      • Mark Waggoner
        ... I tried this out, but I don t think it is quite what I m looking for. The softtabstops.vim routines let me set SOFT tab stops in variable places, so that
        Message 3 of 15 , Aug 27, 2007
          On 8/27/07, Hari Krishna Dara <hari.vim@...
          > wrote:


          On Mon, 27 Aug 2007 at 10:27am, Mark Waggoner wrote:

          > I've asked Bram in the past whether he would add this to the voting
          > list.  The best I've been able to get is "I'll think about it" :)   Perhaps
          > if I throw the idea out to the mailing lists I can garner a little support.
          >
          > When editing or viewing text files that contain data with fields separated
          > by tab characters, I would like to be able to set non-uniform
          > tabstops.  This would allow the text to be viewed and edited in a much more
          > readable/understandable format than fixed tabstops can provide.   The usage
          > model I envision is:
          >
          > set tabstop=8,10,4,20,8
          >
          > This would make (depending on how you are counting) the first tabstop at
          > character 9, the second at character 19, the third at 23, the fourth at 43,
          > and the fifth at 51.  Tabstops beyond those explicitly specified would
          > repeat the last tabstop, making the setting backward compatible with what we
          > have today, where only one value is allowed and it is used for all the
          > tabstops.
          >
          > Anyone else care to join me in voting to add this to the voting options?
          >
          > Mark Waggoner
          >
          > (I'm trying out mailing to the list with gmail for the first time.  If this
          > ends up "ugly", my apologies.)
          >
          > >
          >

          I needed something like this a few months back and started writing a
          plugin for this, but never got around to release it. It is already
          usable, though user testing could bring up several usability issues and
          bugs. If you want to try it out, you can download it from here:

          http://haridara.googlepages.com/softtabstops.zip

          There are some known issues, so watch out the header on
          plugin/softtabstops.vim. A brief usage help can also be found in the
          same place.
           
          I tried this out, but I don't think it is quite what I'm looking for.  The softtabstops.vim routines let me set SOFT tab stops in variable places, so that if I was typing something new, I could have the tab key take me to different columns.  What I want is for the HARD tabstops to be in variable places.  It is not unusual to have a simple data file that has fields separated by tab characters.  With the different fields having different widths, it is hard to display this efficiently (without using excessive white space for narrow fields) or even "correctly" when a particular field has a different number of characters on one line than in another.
           
          For example - For a file with these two lines:
           
          First Field Data<TAB>Two<TAB>Third Field Longer Data<TAB>Fourth
          One<TAB>Second Field<TAB>Third Field<TAB>Four
           
          (Where <TAB> is a tab character) I'd like to be able to set the tabstops so that I could see:
           
          First Field Data  Two           Third Field Longer Data  Fourth
          One               Second Field  Third Field              Four
           
          But NOT actually replace the tab characters with spaces in the file.
           
          Mark Waggoner

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        • Richard Hartmann
          ... Personally, I would expect this to go 8,10,4,20,8,8,10,4,20,8,8,10,4,20,8.. If you want it to go 8,10,4,20,8,8,8,8,8,8, I would suggest using 8,10,4,20,8*
          Message 4 of 15 , Aug 27, 2007
            On 27/08/07, Mark Waggoner <mark.wagnell@...> wrote:

            > set tabstop=8,10,4,20,8
            >
            > This would make (depending on how you are counting) the first tabstop at
            > character 9, the second at character 19, the third at 23, the fourth at 43,
            > and the fifth at 51. Tabstops beyond those explicitly specified would
            > repeat the last tabstop, making the setting backward compatible with what we
            > have today, where only one value is allowed and it is used for all the
            > tabstops.

            Personally, I would expect this to go 8,10,4,20,8,8,10,4,20,8,8,10,4,20,8..
            If you want it to go 8,10,4,20,8,8,8,8,8,8, I would suggest using 8,10,4,20,8*
            or some such.

            That said, I am not completely sure if I would ever use such a feature, more
            on that in my reply to your other mail in this thread.


            Richard

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          • Richard Hartmann
            ... I would _love_ to be able to do this. But instead of needing fiddle around with hard limits, I would prefer to :set AlignTabs or something and have vim
            Message 5 of 15 , Aug 27, 2007
              On 27/08/07, Mark Waggoner <mark.wagnell@...> wrote:

              > For example - For a file with these two lines:
              >
              > First Field Data<TAB>Two<TAB>Third Field Longer Data<TAB>Fourth
              > One<TAB>Second Field<TAB>Third Field<TAB>Four
              >
              > (Where <TAB> is a tab character) I'd like to be able to set the tabstops so
              > that I could see:
              >
              > First Field Data Two Third Field Longer Data Fourth
              > One Second Field Third Field Four
              >
              > But NOT actually replace the tab characters with spaces in the file.

              I would _love_ to be able to do this. But instead of needing fiddle around with
              hard limits, I would prefer to :set AlignTabs or something and have vim
              automagically do it by itself. Optionally, let me define min (and max, if that
              makes sense) width to last entry. Cookies for offering an easy way to transfer
              that view into whitespaces/multiple tabs/a combination thereof for people
              unfortunate enough not to use vim :p


              Richard

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            • Ben Schmidt
              ... I d find this feature useful. Definitely worthy of the ability to be voted on, I d say. I prefer the interface you suggest where the last width is repeated
              Message 6 of 15 , Aug 27, 2007
                Mark Waggoner wrote:
                > I've asked Bram in the past whether he would add this to the voting
                > list. The best I've been able to get is "I'll think about it" :)
                > Perhaps if I throw the idea out to the mailing lists I can garner a
                > little support.
                >
                > When editing or viewing text files that contain data with fields
                > separated by tab characters, I would like to be able to set non-uniform
                > tabstops. This would allow the text to be viewed and edited in a much
                > more readable/understandable format than fixed tabstops can provide.
                > The usage model I envision is:
                >
                > set tabstop=8,10,4,20,8
                >
                > This would make (depending on how you are counting) the first tabstop at
                > character 9, the second at character 19, the third at 23, the fourth at
                > 43, and the fifth at 51. Tabstops beyond those explicitly specified
                > would repeat the last tabstop, making the setting backward compatible
                > with what we have today, where only one value is allowed and it is used
                > for all the tabstops.
                >
                > Anyone else care to join me in voting to add this to the voting options?

                I'd find this feature useful. Definitely worthy of the ability to be
                voted on, I'd say.

                I prefer the interface you suggest where the last width is repeated to
                the alternative proposed where all widths are repeated in a cycle.

                Ben.


                Send instant messages to your online friends http://au.messenger.yahoo.com


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              • Richard Hartmann
                ... Please note that my suggestion would provide both and in an easy-to-use-and-discern manner :) Richard --~--~---------~--~----~------------~-------~--~----~
                Message 7 of 15 , Aug 27, 2007
                  On 28/08/07, Ben Schmidt <mail_ben_schmidt@...> wrote:

                  > I prefer the interface you suggest where the last width is repeated to
                  > the alternative proposed where all widths are repeated in a cycle.

                  Please note that my suggestion would provide both and in an
                  easy-to-use-and-discern manner :)


                  Richard

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                • Mark Waggoner
                  ... I figured if we could have variable hard tabs, it wouldn t be too hard to do do one of: A: VimScript the AlignTabs functionality B: Feature Creep into
                  Message 8 of 15 , Aug 27, 2007
                    On 8/27/07, Richard Hartmann <richih.mailinglist@...> wrote:

                    On 27/08/07, Mark Waggoner <mark.wagnell@...> wrote:

                    > For example - For a file with these two lines:
                    >
                    > First Field Data<TAB>Two<TAB>Third Field Longer Data<TAB>Fourth
                    > One<TAB>Second Field<TAB>Third Field<TAB>Four
                    >
                    > (Where <TAB> is a tab character) I'd like to be able to set the tabstops so
                    > that I could see:
                    >
                    > First Field Data  Two           Third Field Longer Data  Fourth
                    > One               Second Field  Third Field              Four
                    >
                    > But NOT actually replace the tab characters with spaces in the file.

                    I would _love_ to be able to do this. But instead of needing fiddle around with
                    hard limits, I would prefer to :set AlignTabs or something and have vim
                    automagically do it by itself. Optionally, let me define min (and max, if that
                    makes sense) width to last entry. Cookies for offering an easy way to transfer
                    that view into whitespaces/multiple tabs/a combination thereof for people
                    unfortunate enough not to use vim :p

                    Richard
                     
                    I figured if we could have variable hard tabs, it wouldn't be too hard to do do one of:
                      A: VimScript the "AlignTabs" functionality
                      B: Feature Creep into something like AlignTabs (e.g. set tabstop=auto,max:20,min:4 )
                     
                    Note to Bram to avoid killing my original request by asking for too much... I'm not asking for "B"!!!
                     
                    Mark 
                     


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                  • Tony Mechelynck
                    ... The last time I used variable tab stops was way back when, maybe not on an actual typewriter but emulating one (with right-margin bell and everything). I
                    Message 9 of 15 , Aug 27, 2007
                      Richard Hartmann wrote:
                      > On 27/08/07, Mark Waggoner <mark.wagnell@...> wrote:
                      >
                      >> set tabstop=8,10,4,20,8
                      >>
                      >> This would make (depending on how you are counting) the first tabstop at
                      >> character 9, the second at character 19, the third at 23, the fourth at 43,
                      >> and the fifth at 51. Tabstops beyond those explicitly specified would
                      >> repeat the last tabstop, making the setting backward compatible with what we
                      >> have today, where only one value is allowed and it is used for all the
                      >> tabstops.
                      >
                      > Personally, I would expect this to go 8,10,4,20,8,8,10,4,20,8,8,10,4,20,8..
                      > If you want it to go 8,10,4,20,8,8,8,8,8,8, I would suggest using 8,10,4,20,8*
                      > or some such.
                      >
                      > That said, I am not completely sure if I would ever use such a feature, more
                      > on that in my reply to your other mail in this thread.
                      >
                      >
                      > Richard

                      The last time I used variable tab stops was way back when, maybe not on an
                      actual typewriter but emulating one (with right-margin bell and everything). I
                      never used cyclically repeating variable stops: what I used was basically what
                      I'd call "fixed stops with exceptions". I believe repeating the last stop
                      width indefinitely makes more sense than repeating the whole shebang cyclically.

                      I'm skeptical of all this however. Vim is a plaintext editor, not a
                      spreadsheet. Or is that old-fashioned me throwing wrenches into the wheels of
                      progress?


                      Best regards,
                      Tony.
                      --
                      Practical people would be more practical if they would take a little
                      more time for dreaming.
                      -- J. P. McEvoy

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                    • Dave Land
                      ... Synchronicity! I d vote for it! I was editing some data files over the weekend where Mark s recommendation would really have come in handy, and was
                      Message 10 of 15 , Aug 27, 2007
                        On Aug 27, 2007, at 2:54 PM, Richard Hartmann wrote:

                        > On 27/08/07, Mark Waggoner <mark.wagnell@...> wrote:
                        >
                        >> set tabstop=8,10,4,20,8
                        >>
                        >> This would make (depending on how you are counting) the first
                        >> tabstop at
                        >> character 9, the second at character 19, the third at 23, the
                        >> fourth at 43,
                        >> and the fifth at 51. Tabstops beyond those explicitly specified
                        >> would
                        >> repeat the last tabstop, making the setting backward compatible
                        >> with what we
                        >> have today, where only one value is allowed and it is used for all
                        >> the
                        >> tabstops.
                        >
                        > Personally, I would expect this to go
                        > 8,10,4,20,8,8,10,4,20,8,8,10,4,20,8..
                        > If you want it to go 8,10,4,20,8,8,8,8,8,8, I would suggest using
                        > 8,10,4,20,8*
                        > or some such.

                        Synchronicity! I'd vote for it!

                        I was editing some data files over the weekend where Mark's
                        recommendation would really have come in handy, and was wondering if
                        there was a way in the existing product to do it...

                        I had some thoughts about a simple way of expressing arbitrarily complex
                        patterns of tabstops, borrowing somewhat from regular expression syntax.

                        I began with the assumption that we'd need to support the existing
                        behavior,
                        so that:

                        set tabstop=4

                        Still results in a repeating pattern of tabs every fourth character.

                        Mark's setting:

                        set tabstop=8,10,4,20,8

                        Would work as Mark suggests: the last of the comma-delimited elements
                        repeats. This keeps us from "running off the end" of the pattern and
                        having no more tabs after column 50.

                        Along comes scope creep.

                        To achieve Richard's repeating pattern, I'd suggest this:

                        set tabstop=(8,4,20,8)

                        Parentheses let the pattern repeat as a group.

                        More complex patterns could be easily coded up:

                        set tabstop=8,4,(2,6){4},8

                        Would result in:

                        8,4,2,6,2,6,2,6,2,6,8,8,8,8...

                        I suppose that this setting:

                        set tabstop=8,4,(2,6){4}

                        Would repeat the pattern 2,6,2,6,2,6,2,6 forever, rendering the {4}
                        redundant, but still, the pattern would work.

                        My $0.02,

                        Dave

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                      • Matthew Winn
                        On Mon, 27 Aug 2007 23:54:43 +0200, Richard Hartmann ... I m not keen on that: it seems inelegant to have a single non-numeric value in the list. Is there
                        Message 11 of 15 , Aug 28, 2007
                          On Mon, 27 Aug 2007 23:54:43 +0200, "Richard Hartmann"
                          <richih.mailinglist@...> wrote:

                          > On 27/08/07, Mark Waggoner <mark.wagnell@...> wrote:
                          >
                          > > set tabstop=8,10,4,20,8
                          > >
                          > > This would make (depending on how you are counting) the first tabstop at
                          > > character 9, the second at character 19, the third at 23, the fourth at 43,
                          > > and the fifth at 51. Tabstops beyond those explicitly specified would
                          > > repeat the last tabstop, making the setting backward compatible with what we
                          > > have today, where only one value is allowed and it is used for all the
                          > > tabstops.
                          >
                          > Personally, I would expect this to go 8,10,4,20,8,8,10,4,20,8,8,10,4,20,8..
                          > If you want it to go 8,10,4,20,8,8,8,8,8,8, I would suggest using 8,10,4,20,8*
                          > or some such.

                          I'm not keen on that: it seems inelegant to have a single non-numeric
                          value in the list.

                          Is there really any situation where an unlimited cyclical list of tabs
                          would be useful? I'd find variable tabs useful for situations such as
                          when I'm looking at a file where there's one wide column containing
                          text and many other smaller columns, for which I might use a setting
                          like 8,25,8 to mean 8,25,8,8,8..., but I would expect the pattern of
                          columns to repeat only after a new line. For example, if the columns
                          are a code, a description, and a list of value fields then the next
                          code and description will occur on the next line. They won't appear
                          later in the same line.

                          --
                          Matthew Winn

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                        • Richard Hartmann
                          On 28/08/07, Dave Land wrote: [lots] I fully agree, your suggestion is the most concise by far. Richard
                          Message 12 of 15 , Aug 28, 2007
                            On 28/08/07, Dave Land <land@...> wrote:

                            [lots]

                            I fully agree, your suggestion is the most concise by far.


                            Richard

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                          • Charles E Campbell Jr
                            ... I could get my AutoAlign, Align, and AlignMaps plugins to come close to this. The idea would be to set ts=1, and basically align on the tabs (its a wee
                            Message 13 of 15 , Aug 28, 2007
                              Mark Waggoner wrote:

                              > On 8/27/07, *Hari Krishna Dara* <hari.vim@...
                              > <mailto:hari.vim@...>> wrote:
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              > On Mon, 27 Aug 2007 at 10:27am, Mark Waggoner wrote:
                              >
                              >> I've asked Bram in the past whether he would add this to the voting
                              >> list. The best I've been able to get is "I'll think about it"
                              > :) Perhaps
                              >> if I throw the idea out to the mailing lists I can garner a
                              > little support.
                              >>
                              >> When editing or viewing text files that contain data with fields
                              > separated
                              >> by tab characters, I would like to be able to set non-uniform
                              >> tabstops. This would allow the text to be viewed and edited in a
                              > much more
                              >> readable/understandable format than fixed tabstops can provide.
                              > The usage
                              >> model I envision is:
                              >>
                              >> set tabstop=8,10,4,20,8
                              >>
                              >> This would make (depending on how you are counting) the first
                              > tabstop at
                              >> character 9, the second at character 19, the third at 23, the
                              > fourth at 43,
                              >> and the fifth at 51. Tabstops beyond those explicitly specified
                              > would
                              >> repeat the last tabstop, making the setting backward compatible
                              > with what we
                              >> have today, where only one value is allowed and it is used for
                              > all the
                              >> tabstops.
                              >>
                              >> Anyone else care to join me in voting to add this to the voting
                              > options?
                              >>
                              >> Mark Waggoner
                              >>
                              >> (I'm trying out mailing to the list with gmail for the first
                              > time. If this
                              >> ends up "ugly", my apologies.)
                              >>
                              >> >
                              >>
                              >
                              > I needed something like this a few months back and started writing a
                              > plugin for this, but never got around to release it. It is already
                              > usable, though user testing could bring up several usability
                              > issues and
                              > bugs. If you want to try it out, you can download it from here:
                              >
                              > http://haridara.googlepages.com/softtabstops.zip
                              > <http://haridara.googlepages.com/softtabstops.zip>
                              >
                              > There are some known issues, so watch out the header on
                              > plugin/softtabstops.vim. A brief usage help can also be found in the
                              > same place.
                              >
                              >
                              > I tried this out, but I don't think it is quite what I'm looking for.
                              > The softtabstops.vim routines let me set SOFT tab stops in variable
                              > places, so that if I was typing something new, I could have the tab
                              > key take me to different columns. What I want is for the HARD
                              > tabstops to be in variable places. It is not unusual to have a simple
                              > data file that has fields separated by tab characters. With the
                              > different fields having different widths, it is hard to display this
                              > efficiently (without using excessive white space for narrow fields) or
                              > even "correctly" when a particular field has a different number of
                              > characters on one line than in another.
                              >
                              > For example - For a file with these two lines:
                              >
                              > First Field Data<TAB>Two<TAB>Third Field Longer Data<TAB>Fourth
                              > One<TAB>Second Field<TAB>Third Field<TAB>Four
                              >
                              > (Where <TAB> is a tab character) I'd like to be able to set the
                              > tabstops so that I could see:
                              >
                              > First Field Data Two Third Field Longer Data Fourth
                              > One Second Field Third Field Four
                              >
                              > But NOT actually replace the tab characters with spaces in the file.

                              I could get my AutoAlign, Align, and AlignMaps plugins to come close to
                              this. The idea would be to set ts=1, and basically align on the tabs
                              (its a wee bit more involved than that, but not too much). The result
                              would be tabs with space padding. At the end, one could :%s/ *\t
                              */\t/ge to get rid of the extra spaces if that was deemed desirable.
                              With the "softtabstops.vim" plugin, one could also use tab to go to the
                              desired columns.

                              As currently distributed, using V + motion + \tab (the \tab being a map
                              provided by AlignMaps) would produce a space-aligned table based on tabs
                              that would like like the above.

                              Regards,
                              Chip Campbell


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                            • Mark Waggoner
                              ... If vim was just a plaintext editor, we would not have syntax highlighting, folding, or quite a few other things. Mark
                              Message 14 of 15 , Aug 28, 2007
                                On 8/27/07, Tony Mechelynck < antoine.mechelynck@...> wrote:

                                I'm skeptical of all this however. Vim is a plaintext editor, not a
                                spreadsheet. Or is that old-fashioned me throwing wrenches into the wheels of
                                progress?
                                 
                                 
                                If vim was just a plaintext editor, we would not have syntax highlighting, folding, or quite a few other things.

                                Mark
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                              • Dave Land
                                ... Well-said, Mark, but Tony knew he was being a bit of a Luddite... Vim, like Emacs, is as much a _platform_ as a text editor, so extending it is in its DNA.
                                Message 15 of 15 , Aug 31, 2007
                                  On Aug 28, 2007, at 3:49 PM, Mark Waggoner wrote:

                                  On 8/27/07, Tony Mechelynck < antoine.mechelynck@...> wrote:

                                  I'm skeptical of all this however. Vim is a plaintext editor, not a
                                  spreadsheet. Or is that old-fashioned me throwing wrenches into the wheels of
                                  progress?
                                  If vim was just a plaintext editor, we would not have syntax highlighting, folding, or quite a few other things.

                                  Well-said, Mark, but Tony knew he was being a bit of a Luddite...

                                  Vim, like Emacs, is as much a _platform_ as a text editor, so extending it is in its DNA.

                                  If it was _just_ a text editor, we probably wouldn't even have Vim, just vi.

                                  Dave



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