changes in the default debian vim configuration

James Vega jamessan at
Thu Dec 8 03:24:28 UTC 2005

On Wed, Dec 07, 2005 at 10:39:57PM +0100, Stefano Zacchiroli wrote:
> It took years to me to find a lot of vim settings I'm happy with. The
> reason it took me so long is that the default debian's setting were too
> poor, i.e. a lot of useful features IMO are disabled.  Years ago that
> choice might have been reasonable since enabling too much features can
> make people addicted to the old vi feel not at ease. I think it is no
> longer the case, and I don't want our users to to go trough my long path
> of vim settings :-)

I'd go the other way and say that we should leave things alone except
for maybe setting nocompatible in the system-wide vimrc.

> The hard part is of course understand what is a matter of personal taste
> and what can be useful for the vast majority of our users. Thus I RFC to
> enable/disable some settings.
> Practically, I propose to enable the following features (that are
> currently commented in /etc/vim/vimrc)
>   "set showcmd" Show (partial) command in status line.
>   "set showmatch" Show matching brackets.
>   "set ignorecase" Do case insensitive matching
>   "set incsearch" Incremental search
>   "set autowrite" Automatically save before commands like :next and :make

The only one of these I would feel comfortable turning on by default is
'showcmd' and maybe 'showmatch'.  The rest are much too personal, IMO,
and 'autowrite' should definitely not be enabled by default.  If
anything, 'hidden' should be used.

> and in addition enable also
>   set smartcase
>   set mouse=a
>   set smartindent
>   syntax on
>   filetype indent on

Again, these fall in the "too personal" bucket for me.

> in addition I also propose to remove from /etc/vim/gvimrc
>   set hlsearch

That's fine with me.

> but this is probably because I hate it viscerally :-)
> What do you think?

In general, I feel that Vim should be left as untouched as possible from
the default.  People tend to feel very strongly about their editor
preferences and I'd rather have them dig around and learn about the
various options and how to use Vim's excellent help system.  That makes
them better informed and likely able to help themselves when something's
not working how they want it to.

Aside from that, having a consistent base config makes it easier to use
your vimrc in different places.  I'm almost to the point where the first
line in my vimrc is "set all&" just to be sure I know what settings I'm
working with.

We've also seen situations[1][2] where the config we set in the
system-wide vimrc has caused various issues for the end user.  Granted,
these have been more complex than a basic setting of an option, but it's
something to consider.


[1] - Our vmap for p prevented one from pasting from a register.
[2] - Determining the papersize was invoking the shell, which wouldn't
      work with non-POSIX shells and prevented the rest of the vimrc
      from being sourced.  This was being done before the user could set
      'shell' in their vimrc and prevent the problems.
GPG Key: 1024D/61326D40 2003-09-02 James Vega <jamessan at>
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