One Million Programmers Want To Escape Vim
Written by Lucy Black   
Sunday, 28 May 2017

It's like something from a horror story. One million programmers couldn't get out of Vim once they got into it. The proof? One million hits on a Stack Overflow question.

Over a million at the time of writing.

The question:

I'm stuck and cannot escape. It says:

"type :quit<Enter> to quit VIM"

But when I type that it simply appears in the object body.

You've probably been there and done that, but are too proud of your Vim abilities today to admit it. It just goes to show you, or remind you, that once you know something and it becomes familiar it also becomes obvious. 

We have been laughing about exiting Vim for a while.

From a Reddit thread 2014:

Q: How do you generate a random string?

A: Put a Windows user in front of vi, and tell them to exit

you can change "Windows user" to any disadvantaged group you care to target.

Another from 2015 

Exiting vim is like riding a bike 

Except the bike's on fire.
And you are on fire.
And everything's on fire cos you are in hell.


I've been using vi for two years now,

mostly because I can't figure out how to exit it.



The fact that the question had reached a million was posted on the Stack Overflow blog:

"In the last year, How to exit the Vim editor has made up about .005% of question traffic: that is, one out of every 20,000 visits to Stack Overflow questions. That means during peak traffic hours on weekdays, there are about 80 people per hour that need help getting out of Vim."

What is interesting is that this is an increasing interest. The question started to get some attention about a year after it was asked and it has been up all the way after that.

However there is more to the web than Stack Overflow and the problem has been causing bother long before the record-breaking question was born in 2012. Google Trends reveals that exiting Vim has been growing since at least 2004, but its linear trend seems to have kicked off around 2010, just before the Stack Overflow question was asked.  vim

The Stack Overflow data reveals some interesting things, however. The tags that programmers most visit were used to classify the technologies they tend to use. Top of the list of seekers of freedom were JavaScript programmers and web programmers, with a touch of C#, Android, ios, PHP, Java and so on. The suggestion is that the programmers who get stuck in Vim are the ones who generally work in IDEs such as Visual Studio, Eclipse, Xcode. and so on. 

It seems that Vim is not only a prison, it's a trap. These poor innocent programmers are probably dropped into the Vim trap by a link or a need to raw edit a configuration file and. once they fall in, they can't get out. 

The question might not get as many reads in the future, after this special interest dies down that is, because if you type in "how to exit vim" into Google you get 

To quit the vi editor without saving any changes you've made: If you are currently in insert or append mode, press Esc. Press : (colon). The cursor should reappear at the lower left corner of the screen beside a colon prompt. Enter the following: q!

And yes that works. The Google's quote however misses the last line of the answer:

This will quit the editor, and all changes you have made to the document will be lost.

Hmmm, this might just matter to some of the seekers of knowledge and freedom from Vim.



More Information

This morning, a popular Stack Overflow question hit a major milestone

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//No Comment - Vim And EMACs 

Survey Reveals Developer Preferences 

Practical Vim, 2nd Ed (Pragmatic Bookshelf) 


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Last Updated ( Sunday, 28 May 2017 )