I received my latest copy of Linux Journal late last week.  I usually open it up and start reading as soon as I get.  Unfortunately, I’ve been tied up with end of the semester responsibilities the last couple of weeks and hadn’t gotten around to it.  Anyway, I finally did today.  The featured cover story was about amateur radio–not really an interest of mine.  Whenever the features don’t appeal to me, I still make sure to read the regular contributors’ articles.  I have found some really interesting and useful information in many of them.

The one that caught my eye this month was Kyle Rankin’s “Dr. hjkl Meets the Vimperator.” I’m not a programmer and rarely use Vi or Vim because I am not accustomed to the interface. (When I need a text editor, I use Gedit.  I do see the value of Vi, and if I had a lot of editing to do, I would probably spend more time learning the keybindings.)  The only real experience I have with the Vi/Vim keybinding is through Mutt.  I had it installed on my Thinkpad in the past and used it for a short time to manage my email.  I actually liked Mutt a lot; however, I abandoned it because I didn’t want to give up the calendaring features in Thunderbird via the Lightning and GCal plug-ins.

Vimperator (and Muttator–a Vi-like plug-in for Thunderbird) may make me a convert.  For those of you who don’t know, Vimperator is a Firefox plug-in that allows you to control the browser using Vi/Vim keybinding.  You can open links, scroll up and down, open and close tabs, and do just about everything you can do with your mouse and the GUI without using your mouse.  Pretty cool, huh?

I already installed it on a Dell Mini from the Mozilla Add-on website, but actually found a version in the Karmic repos afterwards (it looks like the latest version too).   It was kind of serendipitous that I used the Mozilla website.  I found Muttator, which wasn’t mentioned in LJ, listed as a related plug-in on the Vimperator page.  I’ll try that one later; it is still Alpha software according to its website.

After restarting Firefox, I played around for a little while.  Luckily, I read Rankin’s article and knew to expect some changes in the Firefox interface.  One that could be problematic for those who don’t know Vi/Vim keybinding is that Vimperator automatically disables the menu bar.  One of the first things that Rankin explains how to do is to re-enable it; it is very easy to do.  Type :set guioptions+=mTVoila, the menu bar is back.

Also included in the article was a listing of some of the main/basic keybindings.  Very handy for a person like me who has little experience with Vi/Vim.  After about 10 minutes of use, I was getting the hang of it and liking the navigation.  It was very quick.

I could see myself using my browser like this.  I already use many of the built-in keyboard shortcuts in Firefox.  The advantage to Vimperator is that the keystrokes require less drastic movement of your hands and fewer combo strokes (well, sort of, there are some that require multiple strokes).  The Hinting mode is also too cool.  Press f and you see that Vimperator highlights all (well almost all) of the different links and other navigable areas (text entry boxes and the like) on the page and numbers them.  Find the corresponding number for the link or text box you want, type it and hit Enter.  And just like that, the link opens or the cursor moves to the input area.

I couldn’t find a Vimperator man page and haven’t found a comprehensive list of keybindings, but according to Rankin, there is a list on the Vimperator help page.  I’ll check that out later.

I’m going to play with Vimperator a little more and decide whether to put it on my other boxes.  The beauty of Firefox plug-ins are that they are easy to disable and uninstall.  I’ll let you know how goes.