Vim as an IDE on Windows 10

February 28, 2020

I want the same experience independent of the platform I’m using. For this reason, I’m a die-hard Vim fan. With mosh and FiraCode life is good. On Windows, it has been a challenge to have an excellent vim experience.

Issues with Visual Studio Code:

  • Vim plugin didn’t work how I wanted. For example: I couldn’t hit 5{tab} to indent a block.
  • The clipboard didn’t work sometimes. (I still can’t explain it.)
  • Multiple histories (vim and & Visual Studio Code) means that undo and redo operations are messy.
  • No relative line numbers making it hard to quickly do 5dd or something when I want to move a code block.
  • I love splitting windows, but don’t like navigating through tabs.

Several months ago, I started looking for solutions around Neovim, but I had trouble finding something that would support FiraCode’s ligatures. Neovide looked like a possible solution, but there were a few challenges. The biggest one is that it won’t run on my home computer (it builds, but no errors).

I started looking at other solutions.

  • Running vim through WSL. Disk, i/o with WSL, is usually too slow, and I want to access my local filesystem without symlinks. Additionally, I can’t open Ubuntu in the windows store and don’t want to troubleshoot it.
  • NeovimGTK’s windows build. While the binary available ran, it wouldn’t display ligatures. I spent a lot of time trying to build it from source with MSYS2 & GTK, but on step 144/145, I always saw this error: fatal error LNK1181: cannot open input file 'gtk-3.lib' msys2

There’s a broad spectrum of possible solutions to get vim working with FiraCode (WSL, building Linux apps on windows, etc…), but in the end here is what I found to work the best.

A week ago, Microsoft released the preview of Windows Terminal. FiraCode works in Windows Terminal with the following settings:

  "profiles": {
    "defaults": {
      // Put settings here that you want to apply to all profiles
      "fontFace": "Fira Code Retina",
      "fontSize": 10,
      "background": "#141414" // Hide the ugly blue.

Windows Terminal experience. Windows Terminal experience.

Chrome store Mosh client connected to VPS. Chrome store Mosh client connected to VPS.

Blink on an iPad connected to VPS. Blink on an iPad connected to VPS. (Retina screens are so nice…)