Robots Shall Fulfill: Vim CheatSheet 1.0 Print-to-Order

Here goes something! The original Vim CheatSheet is now available in print for the first time since the 2012 Kickstarter print run. Orders are printed and fulfilled by a somewhat mysterious automated fulfillment company called ScalablePress, who take a sizeable cut but provide decent shipping rates, sturdy poster stock and crisp print quality. Click below and fiddle with the magic number boxes to order a copy:

Print and digital preorders will be available soon! Preorders include a complementary copy of the digital download package, and a sneak peak at the final drafts of the update with a direct line of feedback for ideas, dreams, suggestions, complaints, encouragement, and Vim-related haiku poetry.

A particularly haunting page of concept sketches for ways to represent modifier keys on the updated design. Doubtful if any of these hare-brained ideas will make it into the final draft! Emacs joke included free of charge.

Umm… Vim and Autism?

Eventually, I intend to use this blog to talk about all kinds of ridiculous stuff, but I will definitely go on about autism for a while first. You might not think Vim and autism could be related, but you might read the rest of this blog post, too!

After realizing that I am autistic at the end of last year, I researched obsessively and compared my experiences with the available stories, statistics, and stereotypes.

One stereotype (or symptom) of autism that I initially struggled to reconcile with my story is the bit about “sameness and adherence to routines“. I never had anything like a routine. In fact, spontaneity and a willingness to adapt to sudden changes was a signature aspect of my personality.

Everyone likes a charismatic dilettante, and it was not an identity I was necessarily ready to let go of. It’s taken me most of this year to accept the cold truth: My spontaneity came from a place of fear, not joy and confidence. I adjusted readily for people because I was afraid of what would happen if I refused. I had tried to establish a routine several times, but setting boundaries was impossible for me before burnout. I simply never established the social tools required to pull it off on a regular basis. All it took was a friend wanting to talk late at night (which, for a connected extrovert like Past Max, was pretty much every night), and any attempt at routine would be dashed against the rocks of sleep deprivation.

The study authors found that Autistic people have every bit as much desire for friendship and human contact as non-autistic people and our UCLA loneliness scores were significantly higher than non-autistic people’s…

– Maxfield Sparrow, Autism and the Burden of Social Reciprocity

Eventually, I gave up on routines and habits entirely, and started referring to schedules derisively as “time bondage”! I drew on my bank of energy until it ran out. So much for that “sameness and routines” theory, right?


Here’s where Vim comes in.

An early attempt at working some typographical foundations into the update. This version has heart, I’m still kind of attached to it.

Looking back this year at the start of my long recovery, I begin to see patterns in my behavior that I had never bothered examining before: Every time I ate out (often, on a programmer’s salary), I would order from the same internal catalog of reliable dishes I had tried before, or that varied minimally between restaurants.  Sometimes I would listen to the same individual song on repeat for hours, even days at a time. And then, of course, there were my computing habits.

“Idiosyncratic” doesn’t begin to describe it, though “idio-” is definitely the right prefix. I was a pathological parser pedant. I interpreted scripts, configured shells, and lots of other ridiculous programmery jargon I don’t dare to reproduce in polite company.

A later layout concept for the update based on a “futuristic” remake of the Vim logo. Not sure if I’ll keep any of these major elements in the final draft.

Vim was the ultimate routine. Vim has been around in some form since the 70’s. That’s practically the middle ages in computing years. Its keyboard mappings, functions, and documentation have been combed through and evolved by teams of enthusiasts for decades. I got so used to navigating Vim that I barely went a day without trying to close an instant message by typing “:wq!” and hitting Enter. (Yes I know you can “ZZ” but it just feeeeels better to hit Enter. Don’t @ me!)

That’s why I’m both happy and proud to come back to this project. Vim users become Vim contributors, and this program became vital infrastructure in my life because of the labor and enthusiasm of the very same kind folks who have patronized this humble Internet shopping venue.

Finally, I have a real vision for the new design. It is not intended to replace the original, necessarily. Strictly speaking, it will probably have a smaller raw quantity of information than the original, but it will have many different kinds of information. I’ll be keeping the signature navigation cross, which everyone seems to love, and adding a row of portraits of several developers who drove the biggest steps in Vim’s evolution, starting with Ken Thompson’s ed 1.0 in 1969. I want a usage reference that also serves as an object of historical record, maybe even a conversation piece with non-Vim users beyond “Yeah, I have literally no idea what anything on that poster could possibly mean, but it does look kind of cool in a mesmerizing Oh-G_d-Why-Can’t-I-Look-Away kind of sense.”

The latest and most definitely greatest concept for the 2.0 layout. The caricature portraits will be hand-painted by yours truly!

I hope all of this has begun to provide some perspective on what’s been going on for me the last few years, at least as far as the Vim CheatSheet project is concerned. I’ll probably say this in every post, but it’s worth repeating: The patience and gentle encouragement from customers and enthusiasts alike is nothing short of a miracle. Every day I go on Twitter and read about “content creators” being treated ruthlessly. I hope every honest vendor gets to have patrons like mine someday soon!

The layout draft sketch for the original Vim CheatSheet design, scrawled on an unruled marble notebook page.

That’s all for now. If the oracle’s prophecies are true, the next update will bring preorder purchase buttons with it, and the actual, literal/physical, real-at-long-last 2.0 design soon after.


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