I started programming in C almost 20 years ago

I started programming in C almost 20 years ago. Vim is, without question, the worst C codebase I have seen. Copy-pasted but subtly changed code abounds. Indentation is haphazard. Lines contain tabs mixed with spaces. Source files are huge. There are almost 25,000 lines in eval.c. That file contains over 500 #ifdefs and references globals defined in the 2,000 line globals.h.

Some of Vim’s source code isn’t even valid text. It’s not ASCII or UTF-8. The venerable file can’t figure out the encoding.

ggreer@carbon:~/code/vim% file -I src/digraph.c 
src/digraph.c: text/x-c; charset=unknown-8bit

Thankfully, eval.c is pure ASCII.

Many of Vim’s #ifdefs are for platforms that became irrelevant decades ago: BeOS, VMS, Amiga, Mac OS Classic, IRIX. These preprocessor statements may seem innocuous, but they slow development and inhibit new features. Also, Vim doesn’t even work on most of these platforms anymore. It’s just that nobody has an ancient system with which to test Vim. Neovim developers analyzed many of the preprocessor statements and found a significant number that could never be included in a working Vim.

A couple of months after my disillusionment with Vim, Thiago de Arruda submitted a similar patch. It was likewise rejected. But unlike me, Thiago didn’t give up. He started NeoVim and created a Bountysource for it.

Neovim is exactly what it claims to be. It fixes every issue I have with Vim: The plugin API. The codebase. The community. The BDFL.

Neovim’s codebase is a substantial improvement. They’ve replaced much of the hacky, platform-specific code with libuv. They’ve fixed the problems with indentation, style, and bad file encodings. They’ve removed old code for ancient, unused platforms. They’ve drastically increased test quality and coverage. There’s still much to be done, but the difference is already worlds better.

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