Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of Bram Moolenaar
Image by Sebastian Bergmann.

Bram Moolenaar

Developer (Vim)

Posted in bsd, developer, linux, mac, windows

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm known for being the creator and maintainer of Vim, the text editor. I started doing this on the Amiga in 1988, which only had a buggy and limited version of Vi, the editor I was familiar with. First I made it work better for myself. In 1991 it was released to the world. On floppy disks!

May others contributed pieces, I decide what goes and and often end up fixing all the bugs. Vim is now the most popular text editor. Linux Journal stopped doing a poll for "best text editor" because Vim would always win.

For my paying job I work for Google in Zurich, Switzerland. Currently I'm leading the development of Google Calendar for the web. It's a nice place to work, although the enormous growth in the 13 years I've been there makes it no longer feel like a startup.

What hardware do you use?

My main system is an MSI motherboard with an AMD Ryzen 2700X processor and 32 Gbyte RAM. The graphics card is a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, the fastest that can use passive cooling. The system and my home directory are on an SSD disk. It's quite fast. I have always been a fan of AMD, since they made a UART that was much better than the Intel version, because it had an extra register. I am happy to see that these days they make the best processors.

Over the years I have been getting bigger monitors. I now have a 42 inch one, and frankly, it's too big! I don't use the top and far left parts much to avoid having to turn my head all the time.

A very important part for me is the keyboard. I prefer a natural one, where the left and right are split and slightly turned. It helps avoiding strain in my wrists. These days only Microsoft seems to make them, not much choice. But I'm happy with it.

I also have a Windows 7 system to run stuff that only runs on Windows. Although I use it less and less. And I have a Dell XPS 13 laptop for when I'm travelling. For work I also have a MacBook Pro. It's not my favorite, the keyboard doesn't type well, it only has USB-C ports which are so close together you can only use one out of two. I would go back to the MacBook Air if I could.

And what software?

My main system is running Ubuntu. I used to run FreeBSD, and I still like its stability, but keeping it updated was becoming a problem. And since Linux is more popular it has more tools and support. Generally it's stable, although sometimes a reboot fails. Still haven't been able to figure out why.

For desktop I keep going back to GNOME. Ubuntu has been offering various alternatives that I can't get used to. GNOME works well enough, although changing settings can be a pain (fortunately there is this search engine..).

Chrome for browser, since it's very stable. Although I sometimes start Firefox if something fails. I have multiple tabs open to quickly switch between applications, such as Gmail and Calendar (mainly for work), Vim build status dashboards and any document I'm working on.

Once in a while I play a game, mostly old ones. I'm a fan of the old Command & Conquer games, which only run on Windows. I also like Portal, which now runs under Steam on Ubuntu.

What would be your dream setup?

Well, what I'm already running! I sometimes wonder what I can buy to make it work better, but I can't think of anything. Better speakers perhaps, when watching streaming TV or recordings the sound is a bit thin.