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On Spacemacs for Dummies

April 06, 2016

Since recently I’ve been trying to switch to using Spacemacs instead of Vim. As I had literally (in the literal sense) no Emacs experience, it wasn’t such a walk in the park as it’s presented to be. Here I want to share the basic lessons I’ve learnt to get over the initial barriers and start using the editor on a daily basis. Basically it’ll be a (very) short explanation how to accomplish my most common Vim tasks in Spacemacs.

Splitting windows

It’s super easy. First you split the window vertically (producing a vertical border through the whole screen) with SPC w v, or horizontally with SPC w - (the last character being a horizontal line). Afterwards you can switch between them with SPC w 1, SPC w 2, etc. and finally close them with SPC w c. Actually, closing a window is not final, because you can bring it back with SPC w u (undo).

Opening different files in your project

What I wanted is an equivalent of CtrlP that I’ve been using in Vim. For this we’re using the projectile library. Simply pressing SPC p f gives us a fuzzy-search of all the files in the current project. The exact scope of the project is being guessed. For me it usually comes down to the git repository the file I edit is in. You can also use SPC p r to switch to one of the recently opened files.

If I want to search for all the files containing come string, I use SPC s a p (search using ag in the project) this gets me a live-updated list of matches.

Renaming variables

What I used to do in Vim a lot is select the whole file, and then do :s/something/something else/. That was my elaborate way of renaming variables. Yeah, I know.

Anyway, I have an easier method now in Spacemacs where I move the cursor anywhere the variable that I want to rename, press SPC s e to go into iedit state, and then either I or A depending on whether I want to add a prefix or sufix. Afterwards I tap the ESC twice to go back to normal state.

All the rest

All the rest that I use are simple pure Vim commands that just work thanks to the Spacemacs’ evil mode. The above were the only things that I had to learn to be comfortable again in my editing after the switch. Hope it helps you as well!


Wojciech Ogrodowczyk

Written by Wojciech Ogrodowczyk who takes photos, climbs mountains, and runs Brains & Beards to help companies deliver better mobile applications faster.