Throughout the years, there have been many clones and re-implementations of the venerable vi editor. One variant of vi that emerged and stayed with us is VIM. Since it's introduction, VIM has proven itself a worthy successor to the traditional vi editor. VIM has rightfully taken the place of standard vi implementations as the spiritual successor to vi, completely replacing the vi editor on many, if not all of the current Linux distributions. Many improvements have been made to VIM such as tabs, spell checking, folding, and many, many more. However many of these new enhancements may still remain hidden to anyone who isn't keeping up on the cutting edge of VIM development. Hacking VIM is a good resource for becoming more familiar with the new features of VIM and how to make them work best for you.
Hacking VIM is a short book, weighing in at a scant 210 pages. The book contains six chapters, and two appendices. The first chapter covers the history of VIM, and the lineage of vi clones that preceded it. Chapter 2 covers personalizing VIM. This chapter covers how to really take VIM and customize it for your own needs, from changing the fonts and colors for GVIM to personalizing the status bar, and using tabs. Chapter 3 deals with navigating better in VIM, whether it's in a singular file, or a group of files (which is especially important for several programming environments). Chapter 4 discusses the many productivity enhancements of VIM, such as templates, auto-completion, code folding, sessions, and the built in diff mode. Advanced formatting is covered in chapter 5, which has a few interesting tips on making code look better. Rounding out the book (and weighing in as the largest chapter of the book) is scripting VIM. VIM has excellent scripting capabilities, and this chapter covers them in great detail, from finding scripts to writing your own. Lastly, the Appendix covers some of the neat scripts available for VIM, such as a minesweeper game, and the obligatory Towers of Hanoi puzzle and mail client (because no software is considered done until it reads mail and news. :) )
Hacking VIM prefaces each tip with which version of VIM will work with each function. There were only a few instances where I noticed that a particular function was mis-marked as requiring a later version of VIM that actually worked with earlier versions. The book also contains good images which help demonstrate some of the more visual components of VIM, like tabs, folding, and the spell checker.
Hacking VIM is chock-full of useful tips for getting the most out of VIM. The book is aimed at those who have already gained some familiarity with the VIM editor, and is by no means a tutorial for the novice user. There is clearly a bias in this book to the intermediate and advanced VIM users. Unfortunately, this is at odds with the first chapter, which starts with a history of the VIM editor. This wastes some of the space of the book, and would have been best used with more unique and different tips. Also, having some experience with VIM, I found certain tips weren't worth the trouble, and others quite confusing. The section on signs was a bit confusing, and I'm still unclear on why they're worth the trouble. There were several instances where I wondered what the productive benefit of a tip would be. On the other hand, I did find several tips invaluable. It's easy to overlook new functions in the CHANGELOGs, so I missed that newer versions of VIM had integrated spell-checking. Overall, Hacking VIM had enough good tips in it that I hadn't discovered on my own to make it worth the read.
Like most editors, VIM can induce editor fiddling sessions that result in little work being done, and Hacking VIM contains lots of fodder to make even the most ardent tweaker happy. Unless you carefully follow the mailing lists for VIM, and try every new feature as it is released, you might miss some really helpful productivity enhancers. My only wish for this book would be more focus on really productive tips, and less history about the other versions of vi that didn't survive. Hacking VIM may have lots of "of course" items for the truly seasoned VIM user, but for those of us who don't keep up-to-date with the latest features, Hacking VIM is an excellent way to get more familiar with some of the truly great features that have been introduced in later VIM versions.