Vim for a RSI-suffering journalist?

Greetings lazyweb

This Christmas my sister, working as a journalist, talked to me about her painful experiences with RSI (Repetitive strain injury) problems, and I just now two weeks later remembered how vim was designed to be easy on the fingers exactly in regards to this kind of problems. What I’m not sure about is how much strain vim really could save a journalist. As a coder, the advantages are obvious because you’re jumping around in the code all the time, doing small changes. But as a journalist I fear the advantages are smaller, and I’m not so certain I want to recommend her start walking the steep hill that is getting efficient with vim when it might even cause her fingers more strain than before (considering that if she really mostly is just typing in insert mode, the whole switching modes paradigm isn’t helping).

So what’s the planet’s call, is vim fit for a journalist?


14 Responses to “Vim for a RSI-suffering journalist?”

  1. Tom Says:

    Switching which keyboard type (ergonomics) and layout (eg dvorak) might help as an initial step to see if it is that she has overused certain muscles. I think using vim in insert mode will provide no benefit.

  2. Simone Says:

  3. Tom Says:

    I would strongly suggest trying a dvorak layout (no point in buying a new keyboard, just spend some time memorising the new layout). I have been using it for about a year and a half and it is amazing. It took me about two weeks to learn how to write and about one month to write faster than with my old qwerty layout. I used to suffer from mild RSI before the switch and never had any problems after.

  4. knock Says:

    I experienced this mildly whilst learning to touch type – I’ve got big hands. One of those Powerball’s sorted me out – though I had to take it easy until my wrists got strong.

    I’m sure if I hadn’t bothered with it, it would have been one of those slippery slope things.

  5. Markus Says:

    There are special shaped keyboards — not just with different printings on the keys. There are also special mice.
    If she can’t effort those, the least she should do is to use the other hand to control the mouse for a week or two.

  6. Tejas Dinkar Says:

    For me, it was the { and } to jump back and ahead one paragraph that really got me in love with vim.

    I use vim to compose a lot of emails, I’m not sure if the dynamics are really that different for Journalists

  7. Linus Berglund Says:

    Switching to a more well thought out keyboard layout did the trick for me. Tell her about dvorak/colemak.

    She’ll have to re-learn typing, but probably it is for the better. I use dvorak since I got problems with my wrists. I am not pain-free (typing while your hands are cold is BAD), but since switching I do not have to limit my computer usage after my hands.

    Even though colemak might be a better layout for the english language, dvorak is widely available. (every mac/linux/win-computer). The only drawback I can see is that dvorak has some issues while using only one hand (and copypasting of course)

  8. tamas Says:

    (full disclosure: i’m a hardcore vim user)

    Vim might help with RSI as it minimizes the keypresses needed to do text editing tasks. For example, Emacs users are more susceptible to RSI because the constant user a CTRL- combos that strains the pinky.

    However, if your sister didn’t acquired RSI by using specific shortcuts while editing, but general keyboard usage, a different keyboard, or the forementioned Dvorak layout might be more beneficial than the crazyness of Vim.

    Also, the importance of hourly breaks with some finger stretching and exercising can not be stressed enough. For me, my short attention span and habit of constantly fiddling with things has been a great help. Also, for those who aren’t as blessed as I am, there are applications that can help getting those regular breaks.

    Learning Vim can be great for a journalist, too, but for other reasons than recovering from RSI. Vim’s understanding of paragraphs and sentences, spell checker makes it as good of a general purpose text editor as it gets. But the learning curve is there, and after you overcame it, it makes you so spoiled that you can’t think of anything but modal editing. (“Wha?! I pressed ‘G’ and it just appeared on the screen!? What is this madness?!”)

    Conclusion: she should get a comfortable keyboard, have regular breaks, and perhaps give Dvorak a spin.

  9. Ryan Paul Says:

    I am a journalist and I have written hundreds of articles with Vim. I doubt that Vim inherently reduces the risk of RSI, but it does boost productivity.

    I strongly recommend getting gel or foam wrist pads to put in front of the keyboard and mouse. They make a much bigger difference then most people realize. Getting an ergonomic keyboard can also help. Another thing to keep in mind is that laptops generally encourage terrible posture and hand position. I used to do most of my work on a laptop, but I discovered that the pain in my hands and arms decreased a lot when I switched to a desktop computer.

  10. Thomas Zander Says:

    I have the strong impression its not so much about using an app like vim but much more about avoiding a lot of mouse usage. I myself always start KWord when I want to type some text, even while I am a hardcore vim programmer. The thing is that I use a lot of keyboard shortcuts and dont really use the mouse. Most people never figure out keyboard shortcuts like next word or changing list levels…

  11. Diederik van der Boor Says:

    IMHO RSI should be an abbreviation for ‘Repetitive stress injury’. I can code long periods of time without getting any problems. Then again, when I’m experiencing stress, not feeling well, begin unhappy or even angry about something, experience a lack of satisfaction in what I do, or … (fill in yourself) I start to experience strains. Fixing the mental / psychological issue fixes the strains.

    Therefore, instead of switching editors or keyboard layouts I’d suggest:
    – doing something you feel comfortable about, gives you happyness and excitement. (preferably it doesn’t involve a keyboard ;-).
    – doing sports
    – give yourself some time off
    – deal with the situation that annoys you (could also be acceping it, and letting it go)

  12. Axio Says:

    Kinesis Keyboard in dvorak (bĂ©po, as I’m a French speaker, and a few hacks because of the physical layout of the keyboard), xwrits to enforce breaks every N minutes, a pen tablet instead of a mouse, and vim.
    That’s my set-up.

  13. not xah Says:

    you’re all fucking retarded, the real solution is to have proper key bindings. for example, one mr. stupidy-fuck said that emacs users have it worse because of multiple-key combos. this is like saying the cure for obesity is putting a tax on fast food. yea, it might work, but why not just ship those fat people to a concentration camp and whip them with twizzlers until they drop 200lbs, followed by a dumbell workout with cool-aid jugs?

    lifting weights, excercise (LOL) and diet is voodoo.

    see ergoemacs,

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