Neovim is a new version of the ancient (in computing terms at least!) text editing program Vim, “for the 21st century”. The new edition promises to be lighter weight, faster and have better support for 3rd party programs. This latter point is exciting because it means that fully featured ‘vim mode’ could be added to other programs such as RStudio, which currently lacks key functionalities.

neovimshot

Neovim is of great interest to computer programmers and digital technology enthusiasts. The excitement seems justified based on neovim’s rapid evolution and new features.

The development of neovim should also be of interest to advocates of technology for poverty alleviation: it will provide a world class toolkit for free, where alternatives such as Sublime and TextMate cost in the region of £50.

Happy to say that neovim is up and running on my computer and can be called from the terminal with nvim. The installation is described on the website, but can seem a little daunting to people new to the world of Linux. So here’s my brief ‘how to’:

1: Unpack the neovim folder onto your computer

This can be done either by downloading the .zip file and unzipping it wherever you like or, if you have git installed, by typing

git clone https://github.com/neovim/neovim.git

inside a terminal.

2: Build it

At this stage you need to be in a terminal. Navigate into neovim, e.g. by typing cd neovim after the previous command. Then its a case of issuing the build commands:

make cmake

cmake

sudo make install

These three commands got neovim up and running without issue. I’m not 100% sure if you need all 3, but it worked for me.

3. Using neovim

Neovim only runs in the terminal at present - a graphical user interface called gnvim can be expected at some point. Just type nvim to see it up and running.

Initially, nvim will perform a bit strange - the backspace won’t work, for example and you will be unable to use the mouse - that’s because it’s in vi compatible mode.

To make neovim load in a more ‘normal’ mode, just create a file called .nvimrc and place it in your home directory. You don’t need to add anything to this file: it’s mere existence will prevent nvim booting into the antiquated mode. From there on, nvim simply works.