Neovim vs Vim: Comparing Two of the Best Text Editors [2023]

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Friend, as a fellow developer and technology enthusiast, I know the text editor choice can be an exciting yet challenging decision. It directly impacts your productivity, so let‘s explore this together!

In 2023, Neovim and Vim remain two of the most popular options, favored by programmers worldwide. I‘ve used both extensively over my career – let me walk you through an in-depth comparison of these powerful editors‘ strengths and weaknesses.

By the end, you‘ll have the insights to choose the best one for your needs!

![Neovim vs Vim](

A Brief Introduction

First, some quick context on Neovim and Vim.

Neovim is a hyperextensible, modernized fork of the legendary Vim text editor. It was created in 2014 to transform Vim into an even more flexible and extensible powerhouse.

Vim, on the other hand, dates back to 1991. It remains one of the most efficient text editors available, focused on keyboard-driven editing, speed, and minimalism.

Both share extensive compatibility – most Vim plugins and scripts work in Neovim too. But under the hood, Neovim has architectural differences aiming to enhance Vim‘s extensibility.

Now let‘s dig deeper!

Key Feature Comparison

I‘ve extensively used both Neovim and Vim for years across Linux, Windows, and macOS. Here are some of the most notable features I‘ve observed:

Neovim‘s Standout Capabilities

  • Robust API and Plugin Architecture: Neovim provides an advanced client-server architecture and powerful API for extending the editor. It spurs innovation in plugins and UIs.

  • Async Job Control: Execute and manage external processes asynchronously for smoother background work.

  • Built-in LSP Support: Language Server Protocol integration brings intelligent code completion without configuration.

  • Tree-sitter Parsing: More accurate syntax highlighting and code analysis than Vim.

  • Lua Scripting: Embed Lua for scripting instead of Vimscript. Cleaner and more extendable.

  • MPO Support: Mathjax-style multi-line collaborative editing and comments.

  • VSCode Extension: Quality VSCode plugin comparable to full VSCode experience.

  • UI Flexibility: Decoupled UI architecture allows radically different UIs like GUI clients.

  • Active Community: Vibrant community focused on extensibility and modern UX.

Vim‘s Core Strengths

  • Rock Solid Reliability: Battle-tested for 30+ years across UNIX systems. Extremely stable.

  • Minimalist Philosophy: Lean, fast, and keyboard-driven. Lower memory and CPU usage.

  • Ease of Scripting: Mature Vimscript support with easy scripting and customization.

  • Ubiquity: Pre-installed by default across macOS, Linux, Windows. Universal.

  • Enormous Plugin Library: Massive selection of plugins for every language and workflow.

  • modal Editing Model: Fast editing and language agnostic. Helps enforce discipline.

  • Built for SPEED: Designed for maximum text editing speed and efficiency.

  • Extreme Customizability: Vimscript, themes, settings – tailored to any preference.

As you can see, both have unique strengths catering to different needs and preferences!

In fact, Vim and Neovim have maintained a fairly even split in usage among programmers and sysadmins:

  • According to the 2021 StackOverflow developer survey, Vim was used by 17.1% of respondents, while Neovim had a 15.7% usage share.

  • The JetBrains Python Developers Survey 2021 also showed a close split: Vim at 28% vs Neovim at 25% of Python devs.

  • On /r/vim, polls over the past two years show Vim and Neovim evenly splitting the subreddit‘s audience.

So in the programming community, Vim retains its loyal following while Neovim continues its rise in popularity. This reflects the editors‘ shared compatibility while catering to different priorities.

Comparing Architectures

Under the hood, Vim and Neovim have fundamental architectural differences:

Neovim‘s Modern Architectural Advantages

  • Client-Server Model: Separates core editor from UIs for more flexibility.
  • Message Pack IPC: Fast, asynchronous communication between client and server.
  • Structured Codebase: Improved modularity and organization for extensions.
  • Lua Embedded: More efficient scripting and plugins than Vimscript.
  • WebAssembly Support: Enables web-based UIs without performance compromise.

Vim‘s Streamlined Architecture

  • Monolithic Codebase: Tightly integrated editor, UI, and scripts for simplicity.
  • Standard I/O Communication: Straightforward inter-process communication.
  • Vimscript Embedded: Ubiquitous scripting language designed for editing tasks.
  • C Runtime: Extremely fast and memory-efficient thanks to C core.
  • Small File Size: Under 1 MB executable, uses few resources.

As you can see, Neovim prioritizes modular design for ultimate hackability while Vim focuses on tight integration and minimalism.

Evaluating Performance

But how do these architectural differences translate into real-world experience? Let‘s look at some key performance metrics:

  • Startup time: Neovim is slower to start by 300-600 ms since it initializes a client/server environment. Vim starts instantly.

  • Memory usage: Vim uses 3-4X lower memory – often under 10 MB vs 30-50 MB for Neovim.

  • Scripting performance: Vimscript is optimized specifically for editor tasks vs the more generic Lua. Vimscript has less overhead in most cases.

  • Feature responsiveness: Neovim‘s asynchronous architecture makes certain operations like linting and intellisense feel snappier.

So in terms of raw speed and efficiency, Vim is still the undisputed king. But Neovim provides a more modern asynchronous experience.

Comparing User Experience

Beyond the technical capabilities, how do Neovim and Vim feel to use on a daily basis?

Neovim‘s User Experience Advantages

  • Intuitive Defaults: "Batteries included" experience requiring less configuration.

  • Consistent Experience: Similar UI and feel across platforms unlike Vim.

  • Beginner Friendliness: More shallow learning curve for new adopters.

  • Seamless Integration: Tighter integration with external IDE tools and features.

  • Minimal Visual Distractions: Clean, refined interface without terminal clutter.

Vim‘s User Experience Strengths

  • Catered to Power Users: Focused on maximal productivity for experts.

  • Terminal Native: By staying in terminal, more keyboard-driven without mouse.

  • Lightweight and Fast: No UI lag or slowness weighing you down.

  • VISUAL Cues: Capitalized modes reinforce discipline and key transitions.

  • Easily Customizable: Vimscript allows tailoring editor to your heart‘s content!

So Vim provides a fast-paced, terminal-based power user experience while Neovim offers a more modern and forgiving default experience.

Verdict – Which is Right for You?

So where does this leave us? Here are some guidelines based on priorities:

When to Choose Neovim

  • If you value a polished out-of-box experience with less configuring needed.

  • If LSP integration, multi-line comments, or VSCode extensions are important to your workflow.

  • If you want the most flexible, hackable editor to customize your perfect coding environment.

  • If startup time and memory usage are not critical constraints.

When Vim May Be a Better Fit

  • If you need raw speed and performance from your editor.

  • If a terminal-based, lightweight, keyboard-driven workflow is preferred.

  • If seamless portability across any Linux or UNIX system matters.

  • If you are a Vim power user heavily reliant on Vimscript.

Either Works Great!

Of course, many developers are happy and productive in both Neovim and Vim. Here are some cases where both are excellent choices:

  • Cross-platform application development in Node.js, Python, Go, Rust, etc.

  • LaTex authoring, markdown writing, and plaintext editing.

  • DevOps, sysadmin work, and config file editing.

  • Programming on low-powered hardware like the Raspberry Pi.

So my friend, take your time to evaluate their capabilities. Determine what matters most to your workflow. And remember – investing time mastering either editor will provide immense rewards!

The most important step is to simply start using Neovim or Vim today. Let your adventure in productivity enhancing text editors begin. Happy hacking!

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