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I've shifted from Vimperator to Pentadactyl

I’ve been using Vimperator for years. I’m a huge fan of the Vim text editor, and Vimperator provides a Vim-like user experience in my favorite Web browser, Mozilla Firefox.

That said, Vimperator 3 was a departure from the experience I had come to know and enjoy.

  • The command line UI was revamped. In part, this led to the removal of what I consider a nice security feature: color-coding (the status bar) to indicate the security in use on the current page. Though one can use a custom script to re-implement this color-coding, it causes noticable delay when changing tabs.

  • Certain lower-level aspects became less Vim-like. For example, the 'guioptions' option (like that in Vim) was replaced with 'gui' – which has different (and sometimes confusing) behavior.

Recently, a friend asked me about the browser enhancement I was using, and when researching it herself, she discovered my new favorite Firefox extension: Pentadactyl.

Pentadactyl began as a fork of pre-3.0 Vimperator when two of the latter’s primary developers left the project. While Vimperator development has focused on “usability,” “simplicity”, “stability”, and “design” (as described in in the Vimperator wiki), Pentadactyl has maintained (and pushed toward) a truer Vim experience that can fulfill a hacker’s dream.

Importantly, both of the specific points mentioned above are nonissues with Pentadactyl:

  • The status bar security color-coding is functional. Like Vimperator, Pentadactyl now (by default) shows only a single line at the bottom of the window. Whereas Vimperator’s “single line” is a dual-purpose status and command line, Pentadactyl shows only the status line and reveals the command line only when necessary.

  • Pentadactyl still uses 'guioptions'. That said, some options diverge from what one might be accustomed to with Vim. Notably, search-related options use the term find instead of search (e.g., Vim’s 'hlsearch' vs. Pentadactyl’s 'hlfind'); and Vim’s multiple case-related options ('ignorecase' and 'smartcase') are unified into a single option ('findcase').

If you love Vim and have been using Vimperator, give Pentadactyl a shot (you’ll need to update your .vimperatorrc to a compatible .pentadactylrc). If you’re new to both, try each in turn and see which you prefer!