As a software engineer and physicist, I spend a significant amount of time working in vim, typically the MacVim version. My years of living in vim give me a nice efficient way of editing text and code that is consistent across platforms: I even have vim installed on my WebOS phone and a popular legacy OS that I must use sometimes.

One thing about vim that takes some initial getting used to is the fact that it is a modal editor, with a ‘normal’ mode, a visual mode, and an insert mode. The normal mode is where one issues many of the time saving commands. Normal mode is reached by hitting the Escape key. If you aren’t familiar with vim, the choice of a modal editor and the Escape key to move to the normal mode seems odd. Until you see the keyboard that vi was designed on—vi is the predecessor to vim—which has the Escape key in the location that modern keyboards use for the Tab key. The now standard location of the Escape key can contribute to sore wrists, as can the wrist contortions required in other text editors.

But there is a better way! A few years ago I discovered PCKeyboardHack. Since discovering this program, one of the first things I do when setting up a computer is to swap the Escape and Caps Lock keys. This brings the frequently used Escape key down to the home row, making switches to vim’s normal mode easy, without the contortion required to reach the top left corner of the keyboard. This helps keep my wrists happy despite all of my keyboard time.

Between my brother and I, we have installed PCKeyboardHack on at least nine Macs of various ages with no issues. We both highly recommend installing PCKeyboardHack for its contribution to happy typing.

Update: PCKeyboardHack was renamed to Seil. I use Seil on both my personal and work computer.