To NeoVim, Or Not to NeoVim

An Honest Question, But No — Hell No

NeoVim, which uses the nvim command, is unfortunately a popular replacement to Vim. It provides no additional value for most users and can actually harm your Vi/m learning progress.

NeoVim’s most significant failure is not technical at all. The NeoVim design team has demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of Vi’s core value proposition as well as a total disregard for the fundamental Unix philosophy. The bloated, buggy result is nvim.

But hey, at least you can make NodeJS plugins for it.

Here are the advantages people usually present when asked why anyone should consider using NeoVim and include an explanation about why they are actually dis-advantages. They include reasons documented by the NeoVim project itself.

“Better Configuration”

NeoVim looks in $XDG_CONFIG_HOME for its configuration files which means that it follows the ~/.config/... location convention that is now the Linux standard.

You don’t care though because you already are maintaining your Vim configuration in a dotfiles repo and providing symbolic links.

Besides, moving the configuration file is downright stupid given the decades of precedent with ~/.vimrc. The main reason you picked Vim in the first place was because Vim is on just about everything and copying over your configuration is a simple matter of scp ~/.vimrc you@remote: and your done. Boom. No other configuration needed. Somehow the NeoVim team didn’t figure that out, probably because they are used to essentially turning their NeoVim editor into a watered down version of Emacs that can only run on the single system on which it is configured.

“Better Defaults”

The second thing listed on NeoVim’s comparison page is the 42 different defaults from Vim. These are completely and totally irrelevant because anyone using Vim should always disable all the defaults and begin with a clean slate in their vimrc file. The very fact that the NeoVim team thought that having different defaults actually matters at all shows how disconnected that design team is from how Vim is actually used professionally. Again, a symptom of Emacs-envy.

“Multiple API and Plugin Support”

Vim has this as well but you should never use it, that is, unless you want to make Vim into VSCode or Emacs or Sublime. Seriously folks, the entire emphasis of the NeoVim project and priorities demonstrates an utter cluelessness about the actual value proposition of picking Vim in the first place — the biggest being full shell integration for extensibility, not supporting NodeJS plugins. NeoVim has made itself into a serious joke among those who know and use Vi/m as has been down for decades for all the right reasons.

Having a clearer internal API is a compelling reason to consider any project, but it doesn’t hold any weight with the end user. Think about Wayland vs X, for example.

“Changed Features”

Every single feature that has changed is ridiculously irrelevant to anyone who actually knows how to use Vi. Things like json_decode are just silly when commands like jq exist. They even renamed viminfo to shada for nothing but vain not-invented-here reasons. And Lua and Python support? Pffff. Please. You can be glad you learned to use Vi/m correctly and without a bunch of unnecessary bloat that would directly affect your performance on every other system with Vi while diminishing your ability to actually use your most powerful tool, the shell in which Vi/m is running.

What is even worse is that NeoVim has actually corrupted the expected behavior of current Vi and Vim options and Ex commands. This is simply dangerous and stupid. It creates an unnecessary rift in muscle-memory that you never want to burn into your brain.

“Missing Legacy Features”

The if_perl has been dropped. Nothing screams “we are all morons” more than dropping Perl support from something that has had it for 2 decades just because you buy into the trendy Perl-hate. Perl has the world’s most powerful regular expression engine as has been proven over and again by its integration into every other language with regular expressions including Python, NodeJS, even Bash. To blindly remove support for syntax used by Vim users that integrate Perl (albeit foolishly when they should have just integrated shell command filters instead) is just plain clueless and downright stupid.

“Removed Features”

NeoVim removed several core tools used regular by Vim users for seriously important use cases:

Again, incredibly inexperienced decisions from people who never actually learned to use Vim for anything significant in the first place. The fact that they removed :shell completely confirms they don’t value shell integration which is the basis of all of Vim’s magical power.

Come on, they didn’t need to remove :smile?! That’s just low.

The laughter from the Vim team behind the scenes must be so hilariously loud given how ridiculously superior Vim 8.2 is to any NeoVim script-kiddy release.

“More Accessible Team”

Yeah, just no. No one should believe that for a second. If anything, the Vim team is simply more capable and discerning than the NeoVim team and by the looks of the NeoVim project priorities this seems to be objectively true.

“External Plugins in Separate Process”

This might be true, but again it is irrelevant because no one should be that dependent on plugins in the first place. In fact, making plugins running in a separate process and thread is a symptom that they are doing the internals completely wrong by allowing plugins to take a far greater position in the overall runtime. This is not Microsoft Visual Studio we are using here.

“Better Support for Alacritty”

While Alacritty is an amazing project this claim makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. It’s an editor running in a terminal. Making a decision to use a ubiquitous terminal editor based on which terminal application you use it hilariously stupid and irrelevant. That’s like arguing back with “Well I use Vim because it works better with Xterm2.” Who cares?!

“Gives Vim Healthy Competition”

Giving Vim competition certainly cannot hurt. But anyone who actually knows how to use Vi/m and gives NeoVim’s list of differences a solid review will realize NeoVim is absolutely no competition at all. Vim is installed on literally millions of Linux systems dating back more than three decades. NeoVim might be installed on maybe 10,000 systems tops. There is zero competition.

“It Has Panes”

So does Vim, but you should never use them unless you are forced. They are an unnecessary and useless Vimism that are better replaced with learning to use TMUX panes or even screen windows instead since they work for any application not just Vim.

Bugs? Stability?

It has been reported that NeoVim contains a lot of bugs and stability issues. That is no surprise at all given the massive, unnecessary scope-creep the NeoVim project team has deliberately chosen to maintain.

Any serious professional understand the importance of the Unix philosophy of doing one thing well and making sure it integrates with everything else. NeoVim — with all its unnecessary bloat — is a serious departure from that philosophy and will continue to remain unstable and buggy because of it. It really is a shame that the NeoVim development team simply cannot see that.

Dude, why so harsh on NeoVim?

This review started out much more objectively. But as each point of difference stated by the team itself was examined, the level of hilarious collective cluelessness exceeded most authors’ ability not to completely roast it. There is simply nothing good to say about NeoVim at all. It really is just that bad.

Put comically, the NeoVim projects seems like a bunch of people got their feelings hurt trying to get their stupid, bloated ideas accepted into the Vim project so they started their own while waving their pretty logo and chanting “We’re more open. We’re more open.”

Fact is. The clueless cult of over-engineering bloat makers never knew how to use Vi in the first place. Just ask them what !! does from command mode in Vim. Most can’t even tell you. Their too busy dreaming up more ways to overcome their Emacs-envy. They don’t know Vi and frankly don’t even understand Unix.

But hey, don’t take all of this too seriously. As human beings every one of us deserves respect even if our ideas are ridiculously stupid and uninformed. Attack ideas, not people.

See Also