User modes in VIM

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Chapter 1: Introduction

Background and Motivation

With the world shrinking to become one global village, with the leading MNCs of the world exalting the need for Virtual Teams and with heavy emphasis on dividing a problem into sub-problems, each to be handled in parallel, Real-time Collaboration has become simply inevitable. As such, there is a surge in demand for solutions which can help in real-time collaboration rather than the traditional method of granting access to only one user at a time for doing his work and then passing the floor to the next user. It does not come as a surprise that Google is already creating the Waves in the field of Real-time Collaboration..

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In the past, the emphasis was on Non-real time collaborative systems like Microsoft Sharepoint, SunForum etc. Although these applications allowed multi users to work on a single document concurrently but being non-real time, only one user could hold the lock to edit the document at a time and the other users were held waiting. This defies the actual concept of “collaboration” which has to be mutual i.e. interaction between all parties involved. Many researchers from across the globe have been working to address this issue. For instance, CoWord and CoPowerPoint are the recent innovations which serve as a solution to the problem raised above. The collaboration technique used here does not modify the original application, but rather exploits the Microsoft APIs to build collaboration on top of Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. A similar approach would be used by the author to extend functionalities to CoVIM – a multi-user collaborative version of single user text editor called VIM.

Project Objectives

The main purpose of this project is to fully convert a single-user text editor called VIM into a multi-user collaborative application called CoVIM. Being an on-going project carried forward from previous FYP student, the focus of the author’s project is to incorporate various new features in CoVIM application. The scope of the project is as follows:

  1. Understanding of various user modes in VIM
  2. Familiarisation with VIM Script to use its API (Application Programming Interface) for implementation of new functionalities in CoVIM
  3. Studying, adapting and extending the technical approaches used to design Insert and Normal Mode to design Replace Mode for CoVIM
  4. Stress-testing the system from the user’s point of view


CoVim is an on-going project aimed to overcome its limitations with continuous research and future developments. At present, the complexity of Vi script and limitation of time has given rise to following limitations:

  1. Lack of incorporation of all the fundamental 7 Modes of Vim into CoVIM
  2. Lack of concept of privileged users
  3. Inability to exactly replicate all user actions (e.g.

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