If you’re thinking of switching to Chrome, wait. Don’t jump ship just yet. If you value minimalism in a web browser you may be interested in a Firefox add-on known as Vimperator. This add-on is just a bit insane, but that’s what makes it great.
An Introduction To Vimperator
The goal of Vimperator is to emulate the look and feel of the Vim text editor, a now obscure editor that was released in 1991 for the Amiga. Over the last 19 years Vim has been developed as an open-source editor for Windows, Linux and Unix. The interface of Vim, along with the large number of keyboard commands the program accepts, makes it possible to edit text without using the mouse.
This hatred of the mouse (or love of the keyboard) continues in Vimperator. The add-on places two new bars at the bottom of the Firefox browser. The black bar provides information about the page that you currently have open, while the white bar is a text field into which you can enter commands. That’s right – this add-on gives Firefox a text-based user interface.
Vimperator also enables a large number of simple keyboard commands that can be used to perform tasks like reloading a page, moving through browser history and even scrolling.
Obey The Text
The focus on text and keyboard commands is confusing at first, but it has its advantages. Vimperator gets rid of all the toolbars at the top of the typical Firefox window because you no longer need them to navigate the web. The result is a significant increase in the usable display space provided by the browser. This also makes Firefox more responsive. Webpages that previously felt sluggish now load in a flash.
Learning to use Vimperator could be a huge mess if the support documentation was poor. There are literally hundreds of commands and keyboard shortcuts available for use. Thankfully, Vimperator comes with a very helpful manual that is broken up into sections and provides detailed information about Vimperator’s interface. It can be accessed at any time using the :help command.
Since Vimperator offers such an excellent help document I’m not going to go over the basic commands here. Instead, I’m going to highlight some specific commands that I found interesting.
Buffers & Macros
Some of the best Vimperator commands can be found under the Buffer heading. These commands don’t necessarily do anything that was previously impossible, but the speed at which they operate is extremely impressive.
For example, pressing the keys “gf” while viewing a webpage will instantly switch the page to source view. This can be done on any webpage, and the transition takes less than a second. Vimperator also lets users open a page in an external editor with the keyboard command “gF.” A brief summary of a webpage’s information can be brought up using the “:pa” command.
Macro support is included in Vimperator, and becomes very handy considering the heavy reliance on keyboard commands. Macros can be recorded by pressing “q” and then a number or letter key. The recording status will be shown in the bottom text menu. Pressing the “q” key again will stop recording. Further macro support makes it possible to replay macros a set number of time and use scripting.
Prepare yourself, brave Firefox user. Vimperator can be a bit bewildering at first, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. It offers a unique experience however, and it absolutely does make Firefox feel like a quicker, more streamlined web browser.