I have been using Vim and gVim for a few years now.
Vim has a steep learning curve (but there are great tutorials out there), but its worth it, as it is a very powerful text editor.
While it is not supposed to be an IDE, there are a lot of plugins out there that can make it get pretty close.
Vim stores its configurations in a file called .vimrc, in your home dir.
That may mean different things depending on the operating system you are using. For Linux and Mac OS X, it is your home dir (just type cd ~ in a shell and you will be there). In windows it can vary, but you can get there in a cmd shell by typing cd %HOME%.
In windows the vimrc file is sometimes called _vimrc. You can safely rename it to .vimrc and it will still be loaded. This is useful if you decide you want to keep your vimrc checked-in somewhere and only maintain one version for all platforms.
Before we start: I use Vundle, a VIM plugin manager that lets you install plugins directly from git (github by default). For this to work, you need to have git available as a shell command.
Step 1 - Setup Vundle
Add this to your vimrc file (ignore the line numbers shown here, they are just meant to help me refer to a particular line in my posts):
After this, restart your vim (or reload vimrc by typing :source % in the vim command line).
It should still look the same old boring defaults.
This screenshot shows MacVim, but if you are running another Vim flavor, you should also see a clunky toolbar. Keep reading, we will hide it ;)
Step 2 - Setup colortheme and GUI options
Modify your vimrc to look like this:
Reload it, and ask Vundle to install plugins by invoking the :BundleInstall command in vim.
Reload it again and it should now look like this:
I have been using the oceandeep colortheme for quite a few years now. I love it. I have recently discovered cthulhian, which slightly tweaks some colors in oceandeep (you need to have both installed for cthulhian to work). This is my new favorite theme!
Another noteworthy theme you might be interested in is solarized.
step 3 - customize the status line
We will be installing vim-airline. For it to fully work, it needs a patched font installed (to show some extra symbols).
I recommend installing Source Code Pro for Powerline. Powerline was the first vim plugin that did something like this.
Adapt your vimrc to look like this:
Reload it, run :BundleInstall and restart vim.
It should now look like this:
step 4 - add more visual tweaks
Adapt your vimrc to look like this
The extra options are commented inline. You can also run :help listchars, for example, to get the full description on that option.
These are the first things I add to a fresh Vim installation. I hope they help you.
I plan on doing a few more posts on particular Vim plugins that turned out to be life changers.