A few weeks ago I upgraded my main laptop to ubuntu natty. With that came firefox 4.0 beta. In which vimperator does not work. Argh!

I limped along, tried ‘vrome’ for google chrome, and ended up just using chrome for awhile. Then I updated my netbook last week to natty as well, and did one more search for a ‘vimperator’ firefox extension. Then I found pentadactyl, a vimperator fork!

It has a few bugs, mainly – very rarely – a page will stop responding to any keystrokes. But I’m sure those will get worked out. So, why do I use vimperator/pentadactyl? Well actually there are a few very good reasons:

1. shift-insert works for paste, both into text fields and in command mode (for URLs and searches). That is a big deal, and doesn’t work in chrome, opera, or standard firefox. It means I don’t have to go find just the right place to paste, then clumsily emulate a middle click. In a similar vein, ‘ctrl-w’ does the right thing in insert mode, so i don’t have to worry about accidentally deleting the window as i’m frantically entering text.

2. link hinting. This is becoming a pretty popular feature in other browsers as well. Hit ‘f’ for ‘follow link’ (or ‘F’ to follow link in a new window), then either type the number corresponding to a link (the numbers pop up in red when you hit ‘f’), or start typing the link text until you’ve disambiguated it from all other links.

3. Copy text out of a web page without the mouse. For instance, if I’m on a gitweb page and want to copy the git url to clone, i can ‘/git:’ to search for “git:”, hit return to accept that (and ‘n’ for next until i get to the one i want), hit ‘i’ for insert (actually caret) mode, ‘v’ for visual mode, ‘$’ to go to the end of the line, then ‘y’ to yank the highlighted text. Now I can jump to an xterm, and type ‘git clone ‘. All right it sounds long, but it’s very fast, and it avoids spending 2 minutes trying not to grab the 2 next lines or missing the first and last few characters when highlighting text with the mouse.

4. quickmarks. ‘Ma’ marks the current page as ‘a’, and you can go back to it with ‘ga’.

5. type ‘y’ to yank the url into the X clipboard, ‘p’ (‘put’) to open the URL in the X clipboard, or ‘P’ to open it in a new window. I use these a lot.

Yup, it’s good to have it back. Incidentally, if you’re on a very slow machine, there is a vimperator-like grounds-up-rewritten browser called ‘vimprobable’ which behaves very similarly. I only stopped using it because it segfaults on amd64.

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18 Responses to Pentadactyl

  1. Thomas Adam says:


    I don’t have an AMD64 machine, but can you get the latest version of Vimprobable (Vimprobable2 specifically from git, and if it crashes, send me a backtrace and a set of instructions to reproduce the crash?


    — Thomas Adam

    • s3hh says:

      Thanks much. I’m currently on my 32-bit netbook, but will start running vimprobable2 on my 64-bit box hopefully tomorrow.

    • s3hh says:

      Ok, here’s where I’m at right now: I packaged vimprobable2 for natty at ppa:serge-hallyn/vimprobable. I’m using it daily on my 386 netbook for most browsing. But not for work which requires input, because somehow I keep messing that up – losing my page after having typed a whole bunch in. That’s aside from the lack of having a ctrl-i to start up gvim – I just end up actually losing my info. I’ll try it again next week so I can give a better report.

      I’m not working much at the amd64 console, but did run vimprobable remotely from there with no segfaults, so whatever bug there was (which I still suspect was in webkit or libgtk itself) may be fixed.

  2. Harsh Vardhan says:

    I wanted to learn how to copy and paste text between Firefox and other applications but couldn’t find this explained anywhere else. Your description of this process in point 3 though long, as you said, is incredibly fast when executed.
    Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  3. Eemil says:

    For me, The Google webpage search box does not focus itself if Pendactyl is enabled. Also, using the normal Firefox Ctrl-L shortcut instead of, say, t some-words-here (if you for some reason want to open a website that way) does not work. Also, I don’t seem to be able to get the bookmark popup to appear if I actually use a mouse and click the star to bookmark a site.

    • s3hh says:

      Right, so if you like the way it works now, you may not like Pentadactyl πŸ™‚ But, taking these in order:

      1. when I go to, yes i have to hit ‘gi’ to go to the first input field to start typing. I don’t ever do that though, i enter the search terms in place of a location, i.e. ‘t firefox pentadactyl’

      2. Ctrl-L will work after you hit Ctrl-Z to enter pass-through mode. Likewise if you want ctrl-h or ctrl-b for history/bookmarks, go into passthrough mode. (or use commands)

      3. I don’t know what ‘star’ you have for bookmarking, i don’t see such. To bookmark, I use ‘:bma’. I like it because I *always* want to add at least one tag, and can just do ‘:bma -T gadgets’

      But like I say, I like it because I like this workflow and it meshes with my other tools. If you like – or even reflexively are too used to – the more standard way, then this probably isn’t right for you πŸ™‚

      Thanks for your input.

  4. Eemil says:

    Thanks a lot. I do not like using :command for things that can be done faster, but I have just discovered that you can simply press ‘a’ for adding a bookmark. Then just type -T tag1,tag2,tag3. That should be faster than clicking “awesome bar” right side star twice and then focusing the tag field, typing in tags, and pressing enter.
    gi I didn’t know about, thanks. I do use “t search terms go here”, but Google Instant also has its appeal.
    My alternative to Ctrl-L right now is y, P, or y, t something depending on what I want to do. simply y also achieves one of my old use cases for Ctrl-L, which was Ctrl-L, and then using the mouse to paste the url to a chat.
    I’m just starting with pentadactyl, so bear with me :).

  5. mookiemu says:

    I just started using pentadactyl and I’m loving it. Pentadactyl is the one reason that I’ve converted from chrome to firefox as my default browser. There’s a lot I miss about chrome and I wish there was a pentadactyl version for chrome, but the pluses outweigh the minuses.
    Thanks for your tips, especially the one regarding finding and selecting text. I was still selecting with the mouse and then pressing Y. Your tip makes copying and searching for text strings a lot easier and faster.
    I’m still trying to figure out how to open something I’ve bookmarked without having to open the bookmarks manager.
    I’m also having trouble finding pages in my history whn I try to bring them back.
    But I’ve only been using this for a week, I’ll get there πŸ™‚

    • s3hh says:

      I know what you mean – I’d like to use chrome, but AIUI its extensions api simply doesn’t allow for full pentadactyl implementation. (I could be wrong, but think I’ve read that a few places).

      Marks (including bookmarks) are well supported. Hit ‘F1’ and then click the link ‘marks’ for help info.

      Bookmarks simply show up in the autocompletions when you are typing “:o “. You can also (and I always do) add tags with “:bma -T sometag”, and then search on those tags. You can open all bookmarks with that tag doing “:bmarks! -T sometag”. To just view bookmarks, “:bmarks” or “:bmarks -T tag”.I use quickmarks a lot too. I would have thought I”d use local marks a lot, but so far I haven’t.

      And really, I always symlink a ‘homepage.html’ file from my Ubuntu One into my home account, and make that my default home page. It’s both very fast to load, and has links to pages I frequent. That doesn’t require pentadactyl, but it’s nice being able to use hinting to follow links there.

      • mookiemu says:

        Awesome! Thanks for those tips.
        I especially like the idea of a homepage.html from a symlink to ubuntu one. I haven’t even thought of using ubuntu one that way!

  6. ofeeley says:

    Re #3 and #5, do you mean that you can paste text into the xterm without using the mouse?

    I’ve been trying to do that and although I can select using Pentadactyl’s visual mode as you describe I can’t paste into an xterm without using the middle mouse button. I think this is because the visual highlighting puts the text into the PRIMARY X selection, which is then accessible to the xterm. (y)anking or (p)utting the text seems to make no difference.

    Maybe using xclipboard …. ?

    • s3hh says:

      Does shift-insert not work for you?

    • s3hh says:

      I do sometimes have issues with the primary clipboard, but mostly i have those with vimprobable. I get around those by scripting things like ‘xclip -o -selection clipboard | xclip -i’. I *think* the only time i really need that is when I select text in xterm and want to paste it into vimprobable. With Pentadactyl, it all seems to work right for me (i.e. all seem to use the primary clipboard). Like I said, shift-insert is how I paste into xterms, gnome-terminal, etc.

      • ofeeley says:

        Actually, it is working now…. I think that I did something ill-advised with a key mapping and that was interfering with it.

        I still don’t understand what you’re doing in #3 when you (y)ank the visually-highlighted line. I have no need to do that. I simply visually highlight the git url, as you do, and then switch to the xterm and use Shift + Insert to paste that selection.

        Thanks for the information.

  7. delwoode says:

    QUICK MARKS are a great feature
    to make sure quick marks are persistant make sure folder exists if not there type in terminal
    mkdir -p ~/.pentadactyl/info/default (if you use linux as I do)
    example, go to Then get to the command line by typing
    Then type qmark g so that your command line looks like β€œ:qmark g” and hit enter.
    Now, to go to just type gog or gng
    gog = go open qmark g
    gng = qmark g in new tab
    If you have trouble with some sites like Facebook or Youtube you need to set up some passthroughs in your setup file or Ctrl+Z to get into passthrough mode and ESC to get out of it.
    something like this would set passthrough for google sites in your pentadactyl.rc file
    autocmd LocationChange :normal!

  8. JB says:

    What do you do now that the quantumpocalypse has hit? I discovered that ‘ (i.e. single-quote) is a “Ctrl-f” that only highlights links. It seems like that’s all I ever really wanted from these vim workalikes. Heck, if I could write a bookmarklet that made ‘gt’ and ‘gT’ move through tabs, I’d probably not even notice my dearest pentadactyl has left this mortal coil.

    • s3hh says:

      Well I’d still like to just use vimprobable everywhere, but first I’d have to find time to port it to a newer webkit (or something different). For now, I’m just tolerating whatever will work 😦

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