Using vim-addon-manager on Windows

vim-addon-manager is a Vim plugin written by Marc Weber that can be used to automatically manage Vim plugins. Most popular plugins install many files into several directories, thus making the task of installing, updating and uninstalling them quite tedious. vim-addon-manager attempts to make these tasks easy and automatic. It is still a work-in-progress, especially so on Windows, on which I found it to be quite flaky.

Before Installation

vim-addon-manager automatically pulls off plugins from the Internet both for installation and for updating. So, it requires a set of tools to be installed on Windows before it can be used.

  1. Curl: vim-addon-manager uses Curl to download files from the web.
    • Install a Windows binary of Curl and remember to add the curl.exe directory to the PATH environment variable.
  2. 7-Zip: Many Vim plugins are packaged as .gz or .bz2 files. vim-addon-manager requires a tool to uncompress these files. I prefer to use the awesome 7-Zip tool for this purpose.
    • Install 7-Zip if you do not already have it. Add the 7z.exe directory to the PATH environment variable.
  3. Git: A lot of Vim plugins are hosted on GitHub and other public Git repositories. A Git installation is convenient since vim-addon-manager itself is hosted on GitHub. (If you do not want to install Git, zip files of vim-addon-manager are available from GitHub. See Marc Weber’s comment below.)
    1. Currently, there are 2 versions of Git for Windows available. I prefer to install the MsysGit version. During its installation, make sure to choose the option Run Git from the Windows Command Prompt.
    2. The MsysGit installer should have added the Git\cmd directory to the PATH environment variable. Add it to PATH if this is not the case.
  4. Hg or SVN: A few Vim plugins are hosted on Sourceforge, Bitbucket and other public repositories that use Mercurial or Subversion. If the plugin you use is hosted on such a service, install Hg or SVN binaries for Windows and add their directories to the PATH environment variable.

We are now ready to install vim-addon-manager! 🙂

Installation

  1. vim-addon-manager will store its own files and the files of all the plugins it will handle in one directory. %USERPROFILE% on Windows is a good place to host such a directory. %USERPROFILE% on Windows 7 resolves to C:\Users\Joe. Create a directory named vim-addons in %USERPROFILE%.
  2. Open a command prompt in vim-addons and install vim-addon-manager here using:
    $ git clone git://github.com/MarcWeber/vim-addon-manager.git
    
  3. Open your vimrc and add these lines:
    "-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    
    " Vim Addon Manager
    
    fun LoadVimAddonManager()
    
        " Load vim-addon-manager
        set runtimepath+=$USERPROFILE/vim-addons/vim-addon-manager
    
        " Install/load these plugins
        call scriptmanager#Activate( [ "vim_plugin_1", "vim_plugin_2" ] )
    endf
    
    " Activate the manager after Vim startup
    au VimEnter * call LoadVimAddonManager()
    
    "-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    

The first time you run vim-addon-manager it will load another plugin named vim-addon-manager-known-repositories. This plugin is used as a database of all Vim plugin names and URLs to obtain them from. After this, vim-addon-manager will try to install the plugins listed in scriptmanager#Activate().

Usage

  • To install a new plugin, just add its name to the list in the call to scriptmanager#Activate(). It will installed the next time Vim is executed.
  • All the existing plugins listed in the call to scriptmanager#Activate() are loaded at runtime everytime a new Vim instance is invoked.
  • To update all the installed plugins from the web use the command :UpdateAddons
  • To uninstalla plugin:
    1. Open vimrc and remove the plugin name from the list in scriptmanager#Activate(). This means that it will not be loaded at runtime. However, the plugin files are still present on the harddisk.
    2. To remove the plugin files, close all Vim instances, open a new Vim window and invoke :UninstallNotLoadedAddons the_plugin_name

Notes

  • vim-addon-manager relies heavily on being able to handle inputs of paths and output paths to other tools it invokes. So, it breaks down if you have shellslash enabled in your vimrc. Remove any :set shellslash in your setup files.
  • I found that invoking scriptmanager#Activate() directly in vimrc at startup does not work. It only works properly if invoked after all the Vim setup is complete. Mark Weber suggests using the event GUIEnter to trigger scriptmanager#Activate(). I found that this breaks down since the input function does not work this early in the Vim startup. The VimEnter event seems to work fine for me, so I use it to trigger scriptmanager#Activate().
  • If you want to a simpler plugin to only manage each installed plugin in their subdirectory, check out Pathogen.

Windows 7: Hiding the Clock

I try to keep my Windows 7 desktop as minimal as possible. One of the desktop elements I find unnecessary is the Clock which shows the time and date in the Notification area of the Taskbar. I check the time or date a few times in a day, but the clock sits in the Taskbar all day occupying a piece of the desktop and also a slice of my attention.

Hiding the Clock

Unlike normal icons in the Notification area, the Clock cannot be hidden so that it is still there, and can be seen by clicking to see the complete Notification area. The Clock is a System Icon that can be either on or completely hidden.

To hide the Clock, right-click on the Clock and choose Properties. This displays the Turn system icons on or off dialog. Choose Clock, choose Off and press OK. The clock is now gone from the Taskbar.

Checking Time or Date

You will need to check the time or date sometimes during the day. You can do that by invoking the Date and Time properties dialog. The most intuitive way to invoke it is to press the Win key and type Date, choose Date and Time and press Enter.

Another alternative is to create a shortcut for it and assign it a keyboard shortcut like Ctrl+Alt+d. The command to invoke this dialog is:

RunDll32.exe shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL timedate.cpl

The only limitation of hiding the Clock is that the calendar cannot be seen. I wish there was a shortcut to invoke that too.

Windows 7: Explorer Problems

Problem

The Explorer process in Windows 7 handles the taskbar and any of the Explorer instances you create to browse directories. Due to file handles problems with applications, directories on plugged-in portable devices or on network share folders, Explorer might sometimes behave erratically. You might face one of these problems with Explorer:

  • Explorer hangs while displaying a directory or during a cut-copy-paste operation.
  • Explorer does not show up when its invoked by clicking its icon or by pressing the keyboard shortcut Win + e.
  • Taskbar is frozen or has disappeared.

Solution

First, it is better to carefully kill all currently running Explorer instances. To do this open Task Manager. One way to do this is using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + Esc. In Task Manager, click the Processes tab, there should be one or more explorer.exe instances. Right-click on each explorer.exe and choose End Process. Do not choose End Process Tree! That would kill explorer.exe and all the application processes it might have spawned, this is not good. End Process only kills explorer.exe, making its children processes as orphans, but they are otherwise unharmed. All open Explorer windows and the Taskbar disappear after this operation.

Next, create a fresh new instance of Explorer. This can be done in Task Manager itself. Switch to the Applications tab and click New Task. Type in explorer and click OK. Your taskbar should be back and hopefully you should be able to invoke Explorer without any problems after this.

Windows 7: Black Screen of Death

Problem

I started to see a variant of the infamous Black Screen of Death (BSoD) on my Windows 7 computer a couple of months ago. The computer would be running all day, no shutdown or standby or hibernation. I lock the computer when I leave the desk. When I came back to use the computer in the morning or after lunch or after a weekend, the Windows 7 login screen would be displayed correctly. I login successfully and the screen would go completely black! I could still see the mouse cursor appear and disappear if I moved it.

This problem would occur about 1 in 5 times I logged in like this. I was left with no option but to restart the computer, and it would login fine after that.

Solution

Thankfully, I found that I was not the only person facing this problem. This was not the actual BSoD since it was certainly not any driver or kernel failure. The popular suggestions given on the Internet to solve this were:

  • Update graphics card drivers.
  • Update or uninstall all virtual display or multiple display software.
  • Update or uninstall all time tracking software.

I updated the drivers for my NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GT card, but the BSoD still happened a while after that.

I uninstalled Dexpot, the virtual desktop manager I was using. It has been a few weeks now and the BSoD has not happened after this! 🙂 I am guessing Dexpot was doing something when I logged back in which caused a black screen. If you are facing such a BSoD, you may want to try uninstalling your virtual desktop software and see if it solves the problem.

Windows 7: Start Menu Search Not Working

Problem

This problem appears on one of my computers once every few months. The Start menu search stops working without any reason. No matter what text I type in it, the results shown are completely empty!

What did not work

  • Restarting the Windows search service. (Control Panel → Administrative Tools → Services)
  • Rebuilding the index. (Control Panel → Indexing Service → Advanced)

What worked

Killing the Explorer.exe process that displays the taskbar and Start menu and starting a new instance of it gets the search working again.

Here is how to do this:

1. Open Task Manager, go to the Processes tab, find the Explorer.exe process and click End Process. There might more than one Explorer.exe process, it is pretty harmless to kill them. You know you have killed the right one when the taskbar disappears.

2. In Task Manager, choose New Task and type in explorer. This will bring back a fresh instance of Explorer.

Hopefully, the Start menu search should be working now. 🙂

Windows 7: Volume Control

A new Volume Control was introduced with Windows Vista and continues on in Windows 7. In addition to the volume level slider that the user can drag up or down, there are 2 volume levels colored bright green and dull grey that animate in the background. What do these two levels represent?

The green and grey levels animate only when some audio is being output by any open application. The green level represents the current volume being output by any application as a fraction of the current volume level represented by the slider. The grey level on the other hand represents the current volume being output from any application as a fraction of 100% of the volume.

That is, if the user pulled the volume slider all the way to the top (100%), the green and grey levels would be equal. Since the green level is overlaid over the grey, only the green level would be visible in that case since it completely conceals the grey.

(Thanks to friend Poonna.)

TortoiseSVN: Right-Click Context Menus Not Available

Problem: You install TortoiseSVN and find that the right-click context menus and icon overlays are not available!

Solution: Check if you have installed 32-bit TortoiseSVN on 64-bit Windows 7. If yes, uninstall it and install the 64-bit TortoiseSVN.

Explanation:

TortoiseSVN installs itself as an extension to Windows Explorer. The 64-bit Windows Explorer on a 64-bit Windows 7 installation cannot load or communicate with 32-bit TortoiseSVN to display context menus relative to the selected files and directories.

Typing of the Dead

Typing of the Dead is a touch typing game based upon House of the Dead series. The original version for the PC is now abandonware. If you do find a copy, install it and run it under Windows 7, you will find that it will exit silently.

To get it running, right-click the program shortcut and choose Properties. Here, select Compatibility → Run in 640 x 480 screen resolution. The game should now run under Windows 7.

GRE Powerprep: Error on Windows 7 (64-bit)

GRE Powerprep is the software provided by ETS to test takers to experience and practice on the test software used in the actual test. This software installs fine on Windows 7 (64-bit), but on execution gives the following error:

This version of this file is not compatible with the version of Windows you’re running. Check your computer’s system information to see whether you need an x86 (32-bit) or x64 (64-bit) version of the program, and then contact the software publisher.

This piece-of-crap software, from the big scam that is ETS, is dinosaur-old and has not been updated in years! Attempts to run the Powerprep software in the Compatibility Mode of everything from Windows 95 to NT to XP will not work.

Thankfully, there is a way out. Install the Windows XP Mode for Windows 7 by going here. This involves the installation of 3 programs, which includes Virtual PC and XP Mode running inside it. When XP Mode is started it boots up Windows XP inside Virtual PC. Install GRE Powerprep into this XP and execute it from there. You should be able to practice for your GRE now. 🙂

Windows 7 Home and Vista Users

For reasons that only Microsoft can know, XP Mode is available only to Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate users. Windows 7 Home users get this error message when they try to download:

If you are a Windows 7 Home user or a Vista user, there is still one drastic solution. Install Powerprep, reboot Windows into Safe Mode and execute it. (This is a tip contributed by reader Venkata Laxma Reddy.)