I really like pair programming for particular projects or features. It can act as an immediate sanity check and increase code coverage across your development team. That said I always seem to run into an issue regarding editors. I primarily code Ruby and I personally like to use VIM whereas other developers on my team use EMACS, TextMate or RubyMine. On top of that, even if two developers are using the same editor, it seems that everyone has a different macro for running tests or executing a certain file.

My question is this: how do you continue to pair program when everyone has a different editor preference? Is there some kind of software or development practice that would allow two developers to pair program from different editors? Do you just have to agree on a common editor that you can both use? How do you solve this problem in your company?

  • 4
    And what about different keyboard layouts? Dvorak someone? Oct 26, 2011 at 7:03
  • You can easily switch keyboard settings by pressing ctrl-shift in Windows. On my PC, that switches between Qwerty & Azerty. Or of course, attach another keyboard once you take over programming.
    – Carra
    Oct 26, 2011 at 7:18

2 Answers 2

  • Hour one: you program, the other person watches and helps thinking.

  • Hour two: the other person programs, you watch and help thinking.

You can switch editors when the other person starts programming.


I've started using the homesick gem to track my .vimrc, .vim, etc

Now I can checkout my dot files to any machine, no worries! hooray!

I do tend to keep my customized vim pretty light (CommandT, some whitespace stuff, matchit) that way I learn how to do stuff the standard way instead of the really cool way that only my computer uses.

I also try to learn the basics of the different editors. I can pair program in RubyMine, TextMate, VIM, and a smidge of emacs. I practice a little bit with each editor. Sure I won't type as fast as if I were using VIM, but typing isn't the bottleneck ;).

  • I have made it a habit of using the system default editor for trivial editing tasks. If you just need to type, edit here and there and save the result, this is not hard to learn. For intense programming tasks, programmers doing this for a living tend to agree on which IDE to use anyway for a given language/ecosystem because they help so much (This is a decade later than the answer and the world is a better place) Feb 23, 2023 at 9:24

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