Code Like a Craftsman with a Vim Clutch

Article summary

Stroll around our Grand Rapids office, and you’ll find some unique input methods. Curved, split, and mechanical keyboards, mice shaped like everything from sashimi to joysticks, giant trackpads, drawing tablets, Echo Dots, and Yetis. We like to keep things interesting when it comes to our workspaces.

For the last hundred days, I’ve been kicking around a centuries-old input method in a new context. Here’s how you can set up your own Vim clutch.


After way too much time searching around to find the perfect USB pedal, I settled on a sturdy, if somewhat sketchy, one that I found on Amazon. Any USB foot pedal will do, but this one’s reasonably cheap at around $25, omnidirectional, and comes with a cord that will reach the floor when my desk is in its standing position.

If you can, try to get a pedal that sends just one keypress event when depressed, and not a continuous stream of characters, as you’d expect from a normal keyboard. The pedal got a lot more comfortable when I realized I could stop hovering and rest my foot without triggering spurious escapes.


Configuring a foot pedal is incredibly easy. Mine came with a simple driver app that took no more than a couple of minutes to install and configure. Though you can configure the pedal to send any keystroke(s), it’s most useful when using a modal editor like Vim or one that supports Vim emulation.

I use Sublime Text 3 with the Vintageous plugin and have my pedal configured to send an escape character when depressed, switching me into edit mode.

All things considered, escape keys aren’t really that hard to tap (even if they’re made of OLEDs), but having another way to drop into edit mode has added a smidge of variety to my day.

  • Larry says:

    Escape to get *out* of insert, replace, or visual mode. I’m sure I’m not the first to point this out!

  • Eric Laspe says:

    What I came here looking for was a configuration that would allow me to hold down the foot pedal for navigation and release it to go back to “normal” ST3 text entry/insert mode. Would that be possible with the pedal and software you described?

    • Joe Chrysler Joe Chrysler says:

      My pedal only fires an event on foot-down. As far as I can tell, this behavior is baked into the hardware, so it wouldn’t work well as a press-and-hold mode switcher. I do remember seeing a few pedals that fire events on both foot-down and foot-up. One of those would probably work better for your purposes.

      • Felipe Apostol says:

        I used to use a pedal when playing fps games, which was bound to ‘C’ for crouching. I dont think I need it for vim. I use capslock as my ctrl/esc key so its much easier to reach.

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