My Set of Vim Plugins

I use a lot of plugins for vim. I’d like to go through all of my vim settings in a post at some point, but plugins are nicely isolated for the most part so describing their functionality seems more approachable. I am listing (nearly) all of my plugins and various things I know about each.

airline is a plugin that replaces ye olde status line. It is a fork of powerline which was absurdly deprecated before it’s v2 got written. Airline requires nothing aside from vim, though some special fonts (which I don’t use) are supported.

better-whitespace solves the age old problem of trailing whitespace and attempts to be less annoying about it. Basically it highlights lines ending in whitespace (or other issues like using tabs I think) but only if the line is not being edited.

colors-solarized is my day to day theme. Only feature worth mentioning is that it has a dark and light background which I toggle between if it’s an exceptionally bright day.

commentary is the first of many plugins by Tim Pope that will be listed here. It is simply a plugin to help toggling comments for given lines of code. The neat thing about it is that it uses a custom vim operator, so you use it along with other text objects the way you might use d to delete lines (dd, d3d, dip, etc.) So to be clear you could comment out a paragraph with gcip.

csv is simply a plugin that adds direct csv support to vim. When I use it it simply improves the rendering of the columns, but I think there is a lot more it does that I do not use.

ctrlp is one of a newly popular group of plugins that helps navigate files with a little bit of computer assistance. I use this to find files based on name, open other buffers, and open other files in the same directory as the current file.

eunuch is more software by Tim Pope. Provides vim commands for lots of Unix commands. I use :Remove, :Rename, :Chmod, and :SudoWrite pretty often.

exchange is a hard to describe plugin that assists in exchanging blocks of text. I don’t use this as often as I used to; no idea why. General usage is cxiw to select one word and then cxiw to exchange it with some other word. Any other text-object will work.

FastFold simply tweaks how often vim updates it’s idea of folds. Folds are when you collapse regions of text based on syntax, markers, etc. Vim by default updates these folds too often; this plugin simply resolves that problem by taking a more balanced approach.

fugitive, more from Tim Pope, is probably “the best Git wrapper of all time.” I use :Ggrep and :Gblame multiple times a day, and once in a blue moon use :Gstatus to quickly jump into modified files.

fugitive-gitlab simply allows running :Gbrowse while using a gitlab based repo. :Gbrowse might seem silly, but it is especially useful in that it works in visual mode and generates permalinks (that is it includes the current revision in the URL.)

gitgutter adds little markers for what lines have been modified since last added to the git index. Cute, but can be very slow and a little buggy. Also gives you some handy bindings for jumping directly from one changed set of lines to the next: [c and ]c.

go has some official vim support that comes directly from the golang repository. I don’t actually use this as often as I’d like, and would consider making it a simple project based plugin.

goyo is a plugin that helps you focus on vim only. Removes all decoration and information other than the text you are editing. I would like to tweak this a little bit as I have some plugins that interact with it poorly, but I still like it for blogging.

IndentAnything helps with indents. I often forget about plugins like this and will even uninstall them, and then be annoyed when the built in autoindent is terrible.

inkpot is the color scheme I use in the terminal.

lastplace places the cursor where it was the last time you edited the file. There are little snippets floating around the internet on how to do this but this works better than any I’ve used and can be updated.

matchit allows % to work for more than simple parenthesis. It’s pretty old and I have found it lacking lately. There is probably a more modern version that would work more often.

matchmaker is a plugin that simply highlights words that are the same as the word your cursor is over. I actually have it off by default because it slows vim down so much, but I can toggle it with coM.

obsession is basically a way to make vim sessions more useful out of the box. More Tim Pope. I have blogged about it two times. Typical usage: :Obsession $some_path.

pathogen is one of the modern vim plugin managers. Probably the hardest to use, but definitely has the best name. Also from Tim Pope.

perl adds latest, greatest support for my main language to vim. I have no idea what this does but if I uninstalled it I’m sure I’d be annoyed.

projectionist is a cute little plugin that adds crystaline access to parts of your project. Think of it as a beautiful shrunken ctrlp. You basically define a name and what parts of your project those map to; so if I type :Econtroller <tab> I’ll see a list including Admin, User, etc. Very handy.

python simply makes indendation easier when I am editing python code.

quick-scope simply enhances the standard t, f, etc mappings to highlight some recommended jumps. I rarely use this because I also rarely use t and f. I feel guilty about that.

repeat has the dubious honor of being the one of two Tim Pope plugins with a boring name. Simply allows plugins to hook into ..

sleuth, more from Tim Pope, is supposed to infer shiftwidth and expandtab so you don’t have to set them by hand. If you don’t know what that means, it’s basically how many spaces are a tab. I really want to love this but I find it somewhat frustrating, maybe because I work in a multilanguage project.

splitjoin is a plugin that adds a gS binding to split a single line into multiple lines, and gJ to join multiple lines back. Used for basically this type of change:

say 1 if $testing;
if ($testing) {
   say 1;
}

Works surprisingly reliably.

surround is the second of Tim Pope’s boringly named plugins. It may have been the second or third vim plugin I ever installed. Typically I use cs"' to change surrounding quote from to ., but ds" to delete surrounding quote is pretty common too. I still have muscle memory from when you could use s in visual mode to surround text and I do not think that has been supported for literally a decade.

syntastic adds IDE like syntax checking for basically every language ever. It is incredibly convenient for learning new programming languages or using languages you don’t use often. I have it off in perl because it rarely helps me and slows me down so much.

tabular provides a command that allows you to align text using a regex. You might align commas with :Tabular /,.

terminus adds interesting first class terminal support. Most importantly, pasting just works, even if you are in normal mode or paste metacharacters.

textobj-between defines a text object that works like t and f but in both directions at the same time. For example, to change all characters between two commas, you could use cif,.

textobj-entire adds a text object for the entire file. Instead of using ggyG to copy an entire file, you could use yie.

textobj-underscore adds a text object for underscore separated words. Use ci_ to change between two underscores and ca_ to change including the underscores.

unimpaired is a hard to describe but incredibly useful set of mappings. Here are things I use all the time: [q/]q to jump back and forth in the quickfix list. con to toggle line numbers. cos to toggle spellcheck. cox to toggle crosshairs. There is more but I use the above more than weekly, if not daily.

vimoutliner is an outlining plugin I use in a couple of files. Basically all I use it for is indentation based folding. I wish I liked it as much as I think emacs users like org-mode.

vinegar is an incredibly lightweight file browser for vim. I used to use NERDtree for this, and eventually cared more about screen real estate and started using ctrlp. vinegar is, in my opinion, a much more basic option but is great if you are trying to open a file in the same directory as the file you have open. Basically you press - and get a file listing, move your cursor over the file you want to open, and press enter.

visual-star-search allows you to select some text and press * (or #) and search for it. Incredible that this isn’t core.

wipeout simply closes all buffers that are not visible with the :Wipeout command.

neocomplete adds IDE style autocompletion. Often it is simply autocomplete of words that are in other buffers, but in some languages it gives incredible, accurate, contextual autocomplete. Use ctrl+n and ctrl+p to move between completions.

editorconfig (see also) basically adds support for a more basic… editor configuration that can be used in more than just vim for a project. For example at ZR it is used to specify that perl code is a two space indent.

ultisnips is a plugin I sorta wish I used more often but I suspect is good that I don’t have to. It adds really useful snippets that you can easily populate. I use it exclusively for writing new blog posts, where I need to populate a title, tags, uuid, and date.


Whew! That was a lot of plugins! Hopefully you found something new here. As per usual:

If you’d like to learn more, I can recommend two excellent books. I first learned how to use vi from Learning the vi and Vim Editors. The new edition has a lot more information and spends more time on Vim specific features. It was helpful for me at the time, and the fundamental model of vi is still well supported in Vim and this book explores that well.

Second, if you really want to up your editing game, check out Practical Vim. It’s a very approachable book that unpacks some of the lesser used features in ways that will be clearly and immediately useful. I periodically review this book because it’s such a treasure trove of clear hints and tips.

Posted Fri, Mar 17, 2017