Vim is a great lightweight editor as it is. But after setting it all up on your windows box and tweaking your _vimrc it still might lack that bit of awesome you’re looking for in a modern text editor.
Time to spice things up with plugins!
Vim plugins are written in viml or vimscript, an internal script language in the vim editor, and are plain .vim files containing scripting code which extend vim in all sorts of wonderful ways. There are tons of vim scripts out there so finding the right ones for your needs takes a bit of time. There are however some helpful guides out there and blog posts like this one to help you on your way. I’ll list some of those and links to more plugins at the end.
Installing those scripts and plugins can be tedious though. Download a zip, unpack, copy files, yada-yada-yada. Since we’re into package managers these days we want things to go automatically with a few keystrokes.
You’ve probably guessed by now this is a vim plugin manager (and a plugin by itself). It allows you to install, update and search for available vim scripts among other things. I like this one in particular because it does this all from vim itself with a number of specific commands.
To get started you’ll have to install this one manually though, but it only takes a few command line statements and some .vimrc edits. Once you have this up and running, you’ll be able to install most plugins using it so it’s worth the hassle.
Check out the info on the Vundle github page on how to install and then come back here. ;)
Alright. Now, what plugins should we get?
Well it depends on what you want to do of course, but here are some general purpose ones you might like.
A pretty looking status bar you’ll see in a lot of vim screenshots. It’s tweakable so you choose what kind of info you want it to show.
Adds tab completion to vim using the tab-key. That might sound odd but the default use a bunch of control keys so this just comes more “natural”.
This is a directory browsing plugin which is just better than Netrw which comes out of the box. Visually you can fold/unfold folders, search (use any vim command in the window), manipulate files etc. Very handy to keep track of a project when programming or just see what other files are in a folder without having to exit vim.
A fuzzy file search plugin. Press Ctrl-P and you’ll get list at the bottom of files in your current directory. Type in some characters of the filename you are looking for and it will filter the files matching those characters. So you don’t need to know the full name, and you can skip parts. Check out this video to get an idea of how it works.
One note on this. If you have a folder with a lot of files in the sub-folder tree (like a C# application with build files in the sub-folder) be sure to exclude any non-relevant types like object & dll files. CtrlP has a maximum file limit and those irrelevant files can stop you from finding those you actually want to see.
In my _vimrc I use this to exclude the .NET build artifacts and some more irrelevant file types:
vim-fontzoom is a simple plugin that allows you to increase or decrease your vim font size using the plus or minus key when you are in command mode. Note that this doesn’t work with the +/- on your numeric pad, just with the regular keys on your keyboard. But you can remap the keys if you want to change this.
Not really a functional plugin but hey, you want your editor to look pretty right? I’ve tried a ton of themes already but lately I’m sticking with the chriskempson/base16-vim set. In this package you get a bunch of nicely crafted and balanced color themes which will definitely have something you like. Dark and light themes, monokai, solarized and other classics, it has it all. The last theme plugin you’ll ever need.
Depending on your workload there are plenty of more specific plugins out there. Google is your friend, but here’s a few places to get started:
- The easiest to use and most awesome Vim plugin directory is called VimAwesome. Great to find new plugins, or great to find old ones and how to install them. Each plugin lists how to install it with Vundle or another plugin manager, which is super handy.
- The 15 best vim plugins according to Steve Francia who made a vim distro called The Ultimate Vim Distribution, so I guess he knows what he’s talking about. :)
[ Interested in learning more about Vim? Check out the concise Mastering Vim Quickly ebook to get productive fast in Vim. ]