Vim Tips: Plugins And Functions To Capture Command Output

Vim, an advanced text editor, is renowned for its efficiency and flexibility. This article delves into enhancing Vim’s capabilities through plugins and functions, specifically focusing on autocompletion enhancements, capturing command output, integrating with external tools, streamlining workflows, and testing and debugging within the Vim environment. We’ll explore various tips and tricks to make the most of Vim’s powerful features.

Key Takeaways

  • Vim’s built-in autocompletion can be significantly extended with plugins such as Supertab, Jedi-Vim, and YouCompleteMe, which offer advanced features and language-specific support.
  • Capturing command output in Vim can be achieved through redirection and registers, as well as by working with buffers and automating processes with Vimscript.
  • Vim’s integration with external tools like version control systems, linters, and formatters enhances its capabilities, and plugins like vim-jukit can provide a Jupyter Notebook-like experience.
  • Streamlining your Vim workflow involves customizing the .vimrc file, creating efficient mappings and commands, utilizing Vim’s various modes, and adopting best practices for optimal use.
  • Testing and debugging in Vim is facilitated by its testing support, which includes writing and running tests for Vimscript and using assert functions for script validation.

Enhancing Vim Autocompletion with Plugins

Understanding Vim’s Built-in Autocompletion

Vim’s built-in autocompletion is a powerful feature that enhances the editing experience by suggesting words from the current buffer. To invoke this feature, you can press Ctrl-N in insert mode, which triggers a dropdown list of possible completions based on the text you’ve already typed. If there’s only one match, Vim completes the word automatically; otherwise, you can navigate through the suggestions using the arrow keys or Ctrl-P to cycle backwards.

Omnicompletion, accessible via Ctrl-X Ctrl-O, takes this a step further by providing context-aware suggestions. It’s particularly useful for coding, as it can suggest function names, variables, and more, based on the language syntax and the current codebase. To ensure optimal performance, it’s important to configure Vim with the correct autocompletion settings for the programming languages you use.

Vim’s autocompletion is not just limited to words in the buffer. With the right setup, it can be a robust tool for coding, offering intelligent suggestions that can significantly speed up your workflow.

For a comprehensive guide on Vim’s autocompletion capabilities, including how to customize and extend them, refer to the Vim documentation with :help i_CTRL-N.

Installing and Managing Vim Plugins

Once Vim is installed on your system, the next step is to enhance its functionality with plugins. Plugin managers like vim-plug and Vundle simplify the installation and management of Vim plugins. They allow you to easily add, update, and remove plugins, often with a single command.

To install a plugin, you typically need to:

For example, to install the SuperTab plugin, you would clone the repository into the appropriate directory with a command like git clone --depth=1 ~/.vim/pack/plugins/start/supertab. After adding the plugin to your configuration file, usually .vimrc, you can activate it with commands such as packloadall and :PluginInstall.

It’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the documentation of each plugin to fully leverage its capabilities. For instance, accessing the SuperTab documentation is as simple as typing :help supertab in Vim.

Popular Autocompletion Plugins for Vim

Vim’s extensibility is one of its most powerful features, and this is particularly evident when it comes to autocompletion. Plugins can significantly enhance Vim’s autocompletion capabilities, offering a range of functionalities that go beyond the built-in options. Here are some of the popular plugins that Vim users might consider:

  • SuperTab: This plugin simplifies the autocompletion process by allowing the use of the Tab key for all insert completions. For example, typing ‘e’ followed by Tab could bring up a list of keywords starting with that letter, from which you can select the desired completion.

  • YouCompleteMe: Known for its speed and intelligence, YouCompleteMe provides suggest-as-you-type code completion and refactoring for a multitude of programming languages, thanks to its multiple built-in completion engines.

  • Jedi-Vim: For Python developers, Jedi-Vim offers robust autocompletion features, including function signatures and documentation lookups, which can be accessed with the :help jedi-vim command.

While these plugins are powerful, it’s important to remember that Vim’s built-in autocompletion is quite capable on its own. The command :h ins-completion reveals a variety of completion options already available without additional plugins.

Configuring Autocompletion for Different Programming Languages

Vim’s versatility extends to supporting autocompletion for various programming languages. Configuring Vim for language-specific autocompletion enhances coding efficiency and reduces syntax errors. For instance, setting up JavaScript autocompletion is as simple as adding :set omnifunc=javascriptcomplete#CompleteJS to your .vimrc file. Similarly, for HTML, CSS, and PHP, you would use their respective omnifunc settings.

To streamline the setup process for languages like Java, Go, or Node.js, you might need to install additional packages. For example, sudo apt install mono-complete golang nodejs default-jdk npm prepares your system for the YouCompleteMe plugin, which offers robust autocompletion across languages without the need for triggering key combinations.

While Vim provides language-based autocompletion through Omni completion for many languages, plugins like YouCompleteMe take it a step further by offering more intuitive and seamless experiences. Here’s a quick comparison of YouCompleteMe with other plugins:

  • Works with any programming language
  • Autocompletion triggers automatically
  • Uses fuzzy matching, not limited to string prefix

Remember, the command :h ins-completion can reveal the variety of built-in completion options available on your system. Exploring these can help you tailor Vim’s autocompletion to your specific needs.

Capturing Command Output in Vim

Basics of Command Output in Vim

Understanding how to capture and utilize command output is a fundamental skill for Vim users. Vim can execute external commands and display the output directly within the editor. This feature is particularly useful for compiling code, running scripts, or filtering text through external programs.

To execute a command, you can use the :! followed by the command you wish to run. For example, :!ls will list the contents of the current directory. The output is displayed temporarily, replacing the contents of the Vim window until you press a key to return to your work.

  • To capture the output of a command into the current buffer, use the :r! command followed by the external command.
  • To replace the current selection with the output of a command, use the :! command while in visual mode.

Vim’s ability to interact with the system’s command line provides a powerful toolset for developers and writers alike, streamlining workflows and enabling complex text manipulations.

Using Redirection and Registers to Capture Output

Vim’s versatility extends to capturing command output directly into the editor. Using redirection, you can easily write the results of a command to a file or a Vim buffer. For instance, the echo command, which displays text in the terminal, can be combined with > or >> to redirect output to a file. This is particularly useful for logging or saving command results for later review.

To capture output in Vim, you can follow these steps:

  1. Execute a command with output redirection using :![command] > [filename].
  2. Press Enter to run the command.
  3. Use :e [filename] to open the file and view the output within Vim.

Alternatively, you can use Vim registers to store command output. By using the :redir command, you can redirect output to a specific register and then paste it wherever needed in your Vim session.

Vim’s registers offer a powerful way to handle text manipulation, including the capture of command output, which can be pasted with the p command.

Understanding and utilizing these features can significantly enhance your workflow, allowing for seamless integration of command outputs into your editing process.

Working with Command Output in Vim Buffers

Working with command output directly within Vim buffers can significantly streamline your editing workflow. Buffers in Vim act as containers for text, which means they can be used to hold the output of external commands. This is particularly useful when you want to reference or edit the output without leaving the Vim environment.

To insert command output into a buffer, you can use the :read command followed by an exclamation mark and the external command. For example, :read !ls will insert the listing of the current directory into the buffer. Here are the basic steps:

  • Execute the command within Vim using :read !<command>
  • The output will appear in the current buffer
  • You can then edit or manipulate the text as needed

Remember, working with buffers allows you to keep your workflow within Vim, avoiding the need to switch back and forth between applications.

When dealing with multiple pieces of command output, you can use Vim’s buffer management commands to navigate and organize your data efficiently. For instance, :bnext and :bprev allow you to cycle through buffers, while :bdelete can be used to close a buffer you no longer need.

Automating Command Output Capture with Vimscript

Automating the capture of command output in Vim can significantly streamline your workflow. By using Vimscript, you can create custom functions and autocommands to execute and capture the output of external commands without manual intervention. This automation can be particularly useful when you need to run diagnostics, compile code, or integrate with other tools frequently.

To get started with automation, you can define an autocmd that triggers on specific events, such as opening a file or before exiting Vim. For instance, you could set up an autocmd to automatically lint your code when you save a file. Here’s a simple example of how to capture the output of a linting command in a buffer:

autocmd BufWritePost *.py execute 'silent !pylint % > pylint_output.txt' | redraw!

This command will run pylint on the current Python file whenever it’s saved, redirecting the output to a file named pylint_output.txt. The redraw! command ensures that Vim’s display is updated after the external command is executed.

Remember, the power of Vimscript lies in its ability to automate repetitive tasks, saving you time and effort. With careful scripting, you can transform Vim into an even more powerful editor.

Integrating Vim with External Tools

Setting Up Vim for External Command Execution

To leverage the full potential of Vim, integrating it with external tools is essential. Setting up Vim for external command execution expands its capabilities beyond text editing, allowing you to interact with other software directly from your Vim environment. This setup is particularly useful for tasks like compiling code, running scripts, or interfacing with version control systems.

To begin, ensure that Vim’s :shell command is configured to use your system’s shell. This can be done by setting the shell option in your .vimrc file. For example, to use Bash as your default shell, add the following line:

set shell=/bin/bash

Next, familiarize yourself with Vim’s command-line mode, which allows you to execute external commands without leaving the editor. Here’s a simple workflow:

  1. Enter command-line mode by pressing :.
  2. Type the external command you wish to run.
  3. Press Enter to execute the command.

Remember, the output of external commands can be redirected to Vim buffers or registers for further manipulation, enhancing your workflow efficiency.

For more complex integrations, such as working with IDEs like IntelliJ IDEA, you can use plugins that provide Vim emulation. For instance, to use Vim within IntelliJ IDEA, press [Ctrl Alt S]( to open the IDE settings and then select Editor | Vim. This allows you to enjoy Vim’s editing power within the IDE’s environment.

Interfacing with Version Control Systems

Interfacing with version control systems is a critical aspect of software development, and Vim’s flexibility allows for seamless integration with these tools. Vim plugins extend this functionality, enabling developers to perform version control operations directly within the editor. For instance, plugins like vim-fugitive for Git provide commands to stage files, commit changes, and navigate repositories without leaving Vim.

To set up Vim for version control, you typically need to install the relevant plugin and configure it according to your workflow. Here’s a simple guide to get started:

  • Install the version control system plugin for Vim.
  • Configure the plugin settings in your .vimrc file.
  • Use the plugin’s commands to manage your version control tasks.

Remember, efficient use of these plugins can significantly streamline your development workflow.

While Vim itself does not include a full-fledged GUI for repository management, many plugins offer TUI (Text User Interface) that closely mimic GUI features. This allows developers to stay within their text-centric workflow while still having access to powerful version control features.

Incorporating Linters and Formatters

Incorporating linters and formatters into your Vim workflow can significantly improve code quality and consistency. Vim’s diagnostic framework provides a robust system for displaying errors and warnings from these external tools. This framework extends Vim’s traditional error handling capabilities, such as the quickfix list, to offer a more integrated experience.

To effectively use linters and formatters, you can follow these steps:

  1. Install the necessary plugins or external tools that support your programming language.
  2. Configure Vim to automatically run these tools on file save or on demand.
  3. Review and address any issues highlighted by the diagnostics.

For instance, when using a Python linter, you might encounter output delimited by [<<<OUTPUT STARTS>>>]( and <<<OUTPUT ENDS>>>. These markers make it easy to identify the command’s output within your code. The command that was run is displayed just above this output, allowing for quick reference and action.

By integrating linters and formatters, you not only catch errors early but also adhere to coding standards, leading to more maintainable and readable code.

Leveraging Vim for a Jupyter Notebook-like Experience

Vim, known for its efficiency and flexibility, can be transformed into a powerful interactive coding environment akin to Jupyter Notebooks. By integrating plugins such as vim-jukit, users can execute code snippets, visualize results, and iterate on their work in real-time, all within the familiar Vim interface.

To get started, ensure that your Vim or Neovim setup meets the necessary requirements for the plugin. Common issues, such as the ‘invalid version number encountered’ error, can often be resolved by checking compatibility and updating configurations. Here’s a simple checklist to troubleshoot common startup issues:

  • Verify Vim or Neovim version compatibility
  • Ensure Python support is correctly configured
  • Check for proper plugin installation and lazy loading
  • Review plugin documentation for any additional dependencies

While Vim may not be the first choice for those seeking an out-of-the-box solution for interactive coding, it offers unparalleled customization for those willing to tailor their environment. Remember, the goal is not just to write code but to enhance coding efficiency and learn new techniques in the process.

Streamlining Your Vim Workflow

Customizing Vim with .vimrc

The .vimrc file is the cornerstone of personalizing your Vim experience. It’s where you can tailor Vim to your preferences, from key mappings to plugin management. Customizing Vim through the .vimrc file enhances productivity and streamlines your workflow.

To get started, you might add settings to enable features or tweak Vim’s behavior. For example, to turn on line numbering, you would add set number to your .vimrc. Here’s a simple list of common customizations:

  • set nocompatible: Ensure Vim doesn’t try to emulate legacy Vi behavior.
  • syntax on: Turn on syntax highlighting.
  • set autoindent: Enable automatic indentation.
  • set tabstop=4: Set the number of spaces a tab character represents.

Remember, changes to .vimrc require you to either restart Vim or source the file with :source ~/.vimrc for them to take effect.

As you become more familiar with Vim, your .vimrc will grow with more sophisticated configurations. It’s a living document that evolves with your mastery of Vim.

Creating Efficient Mappings and Commands

Efficient use of Vim hinges on the mastery of mappings and commands, which streamline your workflow and reduce the need for repetitive keystrokes. Custom mappings allow you to tailor Vim to your specific needs, optimizing your editing speed and comfort. For instance, you can remap keys based on the context, such as when the popup menu is visible, using conditional expressions like pumvisible() to determine the state of the menu.

Here’s an example of how to remap keys in your .vimrc file for better autocompletion handling:

inoremap <expr> <TAB> pumvisible() ? "\<C-y>" : "\<CR>"
inoremap <expr> <Esc> pumvisible() ? "\<C-e>" : "\<Esc>"
inoremap <expr> <C-j> pumvisible() ? "\<C-n>" : "\<Down>"
inoremap <expr> <C-k> pumvisible() ? "\<C-p>" : "\<Up>"

Learning the basics of Vim commands can be likened to a CLI user experience, where once foundational commands are understood, efficiency is gained through discovery and customization. As you become more familiar with Vim’s commands, you can create mappings that reflect common tasks, such as copying text with yank (y) instead of deleting it. This adaptability is what makes Vim a powerful tool for those who invest the time to learn it.

Remember, the goal is not to memorize every possible command, but to understand the patterns and logic behind them, enabling you to predict and create new commands as needed.

Utilizing Vim Modes for Increased Productivity

Vim’s modal nature is one of its most powerful features, allowing users to switch between different modes for various tasks. Normal mode is the default state of Vim, primarily used for navigating and manipulating text efficiently. Mastering the use of Vim modes can significantly enhance your productivity by optimizing the way you interact with your text editor.

  • Normal Mode: For navigation and text manipulation.
  • Insert Mode: For inserting text.
  • Visual Mode: For selecting blocks of text.
  • Command Mode: For executing Vim commands.

Understanding and leveraging these modes can transform your editing workflow from a linear process to a more dynamic and faster one. For instance, using Vim motions to navigate code is not only smoother but also quicker, making the editing process less draining and more enjoyable.

Embracing Vim’s modal workflow is key to unlocking its full potential. It’s not just about writing code faster; it’s about editing smarter. By integrating powerful tools like autocomplete, refactoring, and snippets within Vim’s modal framework, you can create a highly efficient and personalized editing environment.

Adopting Best Practices for Vim Usage

Adopting best practices for Vim usage not only enhances your efficiency but also ensures a smoother editing experience. Mastering Vim requires patience and practice, but the rewards are substantial. To start, familiarize yourself with the Vim Tips wiki, a valuable resource for exchanging tips and tricks with other Vim users.

  • Learn the basics: Start with navigating files, inserting text, and saving changes.
  • Embrace Vim motions: Understand the power of Vim’s navigation and editing commands.
  • Customize your environment: Tailor Vim settings to your workflow through the .vimrc file.
  • Engage with the community: Participate in forums and discussions to stay updated and get help.

Remember, the key to proficiency in Vim is consistent practice and the willingness to learn new things.

While it’s tempting to rely on familiar IDEs, integrating Vim motions into your routine can significantly boost your productivity. As you grow more comfortable, you’ll find that Vim’s command mode and visual selections become indispensable tools in your development arsenal.

Testing and Debugging in Vim

An Overview of Vim’s Testing Support

Vim, the ubiquitous text editor, offers a robust framework for testing both the editor itself and Vimscript plugins. Testing is a critical component for ensuring the reliability and stability of any software, and Vim is no exception. The testing support in Vim is primarily divided into two categories: old-style and new-style tests.

Old-style tests, such as, are primarily used for tiny builds and are less common in modern Vim usage. New-style tests, on the other hand, are the recommended approach for current development. These tests are written as .vim scripts, named test_<feature>.vim, where <feature> represents the functionality being tested. They utilize assert functions like assert_equal() to combine test commands and expected results in a cohesive manner.

Vim’s testing capabilities extend beyond simple test scripts. Features such as buffer integration, code coverage reports, and advanced log parsing contribute to a comprehensive testing environment that can be tailored to a developer’s needs.

For those looking to dive into testing with Vim, here’s a quick rundown of the key components:

  • Expression evaluation: Detailed in eval.txt, this is the foundation for writing tests.
  • Test functions: These provide the building blocks for constructing test cases.
  • Assert functions: Essential for validating expected outcomes within tests.

By leveraging these tools, developers can create a robust testing suite that ensures their Vim configurations and plugins operate as intended.

Writing and Running Tests for Vimscript

Testing is a crucial part of Vimscript development, ensuring that both Vim itself and plugins work as expected. Vim provides a structured approach to writing and running tests, which can be found in the src/testdir directory after building Vim. Typically, tests are executed with make test. There are two main types of tests in Vim:

  • Old-style tests (, which are primarily for tiny builds without the +eval feature.
  • New-style tests (test_something.vim), which are the recommended way to add tests for new features using functions like assert_equal().

It’s important to keep test commands and expected results close together to simplify debugging and maintenance.

To run tests for a specific feature, you can use key mappings in your Vim configuration. For example, the following Vimscript lines set up key mappings to run tests, selected tests, or a test class using the XcodebuildTest command:

vim.keymap.set("n", "<leader>xt", "<cmd>XcodebuildTest<cr>", { desc = "Run Tests" })
vim.keymap.set("v", "<leader>xt", "<cmd>XcodebuildTestSelected<cr>", { desc = "Run Selected Tests" })
vim.keymap.set("n", "<leader>xT", "<cmd>XcodebuildTestClass<cr>", { desc = "Run This Test Class" })

Debugging Vim Plugins and Configurations

Debugging in Vim can be a nuanced process, especially when dealing with plugins and configurations. Understanding the diagnostic framework of Vim is crucial for identifying and resolving issues effectively. Vim’s diagnostic framework provides a structured way to display errors or warnings from external tools, such as linters or Language Server Protocol (LSP) servers.

To streamline the debugging process, consider using plugins like nvim-dap which enable a more IDE-like debugging experience. Coupled with nvim-dap-ui, developers can visualize panels with stack traces, breakpoints, and variables. Here’s a simple checklist to set up nvim-dap for development:

  • Download the necessary debugging plugins, such as codelldb for VS Code.
  • Install nvim-dap-ui for a graphical user interface during debugging sessions.
  • Ensure the console window is enabled in nvim-dap-ui to view logs and output.

Remember to frequently consult the :help command within Vim for guidance on plugin usage and troubleshooting. For instance, :help jedi-vim provides documentation for the Jedi-Vim plugin, which can be crucial when debugging Python-related issues.

Using Assert Functions for Vimscript Validation

Assert functions in Vimscript are essential for validating the behavior of your scripts and plugins. They provide a way to ensure that your code performs as expected under various conditions. For instance, [assert_match()]( checks if a given pattern matches a string, and if not, it adds an error message to v:errors. This is particularly useful when you want to confirm the output of a function or the contents of a buffer.

To effectively use assert functions, you should be familiar with their syntax and behavior. The assert_match() function, for example, uses patterns as with =~, always treating them as ‘magic’ regardless of the actual value of ‘magic’ or ‘cpoptions’. Here’s a quick reference for some commonly used assert functions:

  • assert_equal(expected, actual[, msg]): Verifies that two values are equal.
  • assert_notequal(expected, actual[, msg]): Checks that two values are not equal.
  • assert_match(pattern, actual[, msg]): Ensures a pattern matches the actual string.
  • assert_notmatch(pattern, actual[, msg]): Confirms a pattern does not match the actual string.
  • assert_report(msg): Directly reports a test failure with a message.

Remember, using assert functions is not just about catching errors; it’s about writing robust, maintainable Vimscript code that stands the test of time.


Throughout this article, we’ve explored a variety of plugins and functions that can enhance your Vim experience by capturing command output and streamlining your workflow. From the power of autocompletion with plugins like SuperTab, Jedi-Vim, and YouCompleteMe, to the impressive capabilities of surround.vim for manipulating text, Vim’s extensibility continues to impress. We’ve also touched on the importance of Vim’s documentation and the Vim Tips wiki as invaluable resources for users at all levels. Whether you’re looking to improve your efficiency, learn new tricks, or simply show off your Vim prowess, the tools and tips discussed here are sure to contribute to a more productive and enjoyable text editing experience. Remember, the key to mastering Vim lies in experimentation and continuous learning, so don’t hesitate to dive into the plugins and functions we’ve highlighted to discover what works best for your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some popular autocompletion plugins for Vim?

Popular autocompletion plugins for Vim include SuperTab, Jedi-Vim for Python development, and YouCompleteMe, which provides a comprehensive suite of autocompletion features for various programming languages.

How can I capture command output in Vim?

You can capture command output in Vim by using redirection or registers. For example, you can redirect the output of a command to a register with the :redir command or use the :.w !{cmd} to write the output of the current line to an external command.

How do I set up Vim for external command execution?

To set up Vim for external command execution, you can use the :!{cmd} command to run an external command and display its output, or integrate tools like vim-dispatch to run commands asynchronously.

What are some efficient ways to customize Vim with .vimrc?

Customizing Vim with .vimrc can involve setting user preferences, defining custom mappings and commands, and configuring plugins. Users can also create autocmds for automating tasks based on specific events.

How do I debug Vim plugins and configurations?

To debug Vim plugins and configurations, you can use the :debug command to step through execution, employ Vim’s built-in logging with :messages, or utilize assert functions to validate Vimscript code.

Can Vim be used for a Jupyter Notebook-like experience?

Yes, Vim can be configured for a Jupyter Notebook-like experience using plugins like vim-jukit, which allow for interactive coding sessions with output displayed within Vim buffers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *