While most IDEs or editors offer more or less functionality to emulate Vims basic behavior, it never feels just right. Some features work differently, not at all and good luck with using any of the hundreds of plugins that we all got used to love so much. Neovim however is different. It is a fork of the original, trying to better the development process of the project and going new ways.
This blog post describes my personal journey from Vim to Neovim.
The story begins
I’ve been using Vim for over ten years now and I don’t claim to be an expert. Many built-in features I never use, rare tasks I have to look up and I catch myself sometimes doing repetitive operations. But nevertheless since I’m using this awesome piece of software, I got very familiar with it and any other editor will give me a headache.
I previously tried out Neovim a few years back but the lack of support of some of the plugins I use day in and day out made me step back.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of functional Vim plugins I use(d) regularly at work and home:
- NERDTree: Just a little bit nicer than the default netrw explorer.
- Tagbar: Quick overview and navigation over current file.
- UltiSnips: Standard snippet engine.
- YouCompleteMe: Rock solid completion engine.
- vimtex: Best non-intrusive LaTeX suite.
- Powerline: Statusline.
- command-t: Fuzzy access to files or buffers.
One of those plugins, namely Powerline, does not work with
Neovim.1 Additionally just like when using the packaged version
of Vim on Debian you have to install additional modules to support language
bindings. For Python plugins install the Python package
pynvim, for Ruby
plugins install the gem
Or on Debian systems install their respectively packaged versions:
From the above list those are necessary for the Python plugin YouCompleteMe and the Ruby plugin command-t.
What about Powerline
When moving from Vim to Neovim the only plugin required to replace was Powerline. There exist two prominent statusline plugins with Neovim support:
Since I wanted a transition as smooth as possible from my original Vim configuration and look & feel I opted for vim-airline.
The heavy lifting? – Copy configurations
Now about the actual transition. Fortunately Vim and Neovim use separate configurations. That means you can still fallback to either of them and don’t mess up the original configuration.
~/.config/nvim/init.vim(the “vimrc” main configuration file)
Copy your original
vimrc to the
init.vim. This way no alteration on the
original Vim configuration is made, including any plugins.
Secondly copy all custom Vim files (like a plugin manager file) you may have
Dumbbell exercise – Adapt configurations
Replace all occurrences of hardcoded paths in your
configuration items like
directory, … . That means
change the prefix
Cleaning up – Dealing with incompatible plugins
Incompatible plugins have to be removed and a replacement has to be found. For Powerline I selected vim-airline as successor.
Following lines will give a similar look for vim-airline:
For vim-airline to enable specific sections, other plugins might have to be installed, e.g. vim-fugitive for Git support.
While porting my Vim configuration to Neovim, I was able to cleanup unused plugins and refine some plugin choices. Namely I moved from YouCompleteMe to coc, changed my plugin manager from VAM and the Debian manager vim-addon-manager to vim-plug. I replaced command-t with fzf which also had some nice side effects for my shell.
A repository with my Neovim configuration can be found at https://gitlab.com/Lasall/vimfiles.
In a future article I will cover my experience with YouCompleteMe and coc.