Learn Vimscript the Hard Way

What Now?

If you've read up to this point and completed all the examples and exercises you now have a pretty solid grasp of the basics of Vimscript. Don't worry though, there's still plenty left to learn!

Here are a few ideas of topics to look into if you're hungry for more.

Color Schemes

In this book we added syntax highlighting for Potion files. The other side of the coin is the creation of custom color schemes that define what color to display each syntax element.

Color schemes in Vim are fairly straightforward, if a bit repetitive, to make. Read :help highlight to learn the basics. You may want to take a look at some of the built-in color schemes to see how they structure their files.

If you're up for a challenge, take a look at the source of my own Bad Wolf color scheme to see how I've used Vimscript to make the definition and maintenance much easier for myself. Pay attention to the "palette" dictionary and the HL function that dynamically builds the highlight commands.

The Command Command

Many plugins allow the user to interact with them through key mappings and function calls, but some prefer to create Ex commands instead. For example, the Fugitive plugin creates commands like :Gbrowse and :Gdiff and leaves it up to the user to decide how to call them.

Commands like this are created with the :command command. Read :help user-commands to learn how to make your own. You should know enough Vimscript by now that reading Vim's documentation is sufficient for learning about new commands.

runtimepath

In this book I've kind of glossed over how Vim decides which files to load by saying "just use Pathogen". Now that you know a decent amount of Vimscript you can read :help runtimepath and check out Pathogen's source code to find out what's really happening under the hood.

Omnicomplete

Vim offers a number of different ways to complete text (read :help ins-completion for an overview). Most are fairly simple, but the most powerful of them is "omnicomplete" which lets you call a custom Vimscript function to determine completions in just about any way you could possibly think of.

When you're ready to dive into the rabbit hole of omnicompletion you can start with :help omnifunc and :help coml-omni and follow the trail from there.

Compiler Support

In our Potion plugin we created some mappings to compile and run our Potion files. Vim offers much deeper support for interacting with compilers, including parsing compile errors and providing a nice list that lets you jump to the line of each error.

If you're interested in this you can dive in by reading through :help quickfix.txt in its entirety. However, I will warn you now that errorformat is not for the faint of heart!

Other Languages

This book has focused on Vimscript, but Vim also offers interfaces in several other languages, like Python, Ruby, and Lua. This means you can script Vim in a different language if you don't like Vimscript.

It's still good to know Vimscript for editing your ~/.vimrc, and for understanding the API Vim presents in each language. But using an alternate language can be a great way to escape from the cruftiness of Vimscript, especially for large plugins.

If you want to learn more about scripting Vim in a particular language, check out the help documents for it:

  • :help Python
  • :help Ruby
  • :help Lua
  • :help perl-using
  • :help MzScheme

Vim's Documentation

As a final parting note, here's a list of Vim help topics that are especially useful, informative, interesting, or just plain fun (in no particular order):

  • :help various-motions
  • :help sign-support
  • :help virtualedit
  • :help map-alt-keys
  • :help error-messages
  • :help development
  • :help tips
  • :help 24.8
  • :help 24.9
  • :help usr_12.txt
  • :help usr_26.txt
  • :help usr_32.txt
  • :help usr_42.txt

Exercises

Go write a Vim plugin for something you've always wanted and share it with the world!