VimMate is a graphical add-on to Vim with IDE-like features: it does more than the plain Vim while still being lightweight. Even with the additional features, it stays out of the way for it's main task: editing files with Vim. VimMate adds functionality to Vim by embedding Vim GTK GUI (gVim) within VimMate.

Some of the ideas of VimMate comes from PIDA and others from TextMate (although I've never used TextMate).

VimMate's homepage:


VimMate has the following features:

  • Uses Vim for the text editor so it has all of Vim's qualities.

  • Written in Ruby so the code is nice and clean.

  • Integrated, hideable and searchable file tree with filter for easy project viewing.

  • Multiple integrated terminals (Optional).

  • Basic Subversion integration: (Optional)

    • The file status is displayed in the file tree.

    • You can add, rename, delete and revert a file from the file tree.

  • Navigate the various part of the interface with the keyboard


VimMate has only been tested under Linux (in fact, Gentoo Linux). It might work under other OSs, although I do not know. I think only the file list will work under Windows because Vim does not use GTK under Windows so it cannot be embedded. I know nothing about MacOSX so I cannot say if it works or not.

To install:

  • Make sure Vim is installed and compiled with the graphical interface. Try running gvim to see if it works. Only Vim version 7.0 has been tested.

  • Make sure Ruby version 1.8 or more is installed. Try running ruby --version in a terminal.

  • Install the Ruby bindings to GTK and GNOME (for the VTE terminal). See Ruby-GNOME2 website. Only Ruby-GNOME2 version 0.15 and 0.16 has been tested. You don't need VTE: if it's not installed, VimMate will not have terminals but will run anyway.

  • If you want to use the Subversion integration feature, you must install the subversion bindings for Ruby. Check if it's available for your OS or get the sources from Subversion’s website and compile them.

  • Download the latest VimMate on VimMate’s homepage.

  • You now have 3 choices to install VimMate: manually, with Ruby Gems or with setup.rb:

    • With Ruby Gems from GemCutter

      • Simply run gem install vimmate --source .

    • Build the gem by yourself

      • Simply run rake install

    • Manually

      • Copy the file bin/vimmate and the directory lib/vimmatelib to a directory somewhere in your path.

      • Make sure vimmate is executable: chmod u+x vimmate

  • cd to a directory where your project is. (Watch out for directories with too many files. See Limitations below.)

  • Run vimmate

Run vimmate --help for more information.


Note that you don't have to do what's described in this section: everything will work anyway. It's just filled with nice tricks.

VimMate doesn't need any special configuration to run. But, when VimMate is first run, it creates a file named .vimmaterc in your HOME directory. You can edit this file at your own risk. If anything goes wrong, you can always delete this file and it will be recreated with the default configuration.

Most variables are self explanatory. One variable deserves a special explanation because it can be useful to change. It's the line that starts with :terminals_autoexec:. This line specifies a string that is automatically executed by every terminals that are created by VimMate. I'm sure you can think about a way to use this, but the idea of this configuration line is to initialize the terminal so that it can execute Vim (the console vim) without weird warnings about escape characters. Here is how to configure it so that it works without warnings with the bash shell:

# Other configurations before...
# (Because of a small quirk in rdoc, I put a space between the
#  colon (:) and terminals_autoexec but there must be no space.)
: terminals_autoexec: |
 export TERM="gnome"

# Other configurations after...

You can adapt those commands for your shell. If you wonder about the syntax of this file, it's a Ruby hash with Ruby symbols as keys dumped with YAML.

If you have problems getting it to work, watch out for whitespace because YAML is whitespace sensitive (like python). If you still can't get it to work, try running this in a shell:

ruby -ryaml -e 'puts({:terminals_autoexec => %{export TERM="gnome"\nclear}}.to_yaml)'

You can redirect the output of this command to overwrite your .vimmaterc file and then run VimMate: it should work this time.

An other nice trick is to add a special alias that exists only within VimMate's terminals (Thanks to Jonathan Hankins for this updated tip, see #13432 for details):

# Other configurations before...
# (Because of a small quirk in rdoc, I put a space between the
#  colon (:) and terminals_autoexec but there must be no space.)
: terminals_autoexec: |
  alias vm='gvim --servername $(gvim --serverlist | grep "VIMMATE_$PPID") --remote-tab'
  export TERM="gnome"

# Other configurations after...

Again, you have to adapt for your shell because this is for bash. This will also only works if you have only one VimMate running. This will allow you to type

vm a_file

to edit a_file with the running VimMate. This can be handy for those who prefer the command line to the file tree.

If you use Subversion (SVN), you can add yet an other line to be able to edit your commit messages within VimMate:

# Other configurations before...
# (Because of a small quirk in rdoc, I put a space between the
#  colon (:) and terminals_autoexec but there must be no space.)
: terminals_autoexec: |
  alias vm='gvim --servername $(gvim --serverlist | grep "VIMMATE_$PPID") --remote-tab'
  export SVN_EDITOR='gvim --servername `gvim --serverlist | grep VIMMATE_` --remote-wait'
  export TERM="gnome"

# Other configurations after...

Then, when you run:

svn commit

the commit message will be edited within VimMate and Subversion will wait for the buffer containing the file to be deleted with the command


within Vim.

Interesting Vim scripts

Here are some of the Vim scripts that I think are useful with VimMate to make Vim more powerful:

  • matchit: Extends the Vim command % to easily navigate in matching language constructs for many languages.

  • rails: Easy navigation for Ruby on Rails

  • grep: Nice grep integration. I frequently use the command :Rgrep.

  • dbext: Database access within Vim. Integrates well with rails.vim.

  • SimpleFold: Nicely folds classes and methods for easy navigation.

  • snippetsEmu: TextMate-like snippet expansion.

  • vcscommand: Integration for CVS and Subversion (SVN). Supports lots of things like viewing the version control system log, integrated Vim diff, etc.

  • surround: A nice script to add, change or remove “surroundings”, like parentheses, brackets, quotes, XML tags…

  • ruby-block-conv: Convert single line blocks from {} into do/end and the other way around.

There are a lot of other nice script out there so check Vim’s web site for more scripts.

Keyboard shortcuts

Here is a list of the various shortcut keys:

  • CTRL+SHIFT+S: Set focus to current terminal (shell)

  • CTRL+SHIFT+T: Create a new terminal

  • CTRL+SHIFT+W: Close current terminal

  • CTRL+PAGEDOWN: Next terminal

  • CTRL+PAGEDOWN: Previous terminal

  • CTRL+SHIFT+L: Set focus to file filter

  • CTRL+SHIFT+F: Set focus to file list

  • CTRL+SHIFT+E: Set focus to search file list

  • CTRL+SHIFT+V: Set focus to Vim

Thanks to Florian Frank who sent me a patch for the first 5 shortcuts. The other shortcuts where also added thanks to this patch by Florian Frank. (Note that if there are bugs in the processing of those shortcut keys, it's probably my fault and not is.)


  • VimMate cannot handle well a directory tree with thousands of files, although it has no problems with hundreds of files although it can take some time to start.

  • Vim loads after VimMate is started. If you close VimMate or open a file before Vim starts and is connected to VimMate, this can lead to weird things. You should wait for Vim before you start playing with VimMate. Weird things can also happen if you close VimMate without saving in Vim before.

  • Setting the focus to Vim with the shortcut key doesn't work perfectly. If it doesn't seem to work, you can try to press TAB or the Up or Down keys on your keyboard after using the shortcut key and it works most of the time.

Author and Copyright

VimMate was written and is Copyright (C) 2006 Guillaume Benny

See COPYING for more information.