Vim On Rails

I’m going to talk about some of the plugins and configuration that I use every day at work, which is mostly developing Ruby on Rails applications.

In my case there are some elements that make a big difference when using a text editor:

Of course some of these elements can be irrelevant for other users. But I think that any Rails developer could gain a lot using an editor with good support for all of these features.

So, let’s go to the good stuff.

Switching between files and directories

There’s this great plugin written by Tim Pope called vim-rails that adds a lot of sweet commands to Vim.

You can use :Econtroller to navigate controllers, :Emodel to go to some model, :Eview for views, :Emailer to…well, you get the idea.

The best thing about this commands is you can use tab for autocompletion. You can also use reduced versions for some of them. For example :Econtroller comes aliased as :Eco and :Emodel as :Emo.


Other cool Ecommands that I use a lot, are :Emigration and :Einitializer. :Emigration takes you to the latest migration. Super useful if you use the Rails migration generator and want to verify if everything it’s OK with the last generated migration. :Einitializer takes you to the routes.rb file. All experienced Rails developer knows that he’s going to make a lot of visits to that file.


If you are into testing (and I hope you are), you need to start using the :Alternate command. It takes you to the related file of the current file. Personally I just use it to go from Model/Controller to the corresponding test file. The short version is :A. So if you are in the User model and execute the :A command, it takes you to the User spec. This command is highly customizable, but as I mentioned before, I’ve been using it just to navigate to the specs and viceversa.


Explorer type navigation

If you’re used to file navigation using a tree-type explorer, try vim-vinegar. In this post there’s a great explanation about why vim-vinegar is superior to NerdTree. Basically you can turn any buffer into a file explorer. This way you never get confused about which buffer is going to be replaced when selecting some file in the explorer and you have split windows.

Vim-vinegar can be used to do all standard operations like creating, deleting and moving files. I’ve been using this plugin a lot and I can tell you that has made a huge difference in my workflow.


Comments and ends

Two small plugins that are going to save you some time are vim-commentary and vim-endwise. The first one is a solid implementation of a line commenting plugin and the second adds end statements after declaring some method definition or a block.


VCS support

This section only covers Git Version Control, because come on.

Vim has probably the best Git wrapper of all text editors out there. vim-fugitive if one of those things that with the time becomes an indispensable tool.

With vim-fugitive you can commit, add, pull, push, rebase, blame, diff, etc, without leaving Vim. It makes a heavy use of helper buffers to facilitate the interaction with complex commands.

In this picture you can see a typical basic git workflow using some extra mappings.


Fuzzy finding

I’m not a big fan of global fuzzy finders. It’s way more useful to have a quick finder for your opened buffers. Still, a global fuzzy finder can be convenient when you’re in a project with a structure that you’re not used to.

CtrlP is the de facto fuzzy finder for vim. I’ve tried other new plugins for a while (for example Unite.vim) but CtrlP is much more stable and less buggy.

Some of my configuration:

map <Leader>b :CtrlPBuffer<cr>
let g:ctrlp_match_window_bottom   = 0
let g:ctrlp_match_window_reversed = 0

This way you can search quickly in your buffer list using your leader and b. The other two lines are just personal preferences (window position and file order on the list).


So, this is it for now. I hope you enjoyed this post. Try to add some of this tips to your Rails workflow with Vim or maybe put your actual editor aside and give Vim a try :).