For a while now there has been a terminal feature integrated in neovim.

There’s a vimcast on it if you want more info.

Vim has buffers, tabs, and splits. The question I’ve been asking myself is simple: Is it possible to replace my use of tmux with neovim ? Here is my feedback, after one week leaving tmux.

Disclaimer:

  1. I am not an advanced vim/neovim user
  2. Nor do I am an advanced tmux user

Basic usage and configuration

To use the terminal in vim, just type:

:terminal

This will replace the current buffer you’re focused on with a terminal emulator. You can write in the terminal by switching to insert mode.

To leave the emulator, just type ^\^n.

I find it kind of complicated, so I’ve done the following re-mapping based on Michael Abrahamsen blogpost:

tnoremap jj <C-\><C-n>

Basic stuff

  • To copy paste, the usual y and p work, I mostly use the + register.

  • :resize, :vertical-resize works, which is awesome.

  • ^n completion will pick up everything managed by vim, including stuff written in your terminal !

Zooming

tmux has a really nice zooming feature. I checked a few solutions to do that with vim.

  • vim-zoom: kinda works, but your buffer needs to be saved
  • ZoomWin:
    • When I used it it had a few second lags when zooming
    • It did not play well with pandoc and other plugins, I got many errors when zooming/restoring
  • vim-maximizer:
    • It is equivalent to doing a resize, so other windows don’t disappear, they are just minimized
    • It is fast and simple => my goto choice

Nesting

There is no protection against running vim in vim: It will work, but some escape sequence might not.

Detaching

tmux is a terminal multiplexer, but it also supports detaching/attaching this is really a usefull feature I’m not ready to lose yet. For example, it allows me to upgrade my terminal emulator without loosing my session or to keep a session over SSH.

As mentioned here, let’s use abduco (a detach clone) for that:

#!/bin/sh
alias vmux="abduco -e '^g' -A nvim-session nvim"

When we want to run vim as a terminal multiplexer, we’ll just have to run vmux. Just use CTRL+g to detach from the session.

Controlling vim session from within terminal

One usual workflow I have is:

  1. open a terminal
  2. find files in a directory
  3. open a file in the directory

With tmux, I just had to do

$ vim myfile

At first, I just copied the name of a file in a buffer, then opened it in my vim session. But I find it complicated. What I’d like to do is, from within my terminal, call:

$ vsplit myfile
$ split myfile
$ e myfile

Let’s change our vmux command to:

#!/usr/bin/sh
alias vmux="(abduco -l|grep nvim-session) || rm -f /tmp/vim-server;\
  abduco -e '^g' -A nvim-session nvim --cmd \
    \"let g:server_addr = serverstart('/tmp/vim-server')\""

This will create a /tmp/vim-server file used to comunicate with neovim.

As a command line client to the vim server, Let’s create $HOME/.config/nvim/send_command_to_vim_session.py

#!/usr/bin/env python
import neovim
import sys
nvim = neovim.attach('socket', path='/tmp/vim-server')
nvim.command(" ".join(sys.argv[1:]))

In .bashrc or .zshrc, let’s declare new commands:

#!/usr/bin/sh
alias vmux-send="$HOME/.config/nvim/send_command_to_vim_session.py"
for cmd in split vsplit e tabnew
do
  alias $cmd="vmux-send :$cmd"
done

Now in a :terminal session, we will be able to call split or vsplit command !

cd with terminal

When in terminal mode, when I change directory (cd), I would like vim to also change its working directory (:cd). You can do so by adding this in your .zshrc or .bashrc:

#!/usr/bin/sh
function cd() {  
  builtin cd "$@";
  # if the parent process is nvim, do a vim cd 
  (ps -o comm= $PPID | grep nvim > /dev/null) && vmux-send :cd "$@"
}
export cd

What’s next

I loved my tmux status bar, so maybe I will try and find a replacement. My window managers have their own status bars, so it is not that important to me though.

Currently, my setup only supports one vmux session, I need to fix that.

Maybe I could create a vim plugin integrating most of the stuff I described in here.

A protection against nesting could be nice.

Finally, I would like to protect vim from closing with a prompt when in vmux mode.

Conclusion

So far, I’m having fun using neovim instead of tmux. To me there is currently no obvious reason to switch back to tmux.