Will’s Blog

Just a dude that does stuff.. mostly with computers.

Vim Plugin Development Workflows

I use a Vim Plugin Manager called Vundle to install and update all my Vim plugins.

When developing a new plugin with Vim, it is useful to be able to develop locally, test the changes in Vim and be able to push the changes to a Git repository.

Pushing to a remote repo and refreshing the local plugin

A naïve approach to this is to create a Git repository for your plugin, add it as a Vundle plugin in your .vimrc file and do development in a separate copy of the repository.


    Plugin 'wilvk/NERDTreeWindowResizer'

This approach has the additional overhead of having to:

Commit and push changes from the local source folder (e.g. ~/source/wilvk/<plugin_name>

Re-install or update the plugin in the ~/.vim/bundle/<plugin_name> path via the Vim command :PluginInstall or :PluginUpdate commands.

This can become quite tedious if you are doing many changes and want to keep synchronised between the local source path and the Vim plugin.

Referencing a local repo and creating a git remote for pushing to

An alternative approach I have found is, after creating your plugin’s repository, to:

Clone the plugin repository to your source path as you normally would:

$ cd ~/source/wilvk
$ git clone https://github.com/wilvk/NERDTreeWindowResizer

Then, make a symbolic link to your plugin source code in the ~/.vim/bundle path.

$ cd ~/.vim/bundle
$ ln -s ~/source/wilvk/NERDTreeWindowResizer ~/.vim/bundle/NERDTreeWindowResizer

Back in the plugin source path, we need to make changes to our local repository remotes:

Firstly, we change to our source code path and see what our current remotes are with git remote -v:

$ cd ~/source/wilvk/NERDTreeWindowResizer
$ git remote -v
origin  https://github.com/wilvk/NERDTreeWindowResizer (fetch)
origin  https://github.com/wilvk/NERDTreeWindowResizer (push)

We then set the origin to a local path in the ~/.vim/bundle path.

$ git remote set-url origin file:///Users/willvk/.vim/bundle/NERDTreeWindowResize

And create an upstream remote as our remote Git repository.

$ git remote add upstream https://github.com/wilvk/NERDTreeWindowResizer

We can verify the remotes are set correctly by running git remote -v again.

$ git remote -v
origin  file:///Users/willvk/.vim/bundle/NERDTreeWindowResizer (fetch)
origin  file:///Users/willvk/.vim/bundle/NERDTreeWindowResizer (push)
upstream        https://github.com/wilvk/NERDTreeWindowResizer (fetch)
upstream        https://github.com/wilvk/NERDTreeWindowResizer (push)

In our .vimrc file, we can add the plugin with a Plugin call, and reference the local repository:

call vundle#begin()
  Plugin 'file:///Users/willvk/.vim/bundle/NERDTreeWindowResizer'
call vundle#end()

Then finally, in Vim, run :PluginInstall to make sure it is installed correctly.

Now, when you make changes to your local plugin’s source, the changes will reflect instantly in Vim. To push changes to the remote Git repository, you should now push with git push upstream as the origin remote is being used to keep Vundle in sync (which will always be in sync now as it is a local file repository).


If you get an error like the following when starting Vim:

Error detected while processing function vundle#config#bundle[2]..<SNR>7_check_bundle_name:
line    2:
Vundle error: Name collision for Plugin file:///Users/willvk/.vim/bundle/NERDTreeWindowResizer.
Plugin wilvk/NERDTreeWindowResizer previously used the name "NERDTreeWindowResizer".
Skipping Plugin file:///Users/willvk/.vim/bundle/NERDTreeWindowResizer.
Press ENTER or type command to continue

Make sure you have removed any previous reference to your plugin in your .vimrc file.


call vundle#begin()
  Plugin 'wilvk/NERDTreeWindowResizer'
  Plugin 'file:///Users/willvk/.vim/bundle/NERDTreeWindowResizer'
call vundle#end()

In the above .vimrc, the first call to Plugin should be removed.

And that’s it! Happy Vimming!