Authored: 14 June 2017

A few Vim & tmux mappings

Power Vim usage involves mappings, usually many of them. This post will list some of my most used mappings. Note, this post is not intended to be about convincing anyone to change their mappings, rather the intention is to simply provide yet another resource of possibilities.

Both Vim and tmux mappings will somewhat be intermingled in this post since I often use both as a unified whole.

I will let others explain the benefits of tmux and Vim together: vim + tmux: A Perfect Match, and Benefits of using tmux

The mappings discussed in this post are backed into my vimrc and tmux.conf files.

tmux prefix

tmux operations are usually invoked with a <prefix> plus <command> key combination.

The default tmux prefix is Ctrl-b. That is an awkward combination to type with one hand, hence many folk change it to Ctrl-a. In my case I find Ctrl-w even nicer to type with just my left hand.

In ~/.tmux.conf:

unbind-key C-b
set -g prefix C-w

Vim leader

The Vim leader is a user definable key that is used as a prefix for custom mappings. Think of it as being similar to Alt or Ctrl, but in addition to those modifiers.

The default Vim leader key is backslash which, much like the tmux default prefix, I find to be an awkward key. The two most common replacements are Space and ,.

I like comma as my leader key, in ~/.vimrc:

let mapleader = ","

Vim localleader

The Vim local leader is intended to be similar to the leader key except specific to local buffers. However, in reality localleader can be used just like leader. I tend to favor leader for primary mappings (common), whilst I use localleader for secondary mappings (less common).

I like space as my localleader key, in ~/.vimrc:

let maplocalleader = " "

Use vi bindings in tmux

In ~/.tmux.conf:

setw -g mode-keys vi
unbind-key [
bind-key Escape copy-mode
unbind-key p
bind-key p paste-buffer
bind-key -Tcopy-mode-vi v send -X begin-selection
if-shell 'case "`uname`" in *Linux*) true;; *) false;; esac' \
    'bind-key -Tcopy-mode-vi Enter send -X copy-pipe-and-cancel "xclip -selection primary -i -f | xclip -selection clipboard -i"' \
    'bind-key -Tcopy-mode-vi Enter send -X copy-pipe-and-cancel  "reattach-to-user-namespace pbcopy"'
if-shell 'case "`uname`" in *Linux*) true;; *) false;; esac' \
    'bind-key -Tcopy-mode-vi y send -X copy-pipe-and-cancel "xclip -selection primary -i -f | xclip -selection clipboard -i"' \
    'bind-key -Tcopy-mode-vi y send -X copy-pipe-and-cancel  "reattach-to-user-namespace pbcopy"'

The above configuration is compatible with tmux version 2.4 and above.

When using Vim with tmux it makes sense to configure vi style bindings in tmux. The above configuration allows for Vim style visual selection and yanking when in tmux copy mode.

tmux pane splitting

In ~/.tmux.conf:

unbind-key %
bind-key | split-window -h
unbind-key '"'
bind-key - split-window -v

Nice pane creation in tmux, use <prefix>-| to create a vertical pane and <prefix>-- to create a horizontal pane. The direction of the line indicates the type of pane that will be created.

Vim splitting

In ~/.vimrc:

nnoremap <silent> <leader>s :split<CR>
nnoremap <silent> <leader>v :vsplit<CR>
nnoremap <silent> <leader>q :close<CR>

Simple split windows in Vim: use <leader>s to create a horizontal split, <leader>v to create a vertical split and <leader>q to close a split.

Seamlessly navigate Vim splits and tmux panes

In ~/.vimrc:

noremap <C-h> <C-w>h
noremap <C-j> <C-w>j
noremap <C-k> <C-w>k
noremap <C-l> <C-w>l

Plug 'christoomey/vim-tmux-navigator'
if &term == 'screen-256color'
    let g:tmux_navigator_no_mappings = 1
    nnoremap <silent> <C-h> :TmuxNavigateLeft<cr>
    nnoremap <silent> <C-j> :TmuxNavigateDown<cr>
    nnoremap <silent> <C-k> :TmuxNavigateUp<cr>
    nnoremap <silent> <C-l> :TmuxNavigateRight<cr>

In ~/.tmux.conf:

is_vim="ps -o state= -o comm= -t '#{pane_tty}' \
    | grep -iqE '^[^TXZ ]+ +(\\S+\\/)?g?(view|n?vim?x?)(diff)?$'"
bind-key -n C-h if-shell "$is_vim" "send-keys C-h"  "select-pane -L"
bind-key -n C-j if-shell "$is_vim" "send-keys C-j"  "select-pane -D"
bind-key -n C-k if-shell "$is_vim" "send-keys C-k"  "select-pane -U"
bind-key -n C-l if-shell "$is_vim" "send-keys C-l"  "select-pane -R"

Vim splits divide up a workspace, similarly tmux panes divide up a terminal window. From a usability perspective we want to use the same mappings to navigate between splits and panes.

The above configuration provides Ctrl-h (left), Ctrl-j (down), Ctrl-k (up), and Ctrl-l (right) navigation between Vim splits and tmux panes.

The vim-tmux-navigator plugin is a key requirement for these mappings to function. Please install with your preferred Vim plugin manager.

Create a tmux window

In ~/.tmux.conf:

bind-key -n M-w new-window

Alt-w creates a new tmux window (aka a new tab).

Create a Vim tab page

In ~/.vimrc:

nnoremap <silent> <leader>t :$tabnew<CR>

<leader>t creates a new Vim tab page.

In ~/.tmux.conf:

bind-key -n M-1 select-window -t 1
bind-key -n M-2 select-window -t 2
bind-key -n M-3 select-window -t 3
bind-key -n M-4 select-window -t 4
bind-key -n M-5 select-window -t 5
bind-key -n M-6 select-window -t 6
bind-key -n M-7 select-window -t 7
bind-key -n M-8 select-window -t 8
bind-key -n M-9 select-window -t 9

tmux windows are numbered tabs which are usually navigated to by <prefix>-<number>. However, I find using a <prefix> based mapping a bit cumbersome if I want to quickly flick between windows.

Instead I prefer to use Alt-<number> to quickly get to the window I want.

In ~/.vimrc:

Plug 'gcmt/taboo.vim'
let g:taboo_tab_format = " tab:%N%m "

nnoremap <leader>1 1gt
nnoremap <leader>2 2gt
nnoremap <leader>3 3gt
nnoremap <leader>4 4gt
nnoremap <leader>5 5gt

These mapping provide <leader>1/<leader>2/... navigation to switch to a specific numbered tab. I use the vim-taboo plugin to display numbered tabs rather than use Vim’s default tab naming convention.

Enter Vim command mode

Command mode in Vim is entered by typing :, this necessarily involves holding the Shift key. A simple and handy shortcut is to map ; to : as follows to avoid the Shift key altogether:

noremap ; :

This will mean losing the ; repeat for the last f, t, F or T command. In my case that is a non-issue since I use the clever-f plugin which provides f and F as repeat operators among other benefits.

Center next Vim search match

noremap n nzz
noremap N Nzz

Navigating search results is something often done. These mappings simply center the n (next) or N (previous) match. Much less of a need to search for the cursor on the screen; the next match, more often than not, will be in the center of the screen.

Y should behave like D and C

noremap Y y$

Vim by default provides D to delete till the end of line and C to change till the end of line. For some reason it does not provide yank till the end of line. Enable this mapping to set Y to do that particular form of yanking.

Fold code in Vim

set foldmethod=indent
nnoremap <leader><Space> za

There are multiple choices available when choosing a Vim fold method. I like to use indent since it is simple and performant. <leader><Space> toggles a fold based on the indent level of the current cursor line.

Equalize Vim splits

noremap <leader>= <C-w>=

The above mapping equalizes the splits of the current Vim workspace.

Zoom a Vim split

noremap <silent> <leader>z :tab split<CR>

This handy mapping zooms a split into its own full tab page. This is useful when the current workspace has been divided multiple times making edits to any single split difficult due to a lack of space. In that case simply zoom the split.