If you are a Vim user and are using a shell outside Vim such as bash or zsh, you’ve been wasting your time(*1). Install VimShell and use it for everything. It works particularly well on your local computer.

There are three steps to using VimShell effectively. At first you will feel that VimShell isn’t as handy as shells outside Vim, but later you will not be able to remember the era without VimShell.

1. Bare VimShell as Shell and Interactive commands

Install VimShell and its depencency vimproc. You can place these files under &runtimepath manually, but personally I recommend you to use plugin managers such as neobundle.vim.

[cc lang=”vim”] NeoBundle ‘shougo/vimproc’ NeoBundle ‘shougo/vimshell’ [/cc]

You have to build C files in vimproc if you install it manually. If you use neobundle.vim, it takes care of compiling, so you don’t have to manually run make.

After installing vimproc and vimshell, read vimshell’s docs quickly by :h vimshell, and try it.

You may feel the shell is weird and different compared to other shells at first.


This screencast is with the following config. The colorscheme is neverland

[cc lang=”vim”] let g:vimshelluserprompt = ‘fnamemodify(getcwd(), “:~”)’ let g:vimshell_prompt = ‘$ ‘ [/cc]

2. VimShell with neocomplcache and unite

I’m pretty sure that most Vim programmers are using or at least have heard of neocomplcache, a Vim plugin for auto-completion. I don’t talk a lot about neocomplcache itself in this article, but if you haven’t tried neocomplcache yet, you should consider installing it, particularly for vimshell.


neocomplcache and vimshell work well together without any vimshell specific configuration; just install neocomplcache and set it up properly to enable its vimshell integration. Since neocomplcache is not just a completion plugin but an auto-complete plugin, it by nature shows completion candidates such as commands and filenames with no need to use TAB.

unite.vim is also a vital Vim plugin that provides an interface for anything. I may write another article about unite.vim in the future, but here in short I will just say that it is an alternative implementation to select an item from candidates.

VimShell supports unite by default for searching history like bash’s <C-r>. Type <C-l> in Insert mode in a VimShell buffer to open the unite interface of VimShell’s command history, choose a candidate, and type <Cr> to execute it.


You can just insert the selected candidates with TAB as well.

3. Integrate VimShell with anything you use

VimShell is not only a shell alternative but also provides an environment for interactive programs, such as irb or REPLs in general. You can make a new buffer for something with iexe {command} in a VimShell buffer. Note that you can still use neocomplcache and unite functionality in the buffer.


VimShell has the following commands for control of VimShell buffers (both shell and interactive environments) from outside VimShell.

  • :VimShellSendBuffer {bufname} to specify the destination VimShell buffer
  • :VimShellSendString {string} to send {string}
  • :[range]VimShellSendString to send strings that you chose

The details are in the vimshell docs. Read :h vimshell from beginning to end.


The strongest aspect of VimShell is that it’s easily controllable since it’s written in Vim script to run on Vim. You can use the above commands or other functions to control VimShell easily, or if it’s necessary, you can extend VimShell not only with C but also the friendly Vim script language.

Below is an example for Scala with SBT. Scala’s compiler and runtime system are really slow to start, so Scala programmers commonly run an interactive SBT console and keep using it, instead of making lots of new Scala processes every time.

[cc lang=”vim”] command! -nargs=0 StartSBT execute ‘VimShellInteractive sbt’ | let t:sbt_bufname = bufname(‘%’)

function! s:sbtrun() let cmds = get(t:, ‘sbtcmds’, ‘run’)

let sbtbufname = get(t:, ‘sbtbufname’) if sbtbufname !=# ” call vimshell#interactive#setsendbuffer(sbtbufname) call vimshell#interactive#send(cmds) else echoerr ‘try StartSBT’ endif endfunction

function! s:vimrcscala() nnoremap m :write:call sbtrun() endfunction

augroup vimrcscala autocmd! autocmd FileType scala call s:vimrcscala() autocmd FileType scala nnoremap st :StartSBT augroup END [/cc]


The above Vim script code is in my vimrc. Feel free to use it.

The future of VimShell itself

VimShell doesn’t work well with ssh. There are some plugins like vimshell-ssh or unite-ssh to integrate more features that work remotely from your local Vim process, but they aren’t mature enough yet. It’s a known issue that we are working on.


  • No VimShell, No Life.
  • 50% of programmers on my team are using Vim with VimShell.
  • The animated gifs above were created with MacVim. I simply took many screenshots with Cmd-Shift-3, cropped, converted each to a gif, and converted to a single gif file using convert from ImageMagick.
  • (*1) or you’ve been saving your time; living without using some awesome Vim plugins doesn’t make you tempted to write lots of code in Vim script.

About uji



Hi thanks for the nice post..i wanted to execute commands in vim shell with key mappings..eg. if i type <leader>bi it should open VimShellPop and execute bundle install and close once it get completed..is it possible using vimshell....


Hi thanks for reading my post.


I tried `:VimShellInteractive sbt ~compile` and it simply worked. I'm using the latest version of vimshell (git a57abc23) and vimproc (84f85eca) on GVim 7.3.762 on Gentoo Linux. Which version of plugins/vim did you use?




This is really awesome, I've been looking for something like this for a while, thanks! One question.. how can I get `sbt ~compile` (continuous compilation) to work? I added the script above to my .vimrc file and typed in StartSBT and it gave me an "Exec format error"


I also tried to just type in "VimShellInteractive sbt ~compile" (and "VimShellInteractive sbt") and that gave me the same error, but "VimShellInteract scala" works.





 @ujm I am using the latest version (or whatever version is on GitHub) as well, with Vim 7.2. I figured out what's wrong, I needed to add "#!/bin/bash" to the top of my SBT bash script and everything works fine. Everything is awesome now, thanks!


 @adelbertc note that ~compile keeps watching every 500msec (configurable), so it consumes machine power and you still waste 500msec, whereas with using the technique described above, you can do exactly same thing with no such disadvantages ;)


 @ujm Hm I think what is more interesting to me is if I'm looking at the gif properly, you are able to call sbt commands like "compile" while still remaining "in focus" on the source code window?


Either way I am interested, though I am not familiar with VimScript (yet). Once I copy that VimScript into my vimrc, what do I do to pass commands into SBT without explicitly switching window focus and typing in commands myself?


 @adelbertc vimshell#interactive#send() function does the job that sending a string to the vimshell buffer specified in advance, so I didn't have to switch Vim bufferes manually.


Once you copy the vimrc lines and installed the dependency plugins, your Vim will do the job just by typing <Space>m on a scala file after you open the sbt buffer by :StartSBT command. To change the key to fire it, just change the following line


  nnoremap <buffer> <Space>m :<C-u>write<Cr>:call <SID>sbt_run()<Cr>


  1. […] 在 Vi 中如果想选取文本作为 Shell 命令来执行该如何做呢? 想法的背景是想在 Vi 中编辑 Shell 命令,主要是对参数的修改,然后直接选择执行,而不希望复制再贴到 Terminal 下看结果。方法其实很简单,用不着使用 VimShell,关键这个插件的安装还依赖于另两个插件。方法就是: […]

Post Navigation