Created: 2008-12-14 05:54
Updated: 2016-05-08 19:19


Janus: Carlhuda's vim Distribution

This is a basic distribution of vim plugins and tools intended to be run on top of the latest MacVIM snapshot.

We (Carl and Yehuda) both use this distribution for our own use, and welcome patches and contributions to help make it an effective way to get started with vim and then use it productively for years to come.

At present, we are still learning to use vim ourselves, so you should anticipate a period of rapid development while we get a handle on the best tools for the job. So far, we have mostly integrated existing plugins and tools, and we anticipate to continue doing so while also writing our own plugins as appropriate.

In general, you can expect that the tools we use work well together and that we have given careful thought to the experience of using MacVIM with the tools in question. If you run into an issue using it, please report an issue to the issue tracker.


Janus is built primarily for MacVim on OSX. Download it here.

Alternatively, you can use Janus with the bundled console vim installation on OSX (via Terminal), or with any other vim or gvim installation.

Linux users can install gvim for an experience identical to MacVim. On Debian/Ubuntu, simply apt-get install vim-gnome. For remote servers, install console vim with apt-get install vim-nox.


  1. for i in ~/.vim ~/.vimrc ~/.gvimrc; do [ -e $i ] && mv $i $i.old; done
  2. git clone git:// ~/.vim
  3. cd ~/.vim
  4. rake


curl -o - | sh


Create ~/.vimrc.local and ~/.gvimrc.local for any local customizations.

For example, to override the default color schemes:

echo color desert  > ~/.vimrc.local
echo color molokai > ~/.gvimrc.local

Updating to the latest version

To update to the latest version of the distribution, just run rake again inside your ~/.vim directory.

Intro to VIM

Here's some tips if you've never used VIM before:



  • VIM has two modes:
    • insert mode- stuff you type is added to the buffer
    • normal mode- keys you hit are interpretted as commands
  • To enter insert mode, hit i
  • To exit insert mode, hit <ESC>

Useful commands

  • Use :q to exit vim
  • Certain commands are prefixed with a <Leader> key, which maps to \ by default. Use let mapleader = "," to change this.
  • Keyboard cheat sheet.


This vim distribution includes a number of packages built by others.

Base Customizations

Janus ships with a number of basic customizations for vim:

  • Line numbers
  • Ruler (line and column numbers)
  • No wrap (turn off per-buffer via set :wrap)
  • Soft 2-space tabs, and default hard tabs to 2 spaces
  • Show tailing whitespace as .
  • Make searching highlighted, incremental, and case insensitive unless a capital letter is used
  • Always show a status line
  • Allow backspacing over everything (identations, eol, and start characters) in insert mode
  • <Leader>e expands to :e {directory of current file}/ (open in the current buffer)
  • <Leader>tr expands to :te {directory of current file}/ (open in a new MacVIM tab)
  • <C-P> inserts the directory of the current file into a command
  • Automatic insertion of closing quotes, parenthesis, and braces

"Project Drawer" aka NERDTree

NERDTree is a file explorer plugin that provides "project drawer" functionality to your vim projects. You can learn more about it with :help NERDTree.

Customizations: Janus adds a number of customizations to the core NERDTree:

  • Use <Leader>n to toggle NERDTree
  • Ignore *.rbc and *~ files
  • Automatically activate NERDTree when MacVIM opens and make the original buffer the active one
  • Provide alternative :e, :cd, :rm and :touch abbreviations which also refresh NERDTree when done (when NERDTree is open)
  • When opening vim with vim /path, open the left NERDTree to that directory, set the vim pwd, and clear the right buffer
  • Disallow :eing files into the NERDTree buffer
  • In general, assume that there is a single NERDTree buffer on the left and one or more editing buffers on the right


Ack.vim uses ack to search inside the current directory for a pattern. You can learn more about it with :help Ack

Customizations: Janus rebinds command-shift-f (<D-F>) to bring up :Ack .


Align lets you align statements on their equal signs, make comment boxes, align comments, align declarations, etc.

  • :5,10Align => to align lines 5-10 on =>'s


Command-T provides a mechanism for searching for a file inside the current working directory. It behaves similarly to command-t in Textmate.

Customizations: Janus rebinds command-t (<D-t>) to bring up this plugin. It defaults to <Leader>t.


ConqueTerm embeds a basic terminal inside a vim buffer. The terminal has an insert mode in which you can type commands, tab complete and use the terminal like normal. You can also escape out of insert mode to use other vim commands on the buffer, like yank and paste.

Customizations: Janus binds command-e (<D-e>) to bring up :ConqueTerm bash --login in the current buffer.

Note: To get colors working, you might have to export TERM=xterm and use ls -G or gls --color


Indent object creates a "text object" that is relative to the current ident. Text objects work inside of visual mode, and with c (change), d (delete) and y (yank). For instance, try going into a method in normal mode, and type v ii. Then repeat ii.

Note: indent_object seems a bit busted. It would also be nice if there was a text object for Ruby class and def blocks.


Surround allows you to modify "surroundings" around the current text. For instance, if the cursor was inside "foo bar", you could type cs"' to convert the text to 'foo bar'.

There's a lot more; check it out at :help surround


NERDCommenter allows you to wrangle your code comments, regardless of filetype. View help :NERDCommenter for all the details.

Customizations: Janus binds command-/ (<D-/>) to toggle comments.


In insert mode, start typing something and hit <TAB> to tab-complete based on the current context.


Janus includes the TagList plugin, which binds :Tlist to an overview panel that lists all ctags for easy navigation.

Customizations: Janus binds <Leader>rt to the ctags command to update tags.

Note: For full language support, run brew install ctags to install exuberant-ctags.

Tip: Check out :help ctags for information about VIM's built-in ctag support. Tag navigation creates a stack which can traversed via Ctrl-] (to find the source of a token) and Ctrl-T (to jump back up one level).

Git Support (Fugitive)

Fugitive adds pervasive git support to git directories in vim. For more information, use :help fugitive

Use :Gstatus to view git status and type - on any file to stage or unstage it. Type p on a file to enter git add -p and stage specific hunks in the file.

Use :Gdiff on an open file to see what changes have been made to that file


When working with split windows, ZoomWin lets you zoom into a window and out again using Ctrl-W o

Customizations: Janus binds <Leader>z to :ZoomWin

Markdown Preview

Markdown preview takes the current buffer, converts the Markdown to HTML, and opens it in your default browser.

Customizations: Janus binds <Leader>p to this plugin.

Additional Syntaxes

Janus ships with a few additional syntaxes:

  • Markdown (bound to *.markdown, *.md, and *.mk)
  • Mustache (bound to *.mustache)
  • Haml (bound to *.haml)
  • Sass (bound to *.sass)
  • SCSS (bound to *.scss)
  • An improved JavaScript syntax (bound to *.js)
  • Map Gemfile, Rakefile and Thorfile to Ruby
  • Git commits (set your EDITOR to mvim -f)

Color schemes

Janus includes the vim color sampler pack, which includes over 100 popular color themes:

  • jellybeans
  • matrix
  • railscasts2
  • tango
  • vibrantink
  • vividchalk
  • wombat
  • xoria256

Use :color vibrantink to switch to a color scheme.

Janus also has a few customized versions of popular themes:

  • jellybeans+
  • molokai
  • railscasts+
  • vwilight
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