NeoVim for Software Development

May 01, 2019

I’ve recently been interested in using the tried-and-true vim editor again. For those unfamiliar, vim is an editor that was first released in 1991. Vim boasts a large community of users, plugins, and add-ons. Most vim users configure their editor quite heavily. This customization is one of the nicest things about vim. That said, it’s also one of the more challenging things to get right.

In order to consider my vim configuration a success, I wanted to have some IDE like features available. Things like “find in project”, “jump to file”, and linting / TypeScript support are necessary. This article is a high-level overview of how I setup NeoVim (nvim) to achieve these results.

1) Install nvim

I am using NeoVim (nvim) instead of the standard vim. NeoVim is a “vim-based” text editor. It’s fairly compatible with standard vim but it adds some features around what types of things plugins can do (as well as some other things).

It’s good to follow the documentation for installing nvim. On my Mac, I ran

brew install --HEAD neovim

2) Install VimPlug

VimPlug is what I’m using to manage my plugins. Take a look at the installation documentation. For my setup, I ran the following:

curl -fLo ~/.local/share/nvim/site/autoload/plug.vim --create-dirs \

3) Set up the config files

nvim’s configuration, by default, is controlled from .config/nvim/init.vim. This file could contain all of the configuration options for nvim. As time goes on, placing our configuration in one file could get unwieldy over time. Thankfully, you can split your vim configuration files to make it easier to manage. Following that guide, init.vim, loads configuration from other config files. I have the following files but any number / name of configuration files could be used.


This is where I place all my plugin installation information.

call plug#begin('~/.vim/plugged')
  " Plugins go here
call plug#end()


This settings.vim contains all of my standard nvim configuration.


Plugin configuration goes in this file. I wanted to keep this separate from the plugin installation but it could technically be placed along side the installation configuration file.

4) Configure default vim settings

My vim settings are available here to see how I set this up. These settings are mostly personal preference. Take a look at this guide on configuring vim for more info.

5) Install Plugins

With this structure in place, everything should be in a good place to begin installing and configuring plugins. Plugins can be installed using VimPlug by placing statements Plug statements between the opening and closing plug functions. For example

Plug 'bling/vim-bufferline'

After configuring the plugins, run :PlugInstall to install the plugins.

A couple of plugins that I’m using are:


ctrlp is described as a “Full path fuzzy file, buffer, mru, tag, … finder for Vim.” I use this similarly to how I use Command+P in VS Code to quickly jump to another file.


This plugin makes it very easy to quickly search a codebase and edit files in the search results view.

Conquer of Completion

This plugin is what I use to get intellisense information like VS Code. The autocompletion is surprisingly good. The documentation boasts that it has the same language protocol support that powers VS Code.

Conquer of completion has completion sources for TypeScript and other programming languages that may need to be installed separately. See the docs for more on this


Ale stands for “Asynchronous Lint Engine.” Ale lives up to the name and is great at linting my JavaScript codebases.

Wrapping up

While vim may not be for everyone and might not even be my primary editor, it can be a nice way to edit code. My configuration files are available on github.

Ryan Lanciaux

Hi 👋 I'm Ryan Lanciaux. I run Spaceship Studio, LLC. a consultancy specializing in fast and dynamic web and native mobile applications.

I live in Ann Arbor with my wonderful family! In my freetime, I create electronic music.

You should follow me on Twitter