How to use code snippets in Vim like a cowboy 🤠️

📅️ Published: February 14, 2021  • 🕣 5 min read

How to use code snippets in Vim like a cowboy 🤠️

Its time to increase your horsepower and write code faster than before. In this tutorial I will cover how to setup and use code-snippets in Vim or NeoVim for Go, Python, Bash and Markdown (since I deal with them everyday)

Also note that this tutorial is for people who have recently started to use Vim as their main editor, or for people who are looking for reasons to switch to Vim gang (don’t worry Vim has everything a modern editor can provide & much more!)

Introduction

Code snippet ecosystem in Vim is segregated into different plugins, here is how it looks like in a generic way


                ---------------------
                |  Snippet Provider | [vim-snippets]
                ---------------------
                          | 
                          v
                --------------------
                |  Snippet Manager | [Ultisnips, snipMate]
                --------------------
                          |
                          v
                --------------------
                |  Code Completion | [YCM, deoplete, coc]
                --------------------

Installing Plugins

For this tutorial, we will be installing Ultisnips and vim-snippets.

If you use Plug,

Plug 'SirVer/ultisnips'
Plug 'honza/vim-snippets'

For Vundle,

Plugin 'SirVer/ultisnips'
Plugin 'honza/vim-snippets'

For vanilla vim, run the following commands

mkdir -p ~/.vim/pack/bundle/start && cd $_
git clone https://github.com/SirVer/ultisnips.git
git clone https://github.com/honza/vim-snippets.git

Let me know if the above commands don’t work on vanilla vim, I nuked mine 😛️

Once you have installed both the plugins, open your vimrc or init.vim to configure some key mappings for ultisnips

let g:UltiSnipsExpandTrigger="<tab>"
" list all snippets for current filetype
let g:UltiSnipsListSnippets="<c-l>"

How to use ultisnips

  1. Type the “snippet trigger” (listed below in the 1st column) and press TAB in insert mode to evaluate the snippet block.
  2. Use Ctrl + j to jump forward within the snippet.
  3. Use Ctrl + k to jump backward within the snippet.
  4. Use Ctrl + l to list all the snippets available for the current file-type

Below are some of the most common snippets you should start using right now!

Code Snippets for Go

Snippet Trigger Description
fun Go function
fum Go Method
for Infinite for loop
forr Range based for loop
err Go Basic Error Handling
im Import Packages
pf fmt.Printf(…)
pl fmt.Println(…)
ps fmt.Sprintf(…)
om if key in map
if Go basic if statement
ife Go basic if/else statement
sw Switch statement
sl Go select for channels
ga goroutine anonymous function
test Go Test function
testt Go Table test function

All Go snippets. Also, see Ultisnips specific snippets

Code Snippets for Python

Snippet Trigger Description
cl New Python class
def New Python function definition
adef Python Async function definition
err Go Basic Error Handling
try Try/Except Block
trye Try/Except/Else Block
tryf Try/Except/Finally Block
tryef Try/Except/Else/Finally Block
" Python docstring
if Python basic if statement
el Python basic else statement
for Range based for loop
lcp List comprehension

All python snippets. Also see Ultisnips specific snippets

Bonus Django Snippets

Code Snippets for Shell

Snippet Trigger Description
for Basic for loop with iterator
fori Range based for loop
while Bash basic while loop
case Bash switch statement
if Bash basic if statement
fun Bash basic function definition
sbash shebang with secure guard

All shell snippets. Also, see Ultisnips specific snippets

Code Snippets for Markdown

Snippet Trigger Description
* Italics text
** Bold text
/* Markdown/HTML Comment
cbl Code block
link or [ Markdown link
img or ![ Markdown image
detail Details/Summary Tag
tb Markdown Table
tbN,M Responsive Table
  (tb12 creates a table with 1 row & 2 columns)

All shell snippets. Also, see Ultisnips specific snippets

You can also power up note-taking in markdown with some more plugins like vim-markdown & tabular

How to create your own snippets

vim-snippets stores its code-snippets in 2 different directories:

  • $HOME/.config/nvim/plugged/vim-snippets/snippets/ snipMate compatible
  • $HOME/.config/nvim/plugged/vim-snippets/UltiSnips/ for people who use vim-snippets with ultisnips (the snippet format is different)

The variable g:UltiSnipsSnippetDirectories can be used to specify different locations to look for snippets

let g:UltiSnipsSnippetDirectories=["UltiSnips", $HOME.'/Documents/.Varshney/snippets/']

Creating a snippet is fairly easy, the basic format is as follows

snippet <trigger_word> "Description" [options]
# code block
endsnippet

Read more about snippet options in manual :help UltiSnips-snippet-options

Below is an example of a Jekyll Post header from my dotfiles

snippet head "Jekyll Post Header" b
---
layout: post
comments: true
title: ${1:title}
description: ${2:description}
tags: ${3:tags}
image: ${4:image}
---

$0
endsnippet

The part in braces {1:title} is called a placeholder. When the snippet is expanded, Ctrl + j will visually select the next placeholder so that you can change the text. In the same way, Ctrl + k will visually select the previously entered placeholder

Here is a short demo of how this works

snippet-demo-vim

Read more about authoring snippets in manual :help UltiSnips-authoring-snippets

That’s it for this tutorial, why don’t you share your code snippets below 👇️

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