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Notational FZF

Loosen the mental blockages to recording information. Scrape away the tartar of convention that handicaps its retrieval.

--- Notational Velocity home page

Notational Velocity is a note-taking app where searching for a note and creating one are the same operation.

You search for a query, and if no note matches, it creates a new note with that query as the title.


See the following GIF or watch this asciinema:



" with vim-plug
Plug ''




Vim is great for writing. But it isn't optimized for note-taking, where you often create lots of little notes and frequently change larger notes in a separate directory from the one you're working in. For years I used nvALT and whenever I had to do serious editing, I would open the file in Vim.

But some things about nvALT bugged me.

  • It's not meant for large text files, and opening them will cause it to lag a lot.

  • I can't use splits

  • I do most of my work in Vim, so why have another window open, wasting precious screen space with its inferior editing capabilities. Sorry Brett, but nvALT can't match Vim's editing speed.

  • I also disagree with some parts of Notational Velocity's philosophy.

Plugins like vim-pad didn't do it for me either, because:

  • I don't want to archive my notes. I should be able to just search for them.
  • I don't want to use the first line as the title since I have notes with duplicated titles in different directories, like
  • I just want to be able to search a set of directories and create notes in one of them, quickly.

When Junegunn created fzf, I realized that I could have all that, in Vim.

This plugin allows you to define a list of directories that you want to search. The first directory in the list is used as the main directory, unless you set g:nv_main_directory. If you press control-x after typing some words, it will use those words as the filename to create a file in the main directory. It will then open that file in a vertical split. If that file already exists, don't worry, it won't overwrite it. This plugin never modifies your files at any point. It can only read, open, and create them.

You can define relative links, so adding ./docs and ./notes will work. Keep in mind that it's relative to your current working directory (as Vim interprets it).


  • rg is required for its fast search.

  • fzf.

  • fzf Vim plugin. Install the Vim plugin that comes with fzf, which can be done like so if you use vim-plug.

    Plug 'junegunn/fzf', { 'dir': '~/.fzf', 'do': './install --all' }
  • Python 3.5 or higher, for the preview window and filepath shortening.

Optional dependencies

  • Pypy 3, for a potential speedup

Required Settings

You have to define a list of directories or files (which all must be strings) to search. This setting is named g:nv_search_paths.

Remember that these can be relative links.

" example
let g:nv_search_paths = ['~/wiki', '~/writing', '~/code', '' , './']

Detailed Usage

This plugin unites searching and file creation. It defines a single command :NV, which can take 0 or more arguments, which are interpreted as regexes.

Type :NV or bind it to a mapping to bring up a fuzzy search menu. Type in your search terms and it will fuzzy search for them. Adding an exclamation mark to the command (:NV!), will run it fullscreen.

You can type :NV to see all results, and then filter them with FZF. You can type :NV python to restrict your initial search to lines that contain the phrase python. :NV [0-9] [0-9] will find all numbers separated by a space. You know, regexes.

It does not search in a fully fuzzy fashion because that's less useful for prose. It looks for full words, but they don't have to be next to each other, just on the same line. You can use the arrow keys or c-p and c-n to scroll through the search results, and then hit one of these keys to open up a file:

Note that the following options can be customized.

  • c-x: Use search string as filename and open in vertical split.
  • c-v: Open in vertical split
  • c-s: Open in horizontal split
  • c-t: Open in new tab
  • c-y: Yank the selected filenames
  • <Enter>: Open highlighted search result in current buffer

The lines around the selected file will be visible in a preview window.


This plugin only defines a command :NV, and if you want a mapping for it, you can define it yourself. This is intentionally not done by default. You should use whatever mapping(s) work best for you.

For example,

nnoremap <silent> <c-s> :NV<CR>

Optional Settings and Their Defaults

You can display the full path by setting g:nv_use_short_pathnames = 0.

You can toggle displaying the preview window by pressing alt-p. This is handy on smaller screens. If you don't want to show the preview by default, set g:nv_show_preview = 0.

" String. Set to '' (the empty string) if you don't want an extension appended by default.
" Don't forget the dot, unless you don't want one.
let g:nv_default_extension = '.md'

" String. Default is first directory found in `g:nv_search_paths`. Error thrown
"if no directory found and g:nv_main_directory is not specified
"let g:nv_main_directory = g:nv_main_directory or (first directory in g:nv_search_paths)

" Dictionary with string keys and values. Must be in the form 'ctrl-KEY':
" 'command' or 'alt-KEY' : 'command'. See examples below.
let g:nv_keymap = {
                    \ 'ctrl-s': 'split ',
                    \ 'ctrl-v': 'vertical split ',
                    \ 'ctrl-t': 'tabedit ',
                    \ })

" String. Must be in the form 'ctrl-KEY' or 'alt-KEY'
let g:nv_create_note_key = 'ctrl-x'

" String. Controls how new note window is created.
let g:nv_create_note_window = 'vertical split'

" Boolean. Show preview. Set by default. Pressing Alt-p in FZF will toggle this for the current search.
let g:nv_show_preview = 1

" Boolean. Respect .*ignore files in or above nv_search_paths. Set by default.
let g:nv_use_ignore_files = 1

" Boolean. Include hidden files and folders in search. Disabled by default.
let g:nv_include_hidden = 0

" Boolean. Wrap text in preview window.
let g:nv_wrap_preview_text = 1

" String. Width of window as a percentage of screen's width.
let g:nv_window_width = '40%'

" String. Determines where the window is. Valid options are: 'right', 'left', 'up', 'down'.
let g:nv_window_direction = 'down'

" String. Command to open the window (e.g. `vertical` `aboveleft` `30new` `call my_function()`).
let g:nv_window_command = 'call my_function()'

" Float. Width of preview window as a percentage of screen's width. 50% by default.
let g:nv_preview_width = 50

" String. Determines where the preview window is. Valid options are: 'right', 'left', 'up', 'down'.
let g:nv_preview_direction = 'right'

" String. Yanks the selected filenames to the default register.
let g:nv_yank_key = 'ctrl-y'

" String. Separator used between yanked filenames.
let g:nv_yank_separator = "\n"

" Boolean. If set, will truncate each path element to a single character. If
" you have colons in your pathname, this will fail. Set by default.
let g:nv_use_short_pathnames = 1

"List of Strings. Shell glob patterns. Ignore all filenames that match any of
" the patterns.
let g:nv_ignore_pattern = ['summarize-*', 'misc*']

" List of Strings. Key mappings like above in case you want to define your own
" handler function. Most users won't want to set this to anything.

let g:nv_expect_keys = []

bat config

If bat is in the PATH then it will be used. It will use $BAT_THEME if it's set.

You can also define your own handler function, in case you don't like how this plugin handles input but like how it wraps everything else. It must be called NV_note_handler.

Potential Use Cases

  • Add ~/notes and ~/wiki so your notes are only one key binding away.
  • Add relative links like ./notes, ./doc, etc. to g:nv_search_paths so you can always see/update the documentation of your current project and keep up-to-date personal notes.


To quote scrod,

The reasoning behind Notational Velocity's present lack of multi-database support is that storing notes in separate databases would 1) Require the same kinds of decisions that category/folder-based organizers force upon their users (e.g., "Is this note going to be work-specific or home-specific?"), and 2) Defeat the point of instantaneous searching by requiring, ultimately, the user to repeat each search for every database in use.

  • By providing a default directory, we offer (one) fix to the first issue.

  • By searching the whole set of directories simultaneously, we handle the second.

It also handles Notational Velocity's issue with multiple databases. UNIX does not allow repeated filenames in the same folder, but often the parent folder provides context, like in workout/ and coding/

This plug-in attempts to abstract the operation of note-taking over all the notes you take, with priority given to one main notes directory.

Caveat Emptor

  • This plugin is just a wrapper over FZF that can view directories and open/create files. That's all it's ever meant to be. Anything else would be put into a separate plugin.


Is always welcome. If you have any ideas or issues, let me know and I'll try to address them. Not all will be implemented, but if they fit into the philosophy of this plugin or seem really useful, I'll do my best.


Apache 2