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Janus: Vim Distribution

This is a distribution of plug-ins and mappings for Vim, Gvim and MacVim.

It is designed to provide minimal working environment using the most popular plug-ins and the most common mappings.

The distribution is completely customisable using a ~/.vimrc.before and ~/.vimrc.after Vim RC files.

Updating to the latest version

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

NOTE: If you ever have an error updating Janus relating to a missing commit in a submodule, please try running rake again before submitting an issue.

Mailing list

The mailing list is hosted at Google Groups, please join it for discussion and announcements.


The distribution is designed to work with Vim >= 7.3.

The distribution also requires ack, ctags, git, ruby and rake. For the most comfortable experience, use the GUI version of Vim. Linux users should install gvim, OSX users should install MacVim. The recommended way of installing MacVim is using Homebrew, but before installing MacVim you need to use system-wide Python (If you are using python that is):

  • If you're using pythonbrew: do pythonbrew off
$ brew install macvim

If you don't use Homebrew, you can still download MacVim here.

Take a look at the Pre-requisites wiki page for more information.


To install Janus, please use our automatic installer , which backs up any Vim files found in your home folder and installs Janus.

$ curl -L | bash


You can use ~/.gvimrc.before and ~/.vimrc.before for settings Janus itself uses, such as the leader setting. You may also use ~/.gvimrc.after and ~/.vimrc.after for any additional settings; it is also a good place for overriding Janus settings, as both files will be loaded at the end of Janus.

For example, to override the default color schemes:

$ echo 'color desert'  >> ~/.vimrc.after
$ echo 'color molokai' >> ~/.gvimrc.after

If you want to do additional customization or add more Vim plugins, create a ~/.janus directory and add your plugins there, either with a git clone or by adding submodules to your own git repository there. This directory is treated like a normal pathogen directory. For example:

$ cd ~/.janus
$ git clone rename2

Or, if you have a git repository in ~/.janus, you can use a submodule:

$ cd ~/.janus
$ git submodule add rename2

If you would like to disable an included plug-in, you can do that with the janus#disable_plugin() function from inside your ~/.vimrc.before. This function takes a plug-in name as an argument without the group. For example, if you would like to disable the NERDCommenter plug-in, you can do that with the command:

$ echo "call janus#disable_plugin('nerdcommenter')" >> ~/.vimrc.before

WARNING: We've noticed over and over, that people fork Janus just to customize it. This is bad practice for several reasons and you should not do that, and here's why:

  • Janus is fully customisable and there's no need to change the core for using a different plugin fork or using a different mapping.
  • Forking means maintenance; maintenance means burden. Do not burden yourself with maintaining a fork; that's what the ~/.janus folder is for.

If you find yourself needing a customisation that is not possible with the current setup, then please open an issue or consider submitting a pull request to make it possible to continue using/improving the official repo.

WARNING: Any uncommited files inside the janus folder will be removed the next time you run rake so make sure to either put them in the custom folder (~/.janus), or commit them. We clean the janus folder in case we replace a manually installed plugin (using rake tasks) with a submodule.

For more information on how to customize Janus, you might want to take a look at the Customization wiki page. Additional you can see Example of customization.

Intro to VIM

Here're some tips in case you've never used VIM before:



  • VIM has three modes:
    • insert mode- stuff you type is added to the buffer
    • normal mode- keys you hit are interpreted as commands
    • visual mode- allows you to select blocks of text
  • To enter insert mode, hit i
  • To exit insert mode, hit <ESC>
  • To enter visual mode, hit v
  • To exit visual mode, hit <ESC>

Useful commands

  • Use :q to exit vim
  • Certain commands are prefixed with a <Leader> key, which maps to \ by default. You can, for example, use let mapleader = "," to change this to a comma. If you want this to be in effect for uses of <Leader> in the .vimrc file, make sure to define this in ~/.vimrc.before
  • 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 trailing whitespace as .
  • Make searching highlighted, incremental, and case insensitive unless a capital letter is used
  • Always show a status line
  • Allow backspacing over everything (indentations, eol, and start characters) in insert mode
  • <C-P> inserts the directory of the current file into a command
  • Automatically resize splits when resizing the Vim window (GUI only)
  • <leader>ew expands to :e (directory of current file)/ (open in the current buffer)
  • <leader>es expands to :sp (directory of current file)/ (open in a horizontal split)
  • <leader>ev expands to :vsp (directory of current file)/ (open in a vertical split)
  • <leader>et expands to :tabe (directory of current file)/ (open in a new tab)
  • Write a privileged file with :SudoW or :SudoWrite, it will prompt for sudo password when writing
  • <F4> toggles paste mode
  • <leader>fef formats the entire file
  • <leader>u converts the entire word to uppercase
  • <leader>l converts the entire word to lowercase
  • <leader>U converts the first char of a word to uppercase
  • <leader>L converts the first char of a word to lowercase
  • <leader>cd changes the path to the active buffer's file
  • <leader>md creates the directory of the active buffer's file (For example, when editing a new file for which the path does not exist.)
  • gw swaps the current word with the following word
  • <leader>ul underlines the current line with =
  • <leader>tw toggles wrap
  • <leader>fc finds the next conflict marker (tested with Git conflicted files)
  • Remap <Down> and <Up> to gj and gk (Wrapped text is not considered a single long line of text.)
  • <leader>hs toggles highlight search
  • <leader>= adjusts viewports to the same size (<C-w>=)
  • <A-[ (<D-[ on MacVim) shifts current line or selected lines rightwards
  • <A-] (<D-] on MacVim) shifts current line or selected lines leftwards
  • <C-W>! invokes kwbd plugin; it closes all open buffers in the open windows but keeps the windows open

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 .

Fuzzy file, buffer, mru and tag finder. Replaces Command-T

Customizations: For users of Command-T Janus maps CtrlP to command-t (<D-t>)

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.

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 compiled ruby, python, and java files
  • When opening vim with vim /path, open the left NERDTree to that directory, set the vim pwd, and clear the right buffer
  • In general, assume that there is a single NERDTree buffer on the left and one or more editing buffers on the right

This plugin provides a lot of useful mappings, here's a brief example of what it does provide:

  • [b to go to the previous buffer
  • ]b to go to the next buffer
  • [n to go to the previous SCM conflict marker
  • ]n to go to the next SCM conflict marker

Please check :help unimpaired for a complete list

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

Syntastic is a syntax checking plugin that runs files through external syntax checkers as they are saved and opened. If syntax errors are detected, the user is notified and is happy because they didn't have to compile their code or execute their script to find them.

Please see :help syntastic for more information.

Tagbar is a vim plugin for browsing the tags of source code files.

Customizations: Janus binds <Leader>rt to toggle Tagbar.

SnipMate defines text snippets (a series of characters) that expand to a useful piece of code when tab is pressed. For example, in a Ruby file, def<TAB> expands to:

def method_name


After typing in the method name, press tab again to put the cursor right where you want it on the next line. This repository has a full list of the Snippets that are available in Janus.

EasyMotion provides a much simpler way to use some motions in vim. It takes the <number> out of <number>w or <number>f{char} by highlighting all possible choices and allowing you to press one key to jump directly to the target.

When one of the available motions is triggered, all visible text preceding or following the cursor is faded, and motion targets are highlighted.

EasyMotion is triggered by one of the provided mappings.

check EasyMotion's home page for more information.

Narrowing means focussing on a region and making the rest inaccessible. You simply select the region, call :NarrowRegion and the selected part will open in a new scratch buffer. The rest of the file will be protected, so you won't accidentally modify that buffer. In the new buffer, you can do a global replace, search or anything else to modify that part. When you are finished, simply write that buffer (e.g. by |:w|) and your modifications will be put in the original buffer making it accessible again.

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


  • <leader>gb maps to :Gblame<CR>
  • <leader>gs maps to :Gstatus<CR>
  • <leader>gd maps to :Gdiff<CR>
  • <leader>gl maps to :Glog<CR>
  • <leader>gc maps to :Gcommit<CR>
  • <leader>gp maps to :Git push<CR>

A Vim plugin which shows a git diff in the 'gutter' (sign column). It shows whether each line has been added, modified, and where lines have been removed. You can also stage and revert individual hunks.

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

Customizations: Janus binds <leader>zw to :ZoomWin

Better JSON and JSONP with distinct highlighting for keywords versus values, strings colored differently from numbers and booleans and double quotes concealed (disable with let g:vim_json_syntax_conceal = 0 in ~/.vimrc.after, folding of {...} and [...] blocks (enable with :setlocal foldmethod=syntax, and JSON-specific warnings highlighted in red.

Buffergator is a plugin for listing, navigating between, and selecting buffers to edit. Upon invocation (using the command, :BuffergatorOpen or BuffergatorToggle, or the provided key mapping, <Leader>b), a catalog of listed buffers are displayed in a separate new window split (vertical or horizontal, based on user options; default = vertical). From this "buffer catalog", a buffer can be selected and opened in an existing window, a new window split (vertical or horizontal), or a new tab page.

Selected buffers can be "previewed", i.e. opened in a window or tab page, but with focus remaining in the buffer catalog. Even better, you can "walk" up and down the list of buffers shown in the catalog by using <C-N> (or <SPACE>) / <C-P> (or <C-SPACE>). These keys select the next/previous buffer in succession, respectively, opening it for preview without leaving the buffer catalog viewer.

VRoom is a plugin inspired by Gary Bernhardt's vim config for running your ruby tests/specs/features.

Imagine you're hacking on a Rails controller, when you switch to the test or specs for the controller, you can use <leader>r to run all the specs or <leader>R to run the closest spec, then you can jump back to the controller hack on it and use <leader>r to run the last spec you ran last time, so you don't need to open the test again.

Then benefits of this plugin are to centralize your workflow in one window, one software to do it all, which is a huge speedup over using tmux or multiple terminal tabs.

Out of the box, all you need to know is a single key Ctrl-n. Pressing the key in Normal mode highlights the current word under the cursor in Visual mode and places a virtual cursor at the end of it. Pressing it again finds the next occurrence and places another virtual cursor at the end of the visual selection. If you select multiple lines in Visual mode, pressing the key puts a virtual cursor at every line and leaves you in Normal mode.

More at QuickStart

This plugin causes all trailing whitespace to be highlighted in red.

To fix the whitespace errors, just call :FixWhitespace. By default it operates on the entire file. Pass a range (or use V to select some lines) to restrict the portion of the file that gets fixed.

Additional Syntaxes

Janus ships with a few additional syntaxes:

  • Markdown (bound to *.markdown, *.md, and *.mk)
  • Markdown auto styling (disabled by setting g:disable_markdown_autostyle in ~/.vimrc.before => let g:disable_markdown_autostyle = 1)
  • Mustache (bound to *.mustache)
  • Haml (bound to *.haml)
  • Sass (bound to *.sass)
  • SCSS (bound to *.scss)
  • An improved JavaScript syntax (bound to *.js)
  • Javascript for any file having nodejs in the shebang.
  • Map Gemfile, Rakefile, Vagrantfile, Procfile, Thorfile, and *.rake to Ruby.
  • Git commits (set your EDITOR to vim -f or mvim -f on OSX) $ echo "export EDITOR='vim -f'" >> ~/.bashrc, you can also use Git global config to set this if you have EDITOR set to something else $ git config --global core.editor 'vim -f'


This code is free to use under the terms of the MIT license.

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.