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Csound tools for Vim

csound-vim is a plugin that turns the powerful text editor Vim into a simple but productive Csound development environment.

It provides several functionalities for editing Csound files (.orc, .sco, .csd, .udo), like syntax recognition and highlighting, folding, autocompletion, on-line reference and templates, as well as macros for compiling the .csd file and listening to the results, without leaving the editor.

csound-vim can be combined with Steven Yi's csound-repl for live coding.


csound-vim follows the standard Vim plugin structure, and can be installed like any other plugin.

where to install it

csound-vim should be installed in your usual plugin directory.

When using Vim's native package management (added in Vim 8), the path of Vim's local plugin directory is of the form:


where foo is you whatever arbitrary name you chose.

If you are using a plugin manager like pathogen, your plugins should be located under:


This should also work with other compatible plugin managers, like Vundle, NeoBundle, or vim-plug.

how to install it

In your Vim plugin directory you can either download and unpack the latest release, or clone the git repository:

git clone git://

In this case, you can update the plugin simply running git pull in the csound-vim plugin directory.

system-wide installation

Although it is generally recommended to install Vim plugins locally under users' homes, the plugin can also be installed system-wide following the methods described above, substituting $HOME/.vim/ with $VIM/vimfiles/.

Installation with a package manager

vim-csound has been packaged for some Linux distributions, and can be installed using the respective package managers:


syntax highlighting

The plugin provides highlighting of all (or most) Csound syntactic elements.

The list of opcodes for highlighting is loaded from an external file. By default, the file syntax/opcodes will be used, containing a list of opcodes updated to Csound 6.14.

user-defined opcodes list

If the file syntax/mycsound_opcodes exists, it will be loaded instead of the default file.

It is recommended to generate this local file from the output of csound -z, to match the installed version of Csound. Two scripts are provided (Python and bash) that, in case they work, will do this automatically. They have had very limited testing and only on Linux, so try them at your own risk.

Running any of these two scripts, should generate the file mycsound_opcodes under syntax/:




The folding function in Vim is used to fold orchestra and score sections, instruments and user defined opcodes, multi-line comments, etc.

By default, the folding method is set to syntax by the plugin. It has been reported that, on some systems, folding might impact the performance negatively for large files with many folds. If that is the case, syntax folding can be disabled by including this line in .vimrc:

autocmd Syntax csound setlocal foldmethod=manual

To keep syntax folding, but having the folds open by default when creating or opening a file, this line should be included instead:

autocmd Syntax csound normal zR


Function keys can be mapped to macros to perform operations like saving the .csd file, compile it and listen to the results, without leaving the editor.

The following default macros are defined in the file macros/csound_macros:

  • F8 - save current .csd to disk, compile it without extra command line flags (use options in CsOptions)
  • F9 - save current .csd to disk, compile it and output to audio card in real-time (-o dac flag)
  • F10 - write current .csd to disk, compile it and write it to file ./${csd_basename}.wav, return to Vim
  • F11 - write current .csd to disk, compile it and write it to file ./${csd_basename}.wav, stay in console (for debugging)
  • F12 - play (with the command aplay) last compiled file, return to Vim

These macros were designed for GNU/Linux, they might need adjustments for other environments.

user-defined macros

User-defined macros can be put in the file macros/mycsound_macros. If this file exists, it will be loaded instead of the default file.


When creating a new file with the .csd extension, the file templates/template.csd will be used as a template.


A dictionary is included with all the valid opcode names in the language, to be used with the built-in autocompletion function in Vim. In insert or replace mode, type a few letters and then press Ctrl-n or Ctrl-p; a menu will appear with all the possible completions. See :he ins-completion for more details.

html manual

In normal mode, the F1 key opens in the default web browser the manual page for the opcode under the cursor.

The global variable g:csound_manual can be defined in .vimrc, pointing to a local directory with the html manual:

let g:csound_manual = "/path_to_manual/html/"

If this variable is not defined, the web version at will be opened, if there is a working Internet connection.

online help

(This feature is buggy and not maintained, it is recommended to use the html manual with F1, as described above.)

Online documentation for most Csound elements is available through the :he[lp] command, or typing K when the cursor is on the element in normal mode. See :he help and :he K for more details.

The help file is based on an abridged version of the Csound html manual, version 6.07.

example csd

In normal mode, the F2 key opens in a new tab the example csd for the opcode under the cursor, if it exists and its name is of the form opcode.csd.

This only works if the global variable g:csound_manual is defined and points to a local copy of the html manual.

disable manual key bindings

If you want to disable the F1 and F2 key bindings you can do so by setting the g:csound_enable_manual_keys variable to 0 in your Vim configuration file.

let g:csound_enable_manual_keys = 0


You can contribute to the development of this plugin by reporting bugs or missing elements, and by suggesting improvements and new functionalities. Patches or at least ideas of how to implement the changes are most welcome.


People who contributed with ideas, suggestions, patches, or simply encouragement include: Nicola Bernardini, Brett Cornwall, Jay Chernik, Pete Goodeve, Dave Phillips, and Steven Yi.


Copyright © 2001-2020 Luis Jure, The MIT License.

See the LICENSE file for more details.