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A CtrlP matcher, specialized for paths.
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cpsm is a matcher for CtrlP. Although it supports all kinds of queries, it is highly optimized for file paths (and, to a lesser extent, similar strings like identifiers in source code).


There are a lot of different way to manage multiple files in Vim. The goal of cpsm is to enable a particular one based on CtrlP:

  1. Completely forget about the current set of open buffers.

  2. When you want to open a file, invoke CtrlP and type - at most - a handful of immediately obvious letters in the file's name or path, like the beginning of its filename.

  3. Get immediate visual feedback from CtrlP as to whether or not it has correctly determined what file you want.

  4. Hit Enter to open the file you wanted in the current window.

To achieve this, cpsm needs to deliver:

  • high quality search results (at sufficiently high levels of quality, it's possible to enter a short query, hit Enter without needing to look at and mentally parse the top match, and have a reasonable amount of confidence that CtrlP/cpsm got your file right anyway)

  • with as little user input as possible (every keystroke matters because of how common switching between files is)

  • with as little latency as possible (to support scaling to very large, and especially very deeply nested, code bases with very long pathnames)

See the "Performance" section below for both search quality and time comparisons to other matchers.


  • Vim 7.4, compiled with the +python flag.

  • A C++ compiler supporting C++11.

  • Boost (Ubuntu: package libboost-all-dev).

  • CMake (Ubuntu: package cmake).

  • Python headers (Ubuntu: package python-dev).

  • Optional, required for Unicode support: ICU (Ubuntu: package libicu-dev).

Pyenv users on Mac OS X: cpsm requires dynamic Python libraries, which pyenv does not build by default. If CMake indicates that it's using static libraries, e.g.:

-- Found PythonLibs: /Users/<username>/.pyenv/versions/3.5.2/lib/python3.5/config-3.5m/libpython3.5m.a

Rebuild with dynamic library support by running env PYTHON_CONFIGURE_OPTS="--enable-framework" pyenv install <version>.

Python 3 Support

If your Vim is compiled against Python 3 instead (+python3 flag) the install script should detect this in most cases and everything should just work. You may need different python headers installed (e.g. python3-dev on Ubuntu).

If the detection does not work for any reason you can set PY3=ON or PY3=OFF as appropriate when running ./ to override it.


  1. Install cpsm using your favorite Vim package manager. For example, with Vundle, this consists of adding:

     Vundle 'nixprime/cpsm'

    to your vimrc and then running :PluginInstall from Vim.

  2. Build the Python module. On Linux, cd into ~/.vim/bundle/cpsm and run ./ Otherwise, peek inside and see what it does.

  3. Add:

     let g:ctrlp_match_func = {'match': 'cpsm#CtrlPMatch'}

    to your vimrc.


All of the following options are set by adding

let (option name) = (option value)

to your .vimrc.

  • As shown below, cpsm will still attempt to perform matching on an empty query based on the open file in the current buffer. This interacts badly with e.g. CtrlPMRU. To disable all matching on empty queries, set g:cpsm_match_empty_query to 0. If you want empty query matching to only be disabled for MRU mode, it's recommended that you configure this in your bindings, e.g.:

      nnoremap <silent> <C-o> :let g:cpsm_match_empty_query = 0<CR>:CtrlPMRU<CR>
      nnoremap <silent> <C-p> :let g:cpsm_match_empty_query = 1<CR>:CtrlP<CR>

    Note that if you do the above, you may need to prevent CtrlP from overriding your binding by setting let g:ctrlp_map = ''.

  • g:cpsm_highlight_mode controls how matches are highlighted. Valid highlight modes are:

    • "none": Do not highlight any match characters.

    • "basic": Highlight the entire region between the leftmost and rightmost matched characters.

    • "detailed": Highlight each matched character.

    The default is "detailed". The highlight group used to highlight matched characters is "CtrlPMatch" (the same as for CtrlP's default matcher).

  • By default, cpsm will automatically detect the number of matcher threads based on the available hardware concurrency. To limit the number of threads that cpsm can use, set g:cpsm_max_threads.

  • When g:cpsm_query_inverting_delimiter is set to a single character, it can be used in a query to move the part of the query after it to the part of the query before it. For example, if g:cpsm_query_inverting_delimiter is a space, then:

    • A query of "foo" is matched normally.

    • A query of "foo bar" is matched as if it were "barfoo".

    • A query of "foo bar qux" is matched as if it were "quxbarfoo".

    If g:cpsm_query_inverting_delimiter is unset or empty, this feature is disabled.

  • To enable Unicode support, set g:cpsm_unicode to 1. Unicode support is currently very limited, and consists mostly of parsing input strings as UTF-8 and handling the case of non-ASCII letters correctly.

In addition, cpsm respects the value set for g:ctrlp_match_current_file.


  • The matchers in this comparison:

  • All data is measured on Ubuntu 14.04, running in a VirtualBox VM in a Windows 7 host, on an Intel i5-4670K, with all 4 CPUs visible to the VM. Both the host and the guest are relatively quiescent while benchmarking.

  • The search corpus consists of the 48728 files in a clean Linux kernel source repository checked out at the v4.0 tag, as collected by running ag "" -i --nocolor --nogroup --hidden --ignore .git -g "".

  • For all CtrlP-based matchers, the match mode is "full-line" (the default) and the limit is 10 (also the default). ctrlp-cmatcher only uses the current filename to remove it from the list of candidate items; ctrlp-py-matcher doesn't use it at all; there doesn't seem to be a way to pass this information to fzf.

  • All times are averages over 100 runs. No timing information is available for the default CtrlP matcher or fzf because I can't figure out how to run either in a single-shot standalone configuration. (A quick search finds claims that ctrlp-cmatcher and ctrlp-py-matcher are both about an order of magnitude faster than the default matcher. YMMV.) cpsm times include both the default configuration (automatic selection of number of matcher threads) and with max_threads set to 1.

  • Results (given as the best match and the average time to return matches):

    • Query "", current file "":

      • cpsm: "Kbuild"; 2.863ms (9.946ms with 1 thread)

      • ctrlp: "security/keys/encrypted-keys/Makefile"

      • fzf: "COPYING"

      • All others: "security/capability.c" in roughly zero time

      • Only cpsm and fzf do any ranking; cpsm is falling back on the shortest filename in the closest directory to the current file (which is the repository's root), while fzf picks the lexicographically lowest filename in the root directory.

      • I think the default CtrlP matcher is returning a different result simply because it gets filenames in a slightly different order from ag (results for the default matcher are collected by actually running Vim, while the others use a precomputed list of items; "security/capability.c" is the first file ag returned in the precomputed list.)

    • Query "", current file "mm/memcontrol.c":

      • cpsm: "include/linux/memcontrol.h"; 2.953ms (10.490ms with 1 thread)

      • All others: same as above

      • "memcontrol" is a sufficiently unique prefix that cpsm returns (IMO) the best possible default result, "mm/memcontrol.c"'s corresponding header file, with no query entered whatsoever and with no special knowledge of the kernel's source layout.

      • It looks like the default CtrlP matcher doesn't use information about the currently open file either.

    • Query "", current file "kernel/signal.c":

      • cpsm: "include/linux/signal.h"; 2.838ms (10.242ms with 1 thread)

      • All others: same as above

      • "signal" is a significantly more common prefix, but cpsm gets probably the best match (although this is largely luck; "include/linux" is shorter than the other likeliest possibility, "include/asm-generic", and all else being equal cpsm prefers shorter matches on the grounds that it's easier to add more characters to select a longer match.)

    • Query "x86/", current file "kernel/signal.c":

      • cpsm: "arch/x86/um/signal.c"; 1.932ms (6.693ms with 1 thread)

      • ctrlp-cmatcher: "arch/x86/Kbuild"; 25.034ms

      • ctrlp-py-matcher: "arch/x86/Kbuild"; 27.298ms

      • ctrlp: "tools/perf/arch/x86/util/tsc.h"

      • fzf: "Documentation/x86/early-microcode.txt"

      • Without using the current filename, there is nothing the other matchers can do to disambiguate the query.

    • The next set of cases simulate a user typing progressively more letters in a desired file's name ("include/linux/rcupdate.h"), when they happen to be in a different unrelated file.

    • Query "r", current file "kernel/signal.c":

      • cpsm: "kernel/range.c"; 3.980ms (14.070ms with 1 thread)

      • ctrlp-cmatcher: "README"; 19.825ms

      • ctrlp-py-matcher: "README"; 34.215ms

      • ctrlp: "security/keys/encrypted-keys/Makefile"

      • fzf: "CREDITS"

      • cpsm is much faster than either of the other two benchmarkable matchers with multithreading enabled, and competitive with ctrlp-cmatcher when locked to a single thread.

    • Query "rc", current file "kernel/signal.c":

      • cpsm: "kernel/rcu/rcu.h"; 3.891ms (13.827ms with 1 thread)

      • ctrlp-cmatcher: "arch/Kconfig"; 24.391ms

      • ctrlp-py-matcher: "fs/dlm/rcom.h"; 39.328ms

      • ctrlp: "security/capability.c"

      • fzf: "Documentation/circular-buffers.txt"

    • Query "rcu", current file "kernel/signal.c":

      • cpsm: "kernel/rcu/rcu.h"; 2.534ms (9.009ms with 1 thread)

      • ctrlp-cmatcher: "arch/um/Makefile"; 29.619ms

      • ctrlp-py-matcher: "kernel/rcu/rcu.h"; 37.312ms

      • ctrlp: "security/security.c"

      • fzf: "Documentation/circular-buffers.txt"

    • Query "rcup", current file "kernel/signal.c":

      • cpsm: "include/linux/rcupdate.h"; 2.210ms (7.810ms with 1 thread)

      • ctrlp-cmatcher: "kernel/rcu/update.c"; 31.301ms

      • ctrlp-py-matcher: "include/linux/rcupdate.h"; 37.560ms

      • ctrlp: "security/apparmor/include/path.h"

      • fzf: "Documentation/power/suspend-and-cpuhotplug.txt"

    • Skipping the rest of the letter-by-letter results, since cpsm and ctrlp-py-matcher have already "won":

      • ctrlp-cmatcher stays with "kernel/rcu/update.c" as its best match until the entire string "rcupdate.h" is used as the query.

      • ctrlp continues to return completely unrelated results for all of the top 10 until the query "rcupdate", when it suddenly gets the correct best match.

      • fzf switches to the correct best match after one more letter (query "rcupd").


This software is licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0.

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