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A GTK3 GUI for neovim.


At the moment this seems to be usable but doesn't yet offer anything much that you can't do with neovim in a terminal. The text view widget has just been completely rewritten with a custom drawing system using Cairo/Pango directly because using GtkTextView in this way was too inefficient. That's not to say that GtkTextView is inefficient in general, but it was just never designed to manage a viewport by moving text around instead of using standard scrollbars.

Gnvim has currently only been tested with neovim 0.1.7. I want to continue to support this version for a while because it will remain the stable version in a number of Linux distros. I will test with 0.2.x once official Debian packages are available and start exploiting some new features such as its improved GUI cursor support, hopefully retaining backwards compatibility with 0.1.7.

Features currently implemented

  • Configurable GUI

  • Multiple windows, one nvim instance per window

  • Flashing cursor (optional, using gsettings), caret style in insert mode

  • Configurable cursor colour

  • Detect unsaved files before closing

  • Options to connect to remote nvim instances

  • Shared state between nvim instances

Partly implemented features, need work

  • Optional GUI tab handling

  • Use options from the vim instance where possible

High priority future features

  • Preferences dialog

Slightly lower priority future features

Not all of these may be possible.

  • Windows binary

  • Mac support (cmd key)

  • System clipboard integration with vim's + register (and Mac cmd key)

  • Better support for "smooth" touchpad scrolling

  • Scrollbars (one for each vim split window ie multiple per GUI window) might even be possible

Building and installing

Build requirements


Use the autotools; a CMakeLists.txt file is also supplied, but this is only to make incremental development builds more convenient (and may also be useful for MS Windows). Only the autotools support full installation on Unix platforms.

Run autoreconf -i in the top-level source folder to bootstrap the build, then run ./configure, make and sudo make install as usual.

Configuring the GUI

Until the preferences dialog is implemented use dconf-editor. gnvim's options have the path /uk/co/realh/gnvim/.

Usage hints

Remote editing

Besides using the --socket option you can also edit over ssh by using the --command option, for example:

gnvim --command ssh nvim --embed -u ~/.config/nvim/gnvim.vim

Note that without options gnvim usually adds --embed automatically, and also -u ... if a file has been specified in its gsettings, but --command disables that behaviour so you will generally need to include --embed yourself. And gnvim is, of course, unable to apply --embed or -u when using --socket to connect to an nvim instance started elswhere.


gnvim can now manage tabs in the GUI with a GtkNotebook instead of leaving nvim to draw the tabline in text. This is enabled with the gui-tabs gsetting.

Tab shortcuts

  • Right-click or ctrl-click a tab close icon to close all other tabs.

  • Shift-click to force close tabs with unsaved buffers.

More useful shortcuts will be added in the future.

Tab caveats

The following issues are mostly due to nvim not yet providing explicit support for GUI tabs so I've had to use some hacks. nvim will have better support for this feature in a future version, so I'll address them then.

  • gnvim overrides vim's showtabline option when GUI tabs are enabled. Do not try to change the option in vim in this case. The overriden value is 2 rather than 0 as you might expect:- gnvim then excludes the tabline from its display and detects attempts to change the line as a way of telling when tabs might have been reordered.

  • Clicking a tab close icon doesn't immediately close a tab, but simply sends a tabclose (or tabonly) command to nvim, which will refuse to close tabs if it would result in data loss. In gnvim it doesn't show feedback, so it will just appear as if the click was ignored.

  • There's a remote possibility of the ordering of tabs in the GUI getting out of sync with nvim, but this is very unlikely unless you use vim's :tabmove command while its showtabline option is 0 and GUI tabs are disabled.

Other issues

New windows sometimes stay blank

This is usually caused by trying to load a file for which a vim swap file, exists, an error in init.nvim or an invalid command line. Unfortunately these issues cause neovim to stall on waiting for input before allowing a remote UI to attach. See neovim issue 3901.

Close the window and run nvim in a terminal to deal with the situation.


GUI for neovim




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