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A Vim plugin for TidalCycles, the language for live coding musical patterns written in Haskell.

This plugin uses tmux, a known and loved terminal multiplexer, for communicating with between Vim and the Tidal interpreter. It was originally based on vim-slime.

Getting Started

  1. Start livecoding with Vim by simply running:

    $ tidalvim

    This creates a tmux session with Vim and Tidal running on different panes.

  2. Write something like this:

    d1 $ sound "bd sn"
  3. While being on that line, press <c-e> (Control + E) to evaluate it.

    You should see Vim flash that line for a second and a chunk of text appear on your Tidal interpreter. If you already have SuperDirt or other synth running, you should hear a kick and a snare :)


Make sure you have TidalCycles installed, with SuperDirt running. See Getting Started with Tidal page for more information.

Install tmux


You can install it from the main repos:

$ sudo apt-get install tmux


$ brew install tmux


There seems to be a Cygwin package for tmux, but I haven't tested this plugin on Windows anyway, so you are on your own here.

If you happen to make it work, let me know so I can update this section!

Install plugin

I recommend using a Vim plugin manager like Plug. Check the link for instructions on installing and configuring. If you don't want a plugin manager, you can also download the latest release here and extract the contents on your Vim directory (usually ~/.vim/).

For example, with Plug you need to:

  • Edit your .vimrc file and add these lines:
Plug 'tidalcycles/vim-tidal'
  • Restart Vim and execute :PlugInstall to automatically download and install the plugins.

Finally, go to the plugin repository and run make install:

$ cd ~/.vim/plugged/vim-tidal
$ sudo make install

This creates symlinks on /usr/local/bin for tidal and tidalvim scripts. You can remove them later if you want with make uninstall.

Make sure to have the filetype plugin on setting on your .vimrc, otherwise plugin won't be loaded when opening a .tidal file.

Older Tidal versions (pre 1.0)

Tidal 1.0 introduces some breaking changes, so if haven't upgraded yet, you can still use this plugin with an older version. Just point your Plug entry to use the tidal-0.9 branch.

First change your Plug line on your .vimrc to:

Plug 'tidalcycles/vim-tidal', {'branch': 'tidal-0.9'}

Then on Vim run :PlugInstall to update your plugin.


This plugin comes bundled with two Bash scripts: tidalvim and tidal.


tidalvim starts a tmux session with the screen horizontally splitted, having Vim on the upper pane and the Tidal interpreter on the lower pane. This is the simplest way to start using Tidal with Vim.

You don't have to use tidalvim necessarily. If you have a more complex setup or just want to use Vim outside of tmux, you can use tidal. See below.


tidal fires up GHCi (the Glasgow Haskell interpreter) and runs a bootstrap file that loads Tidal up. tidalvim uses this script to start the Tidal interpreter on the lower pane. You can even use it standalone (without Vim) by simply running tidal from your shell.

$ tidal
GHCi, version 7.10.3:  :? for help
tidal> d1 $ sound "bd sn"
tidal> :t density 2 $ n "0 1"
density 2 $ n "0 1" :: Pattern ParamMap

So, in case you don't want to use tidalvim, just run the following on another terminal:

tmux new-session -s tidal tidal

What tidal does is actually run ghci with the argument -ghci-script Tidal.ghci. Tidal.ghci is found at the root of the repository, and is responsible for bootstraping Tidal. See Configure section for more on how to customize Tidal bootstraping process. Any extra arguments when running tidal will be delegated to ghci.


These are some of the commands that can be run from Vim command line:

  • :<range>TidalSend: Send a [range] of lines. If no range is provided the current line is sent.

  • :TidalSend1 {text}: Send a single line of text specified on the command line.

  • :TidalConfig: Configure tmux socket name and target pane

  • :TidalSilence [num]: Silence stream number [num] by sending d[num] silence.

  • :TidalPlay [num]: Send first ocurrence of stream number [num] from the current cursor position.

  • :TidalHush: Silences all streams by sending hush.

  • :TidalGenerateCompletions {path}: Generate dictionary for Dirt-Samples completion (path is optional)

Default bindings

Using one of these key bindings you can send lines to Tidal:

  • <c-e> (Control+E), <localleader>ss: Send current inner paragraph.
  • <localleader>s: Send current line or current visually selected block.

<c-e> can be called on either Normal, Visual, Select or Insert mode, so it is probably easier to type than <localleader>ss or <localleader>s.

There are other bindings to control Tidal like:

  • <localleader>s[num]: Call :TidalPlay [num]
  • <localleader>[num]: Call :TidalSilence [num]
  • <localleader>h, <c-h>: Call :TidalHush

About <localleader>

The <leader> key is a special key used to perform commands with a sequence of keys. The <localleader> key behaves as the <leader> key, but is local to a buffer. In particular, the above bindings only work in buffers with the "tidal" file type set, e.g. files whose file type is .tidal

By default, there is no <localleader> set. To define one, e.g. for use with a comma (,), write this on your .vimrc file:

let maplocalleader=","

Reload your configuration (or restart Vim), and after typing ,ss on a few lines of code, you should see those being copied onto the Tidal interpreter on the lower pane.


Default bindings

By default, there are two normal keybindings and one for visual blocks using your <localleader> key. If you don't have one defined, set it on your .vimrc script with let maplocalleader=",", for example.

If you don't like some of the bindings or want to change them, add this line to disable them:

let g:tidal_no_mappings = 1

See section Mappings on ftplugin/tidal.vim and copy the bindings you like to your .vimrc file and modify them.

tmux target

You can configure tmux socket name and target pane by typing <localleader>c or :TidalConfig. This will prompt you first for the socket name, then for the target pane.

About the target pane:

  • ":" means current window, current pane (a reasonable default)
  • ":i" means the ith window, current pane
  • ":i.j" means the ith window, jth pane
  • "h:i.j" means the tmux session where h is the session identifier (either session name or number), the ith window and the jth pane

When you exit Vim you will lose that configuration. To make this permanent, set g:tidal_default_config on your .vimrc. For example, suppose you want to run Tidal on a tmux session named omg, and the GHCi interpreter will be running on the window 1 and pane 0. In that case you would need to add this line:

let g:tidal_default_config = {"socket_name": "default", "target_pane": "omg:1.0"}


When sending a paragraph or a single line, vim-tidal will "flash" the selection for some milliseconds. By default duration is set to 150ms, but you can modify it by setting the g:tidal_flash_duration variable.

For customizing the startup script for defining helper functions, see below.

tidalvim and tidal

tidalvim is just an example script. You can copy and customize it as much as you want. See man tmux if you want to know more about its options.

For example, if you want to split horizontally instead of vertically, change the -v for -h option in the split-window line:

- split-window -v -t $SESSION   \; \
+ split-window -h -t $SESSION   \; \

Both scripts have some options that you can specify as environment variables. For example:

TIDAL_TEMPO_IP= SESSION=whatever tidalvim

This would start Tidal synced to another Tidal on, and it would try to attach or create a tmux sesssion called whatever.

The following is a list of all variables that can be changed:

  • FILE: File name to open with Vim (default: $(date +%F).tidal, e.g. 2017-03-09.tidal). The .tidal extension is important (you can run :setfiletype haskell.tidal in case you won't use a .tidal file here).

  • SESSION: tmux session name (default: tidal)

  • TIDAL_BOOT_PATH: Tidal Bootstrap file, a .ghci file (default: Tidal.ghci)

  • TIDAL_TEMPO_IP: Tells Tidal to sync tempo with another Tidal instance on the specified IP (default:, i.e. use local)

  • VIM: Vim command (default: vim)

  • GHCI: GHCi command (default: ghci)

  • TMUX: tmux command (default: tmux)

Customizing Tidal startup

In case you have defined some helper functions, and/or you want to import other modules into Tidal, you can edit the Tidal.ghci found at the root of the repository.

However doing this could eventually cause conflicts when trying to upgrade vim-tidal, so instead I recommend that you define a different .ghci file that first loads Tidal.ghci and includes all your custom definitions.

Here is an example. Suppose you define a myStuff.ghci file on your home directory like this:

--file: ~/myStuff.ghci

-- Bootstrap Tidal
-- Replace this path if you have vim-tidal installed elsewhere
:script ~/.vim/bundle/vim-tidal/Tidal.ghci

let foo = every 4 $ within (0.75, 1) (density 4)
    bar = n "<0 1 2 4>"

Then, you would run tidal or tidalvim with TIDAL_BOOT_PATH pointing to your new script file:

TIDAL_BOOT_PATH=~/myStuff.ghci tidalvim

Please note that this a .ghci script, not a Haskell module. So multiline definitions need to be wrapped around :{ and :}, as shown in the example above.


Here is a list of common problems.

I press <c-e> but it moves the screen down by one line, and nothing else happens

Usually <c-e> is used to move the screen forward by one line, but vim-tidal remaps this to sending current paragraph. If this is happening you either:

  1. Opened a file without .tidal extension, or changed file type accidentally. Solution: Reopen Vim or set filetype for current buffer with :set ft=tidal.
  2. Have g:tidal_no_mappings setting on your .vimrc. This disables all mappings. Solution: Remove <c-e> binding, or rebind to something else.

It could also be that you do not have filetype plugin on setting in your .vimrc. Make sure you have that setting defined.

I press <c-e> and nothing else happens

This means that vim-tidal is sending text to tmux, but to the wrong session/window/pane. Solution: Check that you have configure the socket name and target pane correctly. See the Configure section above for more information.

If you have any question or something does not work as expected, there are many channels you can go to:


Bug reports and pull requests are welcome on GitHub at This project is intended to be a safe, welcoming space for collaboration, and contributors are expected to adhere to the Contributor Covenant code of conduct.


Refer to the LICENSE file

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