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Send a buffer to a shell command & quickly see the result.
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Vim Pipe - A Productivity-Boosting Plugin

Do you do this?

        hack <---------- alt-tab <---------- react
          |                                    |
+-------------------+                +-------------------+
| code code         |                | result result     |
| code              |                | result            |
|                   |                |                   |
|                   |                |                   |
|                   |                |                   |
|                   |                |                   |
|                   |                |                   |
+-------------------+                +-------------------+
          |                                    |
         :w -----------> alt-tab ---------> invoke

This plugin lets you do this instead:

| code code         |
| code              |---------\
|                   |         |
|-------------------|   <LocalLeader>r
| result result     |         |
| result            |<--------/
|                   |

Which saves tonnes of time. It's even faster than using screen or tmux.

It's useful for developing SQL queries, fast HTML previews, markdown-checking, and anything that needs to pass through a shell command while you develop.


You associate a shell command with your file, something that will take your buffer on STDIN and show the result on STDOUT. For example, if you're editing an SQL query, that command might be psql mydatabase.

Having done that, <LocalLeader>r will run the current buffer against that command and show you the results. You no longer need to save-switch-execute-switch, which makes life faster and easier.


  • Install Pathogen. (You're already using Pathogen, right?)
  • Clone this project into ~/.vim/bundle/.
  • Set a b:vimpipe_command variable for your buffer. The easiest way is to add an autocommand based on FileType. For example, in your .vimrc file:
autocmd FileType sql      let b:vimpipe_command="psql mydatabase"
autocmd FileType markdown let b:vimpipe_command="multimarkdown"

See below for various examples.

Usage & Tips

Once b:vimpipe_command is configured, type <LocalLeader>r to get the list results. There's no need to save the file first. It works on the current buffer, not the contents on disk.


autocmd FileType sql let b:vimpipe_command="psql mydatabase"

See also vim-postgresql-syntax.


If you have an OPS$ login, it's as simple as:

autocmd FileType sql let b:vimpipe_command="sqlplus -s /"


This is only text-based, obviously, but can still speed up initial development.

autocmd FileType html let b:vimpipe_command="lynx -dump -stdin"


I usually run JavaScript in a browser, so I bind vim-pipe to JSLint, for code-quality checking on-the-fly.

autocmd FileType javascript let b:vimpipe_command='jslint <(cat)'

Note: JSLint doesn't accept input on STDIN, so this configuration uses bash's virtual file support. <(cat) takes the STDIN and re-presents it to look like a regular file.


Fast-preview the HTML:

autocmd FileType mkd let b:vimpipe_command="multimarkdown"
autocmd FileType mkd let b:vimpipe_filetype="html"

Or combine wth the HTML tip to preview the rendered result:

autocmd FileType mkd let b:vimpipe_command="multimarkdown | lynx -dump -stdin"


Is there an official FileType for MongoDB query files? Let's say it's mongoql, for all files *.mql:

autocmd BufNewFile,BufReadPost *.mql setlocal filetype=mongoql

autocmd FileType mongoql let b:vimpipe_command="mongo"
autocmd FileType mongoql let b:vimpipe_filetype="json"

Then try editing a file called somequery.mql with something like this in:

use books; null, {author: 1, title: 1 });
db.runCommand( {dbStats: 1} );


See :help vim-pipe for more.


Thanks to Steve Losh for his excellent guide to Vimscript, Learn Vimscript the Hard Way, and Meikel Brandmeye of vimclojure for the inspiration.

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