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Automatic reloading of Vim scripts

The reload.vim plug-in automatically reloads various types of Vim vim scripts as you're editing them in Vim to give you instant feedback on the changes you make. For example while writing a Vim syntax script you can open a split window of the relevant file type and every time you [:update] update your syntax script, reload.vim will refresh the syntax highlighting in the split window. Automatic reloading of Vim scripts is currently supported for the following types of scripts:

  • [Standard plug-ins] standard-plugins located in ~/.vim/plugin on UNIX, ~\vimfiles\plugin on Windows;

  • [Auto-load scripts] autoload-scripts located in or below ~/.vim/autoload on UNIX, ~\vimfiles\autoload on Windows;

  • [File-type plug-ins] filetype-plugins located in or below ~/.vim/ftplugin on UNIX, ~\vimfiles\ftplugin on Windows;

  • [Syntax highlighting scripts] syntax-scripts located in ~/.vim/syntax on UNIX, ~\vimfiles\syntax on Windows;

  • [File-type indentation plug-ins] indent-scripts located in ~/.vim/indent on UNIX, ~\vimfiles\indent on Windows;

  • [Color scheme scripts] color-schemes located in ~/.vim/colors on UNIX, ~\vimfiles\colors on Windows.

The directories listed above are Vim's defaults but you're free to change the ['runtimepath'] rtp and reloading will still work.

Note that [vimrc scripts] vimrc are not reloaded because that seems to cause more trouble than it's worth...

Install & first use

Please note that the vim-reload plug-in requires my vim-misc plug-in which is separately distributed.

Unzip the most recent ZIP archives of the [vim-reload] download-reload and [vim-misc] download-misc plug-ins inside your Vim profile directory (usually this is ~/.vim on UNIX and %USERPROFILE%\vimfiles on Windows), restart Vim and execute the command :helptags ~/.vim/doc (use :helptags ~\vimfiles\doc instead on Windows).

If you prefer you can also use Pathogen pathogen, Vundle vundle or a similar tool to install & update the [vim-reload] github-reload and [vim-misc] github-misc plug-ins using a local clone of the git repository.

Now try it out: Edit any Vim script that's already loaded (you can check using the [:scriptnames command] scriptnames) and confirm that the script is reloaded when you save it (the reload.vim plug-in will print a message to confirm when a script is reloaded).

Out of the box the reload.vim plug-in is configured to automatically reload all Vim scripts that it knows how to. If you like it this way then you don't need to configure anything! However if you don't like the automatic reloading then you can use the option below.

The g:reload_on_write option

If you don't like automatic reloading because it slows Vim down or causes problems you can add the following line to your vimrc script:

let g:reload_on_write = 0

This disables automatic reloading which means you'll have to reload scripts using the command discussed below.

The :ReloadScript command

You can execute the :ReloadScript command to reload the Vim script you're editing. If you provide a script name as argument to the command then that script will be reloaded instead, e.g.:

:ReloadScript ~/.vim/plugin/reload.vim

If after executing this command you see Vim errors such as "Function already exists" (E122 E122) or "Command already exists" (E174 E174) then you'll need to change your Vim script(s) slightly to enable reloading, see below.

Things that prevent reloading

If you want your Vim plug-ins and/or other scripts to be automatically reloaded they'll have to be written a certain way, though you can consider the following points good practice for Vim script writing anyway:

Use a bang in command and function definitions!

Function and command definitions using Vim's [:command] command and [:function] function built-ins should include a [bang (!)] bang symbol, otherwise Vim will complain that the command or function already exists:

" Bad:
:command MyCmd call MyFun()
:function MyFun()

" Good:
:command! MyCmd call MyFun()
:function! MyFun()

Use automatic command groups

Automatic commands using Vim's :autocmd built-in should be defined inside of an [automatic command group] augroup that's cleared so the automatic commands don't stack indefinitely when your :autocmd commands are executed several times:

" Bad example: If the following line were re-evaluated, the message would
" appear multiple times the next time the automatic command fires:
:autocmd TabEnter * echomsg "Entered tab page"

" Good example: The following three lines can be reloaded without the
" message appearing multiple times:
:augroup MyPlugin
:  autocmd! TabEnter * echomsg "Entered tab page"
:augroup END


The [ReloadScript] reload-script plug-in on Vim Online also supports reloading of Vim scripts, but there are a few notable differences:

  • This plug-in focuses on automatic reloading (I'm lazy) while the other one requires manual reloading;

  • This plug-in will never [:source] source a file that hasn't already been loaded by Vim -- it checks using Vim's :scriptnames command;

  • This plug-in can more or less reload itself ;-)


If you have questions, bug reports, suggestions, etc. the author can be contacted at The latest version is available at and If you like the plug-in please vote for it on [Vim Online] vim-online.


This software is licensed under the [MIT license] mit.
© 2013 Peter Odding <>.