Using template files in Vim
Vim templates or skeletons, allow you to specify a template to be used for new files with a certain extension.
Using templates in Vim ¶
The Vim philosophy encourages users to automate repeated actions and provides a rich toolkit with great documentation to achieve that. One example of this type of micro-optimisation is having a template or skeleton file that populates the vim buffer when a new file is opened.
With just a few lines in the
~/.vimrc file it is possible to build a rich
library of skeleton templates. There is no need to use a plugin and add a
dependency overhead to your Vim configuration.
What is a skeleton file? ¶
A skeleton file is a template to scaffold the creation of new files. This means
that whenever a new file is created a standard template is applied and applied
to the Vim buffer. For a
ruby file for example, the template may be an empty
ruby class. The contents of the file are less important than the idea that for a
specific file extension like
.js Vim can populate a new file with the
contents of a template.
Why use a skeleton file? ¶
- It standardises an approach to writing a script
- It can include licence information
- It can be shared
- It can be managed in version control
An example skeleton file ¶
A simple example is a shell script. Shell scripts should start with a shebang and often there is debate about the correct type of shebang for a bash script. My personal preference is to use
To ensure that I remember to add this in a consistent way this is a perfect candidate for a skeleton file.
The single line template is saved into
~/.vim/templates/skeleton.sh. You may
wish to add license or usage information to this template.
Populating new files ¶
To use a skeleton template when creating a new file the following will populate
a new file with a
.sh extension with the shell script template.
autocmd BufNewFile *.sh 0r ~/.vim/templates/skeleton.sh
This can be explained as
- An if statement checks that the vim installation has the autocmd feature.
- A group is created called
- An autocmd is created to be run each time the “starting to edit a non-existent file” event happens (BufNewFile).
- If the file has a
.shextension read the contents of
~/.vim/templates/skeleton.shand inserted it at line 0.
Populating files without an extension ¶
Suppose that we have created a new bash script called
backup. This will not
use the template as there is no
.sh extension. Because Vim can read a file
from disk and write it into the buffer this is not a problem. In Vim simply read
the file into the buffer.
Customise to your tastes ¶
Vim’s lightweight approach to templating is extremely flexible, comes with zero dependencies and can be integrated into your dotfiles. It ensures consistency of style either for your own scripts or can be used as part of a standardised approach for a team.
For more see
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Vim eighteen months on
I switched to Vim for editing text about 18 months ago. Here's an overview of my experience.
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