Level up your workflow with Vim and Tmux

This is my list of resources to help learn, setup, and upgrade your Vim and Tmux workflow. It may not be as comfortable at first coming from a visual IDE, but think of it as going from hunt and peck typing to touch. The difference is night and day and you will be a happier developer because of it.


As a new user of Vim, I highly recommend NOT just straight up copying someone else’s massive dotfiles. Start from the basics and iteratively upgrade yourself.

  1. If you are just now learning Vim, the easiest way to get started is to simply open up your terminal and type in vimtutor

  2. Next, I suggest doing at least the free levels in Vim Adventures

  3. At this point, you are ready to either go full in and jump into VIM or you may want to use a plugin for your current editor, such as Vintage mode in Sublime Text 3. The more you practice, the easier it will become.

  4. I recommend skimming through this amazing book, Practical Vim (no way you can absorb it all at once). There are some amazing tips in here that will take you from Vim newbie to Vim Ninja.

  5. I got a large part of my knowledge by going through the Vim and Tmux workflow videos on Upcase . It is a subscription site, but even if you join for only 1 month it is totally worth it just for the workflow videos alone.


If you are going to be using Vim / Tmux now, there are some basic defaults you will want to get set up such as copy paste support, color themes, etc.

  1. First off, I suggest that if you have a Mac you use Thoughtbot’s “laptop” setup which puts together some sensible defaults AND installs a ton of great apps for developing in Ruby. They have a script that does that on github.

  2. Once you have everything set up (or just skip to this step), you can take a look at their dotfiles. They have everything structured so that you add your own “local” changes to files appended with .local. I have followed this convention, just in case they update their repo in the future I can stay current without running into problems.

  3. On a Mac, download iTerm2. This is MUCH better than the standard terminal.app. This will make it much easier to get the color scheme set up also.


I recommend keeping your vimrc and plugins as light as possible while learning, and upgrade one thing at a time so that you are SURE to know what you are doing. Here are my my dotfiles .

That said, there ARE some important changes you should make in my opinion.

The big ones for me were:
" Map ctrl+n to toggle NERDTree
map <C-n> :NERDTreeToggle<cr>
nnoremap <C-t> :call NumberToggle()<cr>
  • Enable mouse for Tmux and Vim
"Allow usage of mouse in iTerm
set ttyfast
set mouse=a
set ttymouse=xterm2
  • Get copy and paste working between the system clipboard and Vim/Tmux.
"F2 before pasting to preserve indentation
set pastetoggle=<F2> 

"Ctrl+c in visual mode sends selection to clipboard
vnoremap <C-c> "*y 

Once you have things set up, make sure to use RCM to keep your dotfiles updated. I recommend checking it out, as it would really suck to lose your local files and not have backup!

Level Up!

Now that you have a solid base, it’s time to level up further by customizing and extending your setup. At this point, the sky is the limit. Here are some great ideas for what to try next.

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