Managing plugins in Vim: The basics
Let's say the plugin is at a GitHub URL
First get the plugin by either cloning it (
git clone https://github.com/manasthakur.foo.git) or simply downloading it as a zip (from its GitHub page).
Adding a plugin in Vim is equivalent to adding the plugin's code properly into its runtimepath (includes the
$HOME/.vim directory by default).
For example, if the layout of a plugin
foo is as follows:
foo/autoload/foo.vim foo/plugin/foo.vim foo/doc/foo.txt ...
Then adding this plugin is as simple as copying the respective
foo.* files into your
.vim directory as:
.vim/autoload/foo.vim .vim/plugin/foo.vim .vim/doc/foo.vim ...
Adding a second plugin
bar would make your
.vim directory look as:
.vim/ autoload/ foo.vim bar.vim plugin/ foo.vim bar.vim ...
In order to be able to access the documentation of
foo, say using
:help foo from inside Vim, you need to generate the helptags for
foo as follows (inside Vim):
foo, you need to delete all the
foo.* files from the above directory hierarchy.
So far so good.
However, if you want to update
foo, you again will have to download (or clone) its code and copy all the files accordingly.
This might not be a comfortable way if you update your plugins often.
So let us see some alternatives.
Pathogen makes adding and updating plugins easier.
In particular, it allows you to keep a plugin's hierarchy by adding a custom directory to Vim's runtimepath --
$HOME/.vim/bundle by default.
First, you need to install pathogen by downloading the
pathogen.vim script from its repository and putting it inside
Next, activate pathogen by adding the following line to your
execute pathogen#infect() syntax on filetype plugin indent on
The last two lines (that enable syntax-recognition and filetype-detection) need not be present (though useful), but if they are, they must be present after
Now to install a plugin
foo, you just need to go inside the
bundle directory (create if doesn't exist) and clone the plugin using git:
cd ~/.vim/bundle git clone https://github.com/manasthakur/foo.git
Then add the helptags of all the plugins at once by running the following command (needed whenever you install a new plugin) inside Vim:
Pathogen takes care of adding all the
foo.* files to Vim's runtimepath.
You can remove a plugin
foo by deleting its directory from
rm -r ~/.vim/bundle/foo
You can update a plugin
foo by pulling from its repository:
cd ~/.vim/bundle/foo git pull origin master
Managing plugins using plugin-managers
Plugin managers wrap the git commands required to install, update and remove plugins, within Vim. If you choose to use one, I recommend using vim-plug; it's a popular one and runs tasks in parallel, thus speeding up the process.
Similar to pathogen, you first need to download the
plug.vim script from vim-plug's repository and put it inside
Next, you can install plugins
bar present at the repositories
https://github.com/manasthakur/bar, respectively, in two steps:
Add the following lines to your vimrc:
call plug#begin() Plug 'manasthakur/foo' Plug 'manasthakur/bar' call plug#end()
Run the following command inside Vim:
You don't even need to create the helptags separately; vim-plug takes care of that.
To remove a plugin, remove (or comment) its entry from the vimrc, and run
:PlugUpdate foo; to update all, run just
Vim-plug provides many other features, for example loading plugins lazily. See its website for details.
But what if you don't like the idea of installing a third-party script to manage plugins? Well, if you have Vim version8+, you have native plugin-management functionality (called packages) available at your discretion.
Managing plugins (natively) using Vim 8 packages
The package feature of Vim 8 (see
:help packages) follows a pathogen-like model and adds the plugins found inside a custom-path (
$HOME/.vim/pack/) to Vim's runtimepath.
Note: you can check the version of Vim installed on your system using
First, create a directory structure representing a plugin-group, say
plugins, as follows:
mkdir -p ~/.vim/pack/plugins/start/
Next, clone (or alternatively, download the zip, and unzip) the plugins you want to install inside the
cd ~/.vim/pack/plugins/start/ git clone https://github.com/manasthakur/foo.git git clone https://github.com/manasthakur/bar.git
To generate the documentation helptags for a plugin, say
foo, run the following inside Vim (required only once):
Or to generate the helptags for everything in Vim's runtimepath, run
To remove a plugin
foo, simply remove its directory:
rm -r ~/.vim/pack/plugins/start/foo
To update a plugin
cd ~/.vim/pack/plugins/start/foo/ git pull origin master
Lazy-loading plugins using Vim 8 packages
Vim 8 also allows you to put any plugin code inside another special directory, the plugins inside which can be loaded on-demand. This feature is very useful when you don't want a heavy plugin to slow down your Vim's startup time, and load it only when you need.
Say, you don't want to always-load a plugin
Install it as:
cd ~/.vim/pack/plugins/opt/ git clone https://manasthakur/github.com/foo.git
Now when you want to load
foo, just run
:packadd foo inside Vim.
Add helptags, remove and update plugins in the usual way.
Many people like to use a plugin-manager because it allows them to just transfer their vimrc to a new machine, download the plugin's script, and install all the plugins using a simple command (such as
However, if you use pathogen or the native package feature, you can use git submodules to achieve a similar configuration.