PowerShell and Vim

Written on June 17, 2017

If you are familiar with Linux or come from a Unix background, you probably know about Vim. For those of us that started and stay mostly in the realm of Windows however; Vim may be a foreign thing. I was fortunte enough to be exposed to vim, and see what it can do; now there's no turning back.

Vi on the Command Line

There has been a module for PowerShell for a while now that allows you to use a vi editor on the command line. Previously you would have had to copy the code from GitHub, but now - thanks to the PowerShell NuGet package manager - you can install it easily straight from PowerShell. Better yet, if you are on Windows 10, or server2016, it comes pre-installed.

You can check if you have it with one command.

Get-Module -Name PSReadline -ListAvailable

If you don't get any results then it's not installed.

If you have a version number 1.1 or prior, then you will need to upgrade the version to 1.2 or higher:

You can install it like so:

# Search for it
Find-Package -Name PSReadline

# install it with -Force to overwrite the older version if you have it
Install-Package -Name PSReadline -Force

If you haven't setup NuGet previously, you can follow the onscreen instructions to get it setup and configured.

Now that you have it, you can setup your command line editor in vi mode:

Set-PSReadlineOption -EditMode vi -BellStyle None
# I like to also add -BellStyle 'None' because I hate the bell sound

If you want this set by default you can add this to your profile so it loads automatically.

If you don’t have it

If you are on anything before win10 or server 2016, you will need to some prep work:

  • You need to have .Net 4.5 installed.
  • Minimum Windows Management Framework version 3 (WMF 3), but I recommend WMF 5.1.
  • You need the PackageManagement PowerShell module

With these prerequisites installed, you can follow the steps above to install PSReadline.

Vim on Windows

Now that you have your command line setup with vi, now you can setup the real thing. You can download Vim for Windows here, or with code (working at the time of writing this post):

# This should download a file (gvim80-586.exe) to your Downloads folder
Invoke-WebRequest -Uri https://ftp.nluug.nl/pub/vim/pc/gvim80-586.exe `
  -Outfile ~\Downloads\gvim80-586.exe

This is a self installing exe, so all you need to do is run it and customize it as you will. I typically just use the default settings (next, next, finish).

Configure Vim for PowerShell

By default, vim is installed here 'C:\Program Files (x86)\Vim'. The executable that you will want to run will be here: 'C:\Program Files (x86)\Vim\vim80\vim.exe'. You can add the base path of the above to your PATH, but since I will only be using the one executable here (vim.exe), and I will only be using it via PowerShell, I simply create an alias in my PowerShell profile.

# Add these lines to your $PROFILE
New-Alias -Name vi -Value 'C:\Program Files (x86)\vim\vim80\vim.exe'
New-Alias -Name vim -Value 'C:\Program Files (x86)\vim\vim80\vim.exe'

# Include this if you like a vim command line experience
Set-PSReadlineOption -EditMode vi -BellStyle None

Now next time you want to edit a file, instead of notepad '.\test.txt', do vi test.txt.

Customize your vimrc file

There should be a a file named "_vimrc" in your user directory. If there isn't you can go ahead and create it.

# Make it if it's not already there
if(!(Test-Path -Path $vimrc)){
  New-Item -Path $vimrc -ItemType File
# Open it up in vi
vi $vimrc

Now I'm still relatively new with using Vim, but these are the settings that I have come accross that work well for me with PowerShell. The biggest problem for me was finding a color scheme that worked with PowerShell's color scheme.

" Enable syntax highlighting
syntax on

" Change tabs to 2 spaces
set expandtab 
set tabstop=2
set shiftwidth=2

" Automatically indent when starting new lines in code blocks
set autoindent

" Add line numbers
set number

" shows column, & line number in bottom right 
set ruler

" Color scheme I found that works best with PowerShell
colorscheme shine

" helpful if using 'set ruler' and 'colorscheme shine', makes lineNumbers grey
" Same example from http://vim.wikia.com/wiki/Display_line_numbers
highlight LineNr term=bold cterm=NONE ctermfg=DarkGrey ctermbg=NONE gui=NONE guifg=DarkGrey guibg=NONE

" Disable bell sounds 
set noerrorbells visualbell t_vb=

This is a start; hopefully you can build on this and improve on it.

SIDE NOTE: If you want to write PowerShell code using Vim, I would recommend using VisualStudio Code. If has extensions for both PowerShell and Vim. The PowerShell extension allows for ‘Intellisense’ and syntax highlighting for PowerShell; and the Vim extension will allow you to use Vim shortcuts for editting your code.

Thanks for reading

PS> exit