Command line: VIM

VIM: Better grepping (in Windows)

Several times I noticed that grepping in VIM (finding in files) does not work very well comparing to Visual Studio or VSCode at least. I felt it pretty hard last time when I tried to search in a medium-size web project. It took over 23 seconds to search for files and another 55 seconds to render the list of results. I’ve never experienced something similar in any other editor.  Another think that bothered me was the quality of results which frequently showed binary files, multi-line records or everything else what I could call “rubbish” in the context of file search option:


The first guess is that alternative editors just skip files that are not source code. And that’s the thing (at least looking at Visual Studio Code file search):


Unfortunately there is no easy way to tell VIM grepper to exclude locations from search (at least in Windows). The default findstr (you can find more about it in my previous post) does not have such option. Nevertheless there is a way to achieve such behaviour. Just add this snippet to your $VIMRC file:

function! FastGrep(what, ...) abort
 let where = a:0
 if where == ""
    let where = "*.*"
 let command = "silent ! dir /s/b/a:-d"
 let command = command . " | findstr /v \\node_modules\\"
 let command = command . " | findstr /v \\dist\\"
 let command = command . " | findstr /v \\\.git\\"
 let command = command . " | findstr /v \.map$"
 let command = command . " | findstr /v \.swp$"
 let command = command . " | findstr /v \.ts\.html$"
 let command = command . " | findstr /v ~$"
 " add excludes here ------^
 let command = command . " > \\%home\\%\\solution_files.tmp"
 execute comma              nd
 execute "grep /f:\\%home\\%\\solution_files.tmp ".a:what." ".where

:command! -nargs=+ -complete=command Grep2 call FastGrep()

The idea behind the snippet is the following: get list of all the files in the working folder, remove the locations you want to exclude, and then pass the list of files to “findstr” command (/f switch allows to pass the list of input files).

Here’s a quick list of tricks used in the snippet:

execute              - run vim command
!                    - execute shell command
silent               - skip "Press ENTER to continue" after running shell
dir /s/b/a:-d        - get a raw list (/b) of files only (/a:-d) 
                       in all subdirectories (/s) 
findstr /v \.git\    - find lines that does not containing "\.git\"
%home%               - user home directory (i.e. c:\users\user_1)
FastGrep(what, ...)  - function taking one named argument and array of 
                       unnamed arguments
a:0                  - first unnamed argument
:command!            - define VIM command alias
-nargs=+             - alias must have arguments (any number)
             - list of arguments passed to the alias

Now in order to execute such command you just need to run:

:Grep2 myFunction1
:Grep2 myFunction2 *.js

The same operation that took initially 23 seconds was executed in less than 1 second (with rendering results). Of course it showed less records, but only the meaningful ones (a side note: my medium-size web application contained 996 folders inside /node_modules !!).

Remember that you can extend it by your own excludes.

Command line: VIM

VIM: Find in files

It’s not a surprise that there is a built-in way to find in files in VIM. You can use four commands: :grep, :lgrep, :vimgrep, :lvimgrep.


:grep will use the default “find” tool for your operating system (“grep” for linux family, “findstr” for Windows). :vimgrep will use built-in vim search (same as for “/” searching) which is slower than system search (but works if you have problems with grep/findstr/other). On the other hand vimgrep has the same syntax everywhere (:grep depends on external tool used). Search result is presented using Quickfix window (opened with :copen). :lgrep/:lvimgrep will do the same, but using location list (opened with :lopen). In practise the difference is that if you use Quickfix window (:copen) it will stick to the current editor. Location window will show in the same way, but if you select anything then the window will disappear and you will have to run :lopen again.

I guess you have to choose yourself which command you like most.  The syntax is as follows:

:grep searchpattern locationpattern


:grep MyMethod *.*

Will look for phrase “MyMethod” in all files in current workind directory (you can check currect directory using :pwd). By default it does not perform recursive search (it will not search in subdirectories). And here the fun part starts.

In order to search in subdirectories you would have to use **/*.* pattern. However this works for :vimgrep and :grep in linux, but does not work for Windows. In order to make it work on Windows you would need to use /S parameter (linux grep also accepts -R parameter which does the same thing). You can pass it like that:

:grep /S MyMethod *.*

This will work on Windows and will find all “MyMethod” phrases in all files in all subdirectories of current working directory. However you can still make it the default behaviour in VIM. But first you neeed to know one thing:

:set grepprg

This is a variable that controls the usage of external grep tool in VIM. Depending on your operating system you will have different results:

grepprg=findstr /n    # <--- on Windows
grepprg=grep -n $* /dev/null # <---- on Linux

So in order to use recursive search you have to modify grepprg and add a proper parameter:

grepprg=findstr /S /n                  # <--- on Windows
grepprg=grep -nR $* /dev/null          # <---- on Linux

The same way you can add more parameters or make more complex commands.