Neovim 0.5 has been released! To celebrate, here’s a post about my experience switching from Vim 8 to it.

I’ve been a semi-serious Vim user for almost five years now. I regularly use it for editing text files and working on small-to-medium size software projects. When things get a little bigger I usually reach for IntelliJ (even though I never use it for Java) or CLion. I use the Vim plugin with these IDEs and am pretty happy with the experience and productivity I get with them.

However, I do find some things lacking. Or, rather, I think things could be better.

In this post I’ll break down what I’m trying to achieve by switching to Neovim 0.5 and walk through a basic configuration for things such as native LSP, tree-sitter, nvim-compe, and telescope with a focus on getting set up for Rust development.

My full Neovim configuration can be found in my dotfiles repo


To start, I’ll explain some pros and cons of my IDE workflow.


  1. Debugging. This depends on the language, but basically everything besides Rust (which is still very good), is a breeze to debug and provides really detailed information.

  2. Refactoring. Specifically, moving functions to different files and having imports automatically configured, and renaming variables/functions/ect. and having the changes propagate through all affected files.

  3. Zen Mode. I don’t always use this, but when I do, it’s a really nice way to focus on code, and code only.


  1. Terminal. The built in terminal is pretty meh. It does the job for simple things, but I spend a lot of time using tmux outside of IDEs, so that’s a high bar to reach.

  2. File navigation. I’ve just never learned how to navigate and open files quickly without using the mouse.

  3. Tabs. Like my browser, I always end up with too many tabs open.

My goal is that everything besides debugging should be at least equal to, but hopefully better, with Neovim. (One day I’ll get good at GDB and ditch IDEs for good.)

The plan is:

  • native LSP can handle refactoring
  • Vim is already way more zen like and plugins can get the rest of the way
  • terminal is native and I can run Vim in tmux
  • file navigation and tabs (buffers in Vim) are handled by telescope

Why Neovim 0.5

At this point, you may be wondering: “Well, why not just use regular Vim?”

Neovim 0.5 comes with some major changes from 0.4 that, for the first time, appear to make the switch worth it. I was first tipped off to this by this blog post. Most notably is the native language server protocol (LSP), which has traditionally needed a plugin such as CoC or YouCompleteMe for similar functionality.

Further, the tree-sitter integration, improved Lua support, thriving community, and (let’s be honest here) hype make Vim feel exciting. Which is weird, but also awesome.

If you’re interested, I recommend the Neovim news post explaining the release in some detail. Christmas can come in July!

Ok, enough of this. Let’s get into it.


To explain, I will just quote directly from the above Neovim news post.

The Language Server Protocol (LSP) is an open, JSON-RPC-based protocol for communication between code editors and language servers, which provide programming language-specific features such as

  • completion,
  • hover/tooltips,
  • go to definition,
  • show/go to references,
  • show method signatures,
  • rename,
  • code actions (automatic formatting, organize imports, …),

and more.

Neovim 0.5 provides an LSP client written (mostly) in Lua that provides a highly configurable and extensible way of accessing these features. It does not aim at competing with more feature-rich and “out-of-the-box” plugins like CoC.nvim but is meant to be tailored to your preferences (while still being useable with reasonable defaults).

Got it? Good. To start, the nvim-lspconfig plugin is needed, which can be installed by:

Plug 'neovim/nvim-lspconfig'

Note: I use vim-plug but any plugin manager should work.

This handles launching and initializing language servers, but those servers still need to be installed manually. See the file for all the available options. I’ll be focusing on rust-analyzer, but I’m also assuming the rust-analyzer binary has been installed using one of the methods described here.

Once installed, add the following to your init.vim.

lua << EOF
local nvim_lsp = require 'lspconfig'

-- based on:
-- and
-- for more configuration, see:
    on_attach = on_attach,
    settings = {
        ["rust-analyzer"] = {
            assist = {
                -- Merge imports from the same module into a single use statement
                importGranularity = "module",
                -- Force paths that are relative to the current module to always start with self
                importPrefix = "by_self"
            -- enable proc macro support
            cargo = {loadOutDirsFromCheck = true},
            procMacro = {enable = true}

-- Enable diagnostics
vim.lsp.handlers["textDocument/publishDiagnostics"] =
                 {virtual_text = true, signs = true, update_in_insert = true})

Restart Neovim and load a Rust file. To ensure a connection to rust-analyzer run :LspInfo and you should see something similar to

Configured servers: rust_analyzer

Great! But now what? All that’s configured so far is just Neovim connecting to and getting information back from the LSP. In order to use this information we need to call the correct functions, and for that, we need keybinds:

" have a fixed column for the diagnostics to appear in
set signcolumn=yes

" code navigation shortcuts
nnoremap <silent> gd    <cmd>lua vim.lsp.buf.definition()<CR>
nnoremap <silent> gD    <cmd>lua vim.lsp.buf.declaration()<CR>
nnoremap <silent> gr    <cmd>lua vim.lsp.buf.references()<CR>
nnoremap <silent> gi    <cmd>lua vim.lsp.buf.implementation()<CR>

" docs and info
nnoremap <silent> K     <cmd>lua vim.lsp.buf.hover()<CR>
nnoremap <silent> td    <cmd>lua vim.lsp.buf.type_definition()<CR>
nnoremap <silent> <c-k> <cmd>lua vim.lsp.buf.signature_help()<CR>

nnoremap <silent> g0    <cmd>lua vim.lsp.buf.document_symbol()<CR>
nnoremap <silent> gW    <cmd>lua vim.lsp.buf.workspace_symbol()<CR>

" action shortcuts
nnoremap <silent> ga           <cmd>lua vim.lsp.buf.code_action()<CR>
nnoremap <silent> <leader>r    <cmd>lua vim.lsp.buf.rename()<CR>

Run :h vim.lsp.buf for an explanation of what each does. My three most commonly used are likely rename, definition, and code_action (which does many things, but I find the most useful are filling all arms of a match and adding import statements).

Remember one of my pros of an IDE is its renaming functionality; which is now handled by LSP. Check ✓.


There are a few different completion plugins out there. After trying one and it not working very well, I tried nvim-compe and it seems to do the job just great.

Plug 'hrsh7th/nvim-compe'

Add the following to your init.vim.

set completeopt=menuone,noselect " must be set

inoremap <silent><expr> <C-Space> compe#complete()
inoremap <silent><expr> <CR>      compe#confirm('<CR>')
inoremap <silent><expr> <C-e>     compe#close('<C-e>')

 " Use <Tab> and <S-Tab> to navigate through popup menu
inoremap <expr> <Tab>   pumvisible() ? "\<C-n>" : "\<Tab>"
inoremap <expr> <S-Tab> pumvisible() ? "\<C-p>" : "\<S-Tab>"

And add the configuration. Note that I set preselect to always, which will make the first completion suggestion always highlighted. This lets you just press enter to select it, instead of pressing tab to highlight it first (which is what enable does).

lua << EOF
require'compe'.setup {
    enabled = true,
    autocomplete = true,
    debug = false,
    min_length = 0,
    preselect = 'always',  -- or 'enable'
    throttle_time = 80,
    source_timeout = 200,
    resolve_timeout = 800,
    incomplete_delay = 400,
    max_abbr_width = 100,
    max_kind_width = 100,
    max_menu_width = 100,
    documentation = true,

    source = {
        path = true,
        buffer = true,
        calc = true,
        nvim_lsp = true,
        nvim_lua = true,
        vsnip = false,
        ultisnips = false


Telescope is probably my favorite plugin. It is similar to fzf (which is also an awesome plugin) but is much more extensible. Essentially, it allows for using fzf over different sources, e.g. git, files, LSP, ect.

Plug 'nvim-lua/popup.nvim'
Plug 'nvim-lua/plenary.nvim'
Plug 'nvim-telescope/telescope.nvim'

It’s so extensible that it will be hard to convey it’s power succinctly, so I’ll just explain a couple of my use cases. But first, some keybinds:

lua require("a.telescope")

" dotfiles
nnoremap <silent> <leader>vrc :lua require('a.telescope').search_dotfiles()<CR>

" file pickers
nnoremap <silent> <C-p> :lua require('a.telescope').project_files()<CR>
nnoremap <silent> <C-f> :lua require('telescope.builtin').live_grep()<CR>
nnoremap <silent> <leader>f :lua require('telescope.builtin').file_browser()<CR>

" vim pickers
nnoremap <silent> <C-b> :lua require('telescope.builtin').buffers()<CR>
nnoremap <silent> <leader>tm :lua require('telescope.builtin').marks()<CR>
nnoremap <silent> <leader>th :lua require('telescope.builtin').help_tags()<CR>
nnoremap <silent> <leader>tc :lua require('telescope.builtin').colorscheme()<CR>

" git
nnoremap <silent> <leader>gst :lua require('telescope.builtin').git_status()<CR>
nnoremap <silent> <leader>gc :lua require('telescope.builtin').git_commits()<CR>

The first two are sourcing a custom .lua file (found below), in which I have defined my own pickers. A picker is essentially a list to fzf over, and by creating custom ones, I can tune them to my specific use case.

If I hit ,vrc I will get a searchable list of all my dotfiles. I can now pull up my dotfiles from anywhere while I’m using Neovim and make a quick edit.

Using telescope to open my dotfiles.

Using telescope to open my dotfiles.

If I hit ctrl-p I get a searchable list of all files in my current directory, respecting the .gitignore file if I’m in a repo. Pressing enter opens the file, ctrl-v will open it in a split. Using one of the built-in pickers, buffers, allows me to press ctrl-b to open a list of all my open buffers.

In combination, these two pickers solve my IDE cons about too many tabs and slow file opening. After a couple weeks, it has felt like a massive productivity boost while navigating large projects (and small/medium too).

I recommend reading through the telescope README, there’s a lot of cool things you can do with it!

-- nvim/lua/a/telescope.lua
local M = {}

-- if in a git repo, use git_files(), otherwise find_files()
-- based on:
M.project_files = function()
    local opts = {}
    local ok = pcall(require'telescope.builtin'.git_files, opts)
    if not ok then require'telescope.builtin'.find_files(opts) end

M.search_dotfiles = function()
        -- show dotfiles, but ignore the .git directory
        find_command = {'rg', '--files', '--hidden', '--iglob', '!.git'},
        prompt_title = ". dotfiles .",
        cwd = "$HOME/Github/dotfiles/"

return M


tree-sitter is a parser generator tool and an incremental parsing library. It can build a concrete syntax tree for a source file and efficiently update the syntax tree as the source file is edited.

Basically, it enables smarter and more efficient syntax highlighting. For more info, check out this section in the Neovim news post and this reddit post.

To use it, the nvim-treesitter plugin is needed. First verify its requirements. Then, install the plugin:

Plug 'nvim-treesitter/nvim-treesitter', {'do': ':TSUpdate'}  " We recommend updating the parsers on update

Next, install any desired available languages. For example, for Rust:

:TSInstall rust

And now enable it in your init.vim:

lua <<EOF
require'nvim-treesitter.configs'.setup {
  ensure_installed = { "rust" },
  ignore_install = { },
  highlight = { enable = true },
  indent = { enable = true },
  incremental_selection = {
    enable = true,
    keymaps = {
      init_selection = "gnn",
      node_incremental = "grn",
      scope_incremental = "grc",
      node_decremental = "grm",

Other goodies

rust tools

rust-tools adds some nice functionality on top of rust-analyzer. Notably, inlay hints.

Plug 'neovim/nvim-lspconfig'      " already installed in the LSP section
Plug 'simrat39/rust-tools.nvim'

" Optional dependencies, already installed in the telescope section
Plug 'nvim-lua/popup.nvim'
Plug 'nvim-lua/plenary.nvim'
Plug 'nvim-telescope/telescope.nvim'

Add the configuration to your init.vim:

I’ve omitted the default configuration parameters, see the README for more options.

lua << EOF
local opts = {
    tools = {
        -- automatically set inlay hints (type hints)
        -- default: true
        autoSetHints = false,

" turn on inlay hints manually as they don't show up automatically on file open
:nnoremap <silent> <leader>h :RustSetInlayHints<CR>
:nnoremap <silent> <leader>ht :RustToggleInlayHints<CR>

:nnoremap <silent> <F5> :RustRunnables<CR> " open runnables in telescope
:nnoremap <silent> <leader>oc :RustOpenCargo<CR>

highlighted yank

Built in highlighted yank! Which I previously used this plugin for.

Simply add the following to your init.vim:

au TextYankPost * lua vim.highlight.on_yank {higroup="IncSearch", timeout=150, on_visual=true}


TrueZen is a plugin that creates different “modes” for editing. It’s similar to another plugin, GoYo, but has three modes instead of just one.

My primary use case is the Focus mode, which maximizes the current buffer. This is useful when I’m working on my laptop and having two buffers side-by-side starts cutting off the one I’m editing.

Additionally, the Ataraxis mode is nice when I want to focus on only code, just like one of my pros of IDEs. Check ✓.

Plug 'Pocco81/TrueZen.nvim'

There’s quite a lot of configuration options available. I found that this plugin was a bit more finicky than others, and depending on other plugins you have installed, you will need to change it to suit your needs. To start, add the configuration to your init.vim:

I’ve omitted most of the default configuration as it seems to be changing often, so make sure to check the README to get the most up to date one.

lua << EOF
local true_zen = require("true-zen")

	-- default configuration omitted
	misc = {
		on_off_commands = true,  -- needed for keybinds
		ui_elements_commands = false,
		cursor_by_mode = false,

Add finally some keybinds:

:nnoremap <silent> <leader>m :TZFocus<CR>       " toggle full screen
:nnoremap <silent> <leader>z :TZAtaraxis<CR>    " toggle zen mode
:nnoremap <silent> <leader>c :TZMinimalist<CR>  " toggle minimal mode


To review my pros/cons of IDEs, I’ve covered everything except debugging. After a couple weeks using this setup I think I’ve accomplished my goal of meeting or exceeding my IDE experience. Most notably, the cons seem to have simply dissolved; in their place, a happy and productive Andrew.

And while this may seem like a lot of work for getting an editor similar to VSCode or CLion/IntelliJ, I believe it’s worth it. If you’ve made it this far, you probably agree with that. The best part is, there is much more to explore and further improvements to be made. Such is life using Vim, a never ending mini-game of tweaks and efficiency gains.

Next steps

My next plugins to get working. Stay tuned.


A pretty list for showing diagnostics, references, telescope results, quickfix and location lists to help you solve all the trouble your code is causing.


UltiSnips is the ultimate solution for snippets in Vim. It has many features, speed being one of them.