Make MacVim’s mvim script use tabs and play nice with the command line

tl;dr: Replace the mvim script with this modified version: https://gist.github.com/3780676

MacVim comes with a really sweet script called mvim, which lets you launch MacVim and edit files from the command line. Unfortunately, this script is a little weak in a few ways:

  • It doesn’t let you edit multiple files.
  • It doesn’t let you pass in command line options.
  • It doesn’t let you use new tabs for opening new files into an existing window.
  • It doesn’t let you pipe stdin into vim for viewing (great with diffs).

All those things are awesome, so let’s make the mvim script better! How do we do that?

Well, first we add some extra command line options parsing to detect if we’re in diff mode, if we’re using stdin, and to preserve options for passing back into MacVim later. At Line 60 we add the following:

# Add new flags for different modes
stdin=false
diffmode=false
# Preserve command line options lazily
while [ -n "$1" ]; do
  case $1 in 
  -d) diffmode=true; shift;;
  -?*) opts="$opts $1"; shift;;
  -) stdin=true; break;;
  *) echo "*"; break;; 
  esac
done

This is a pretty normal bash argument getting loop. We look for -d (diff mode) and – (stdin) separate from other arguments. We also need to modify the command that starts MacVim to handle our different modes, etc. So we replace that command (originally on line 69):

# Last step:  fire up vim.
# The program should fork by default when started in GUI mode, but it does
# not; we work around this when this script is invoked as "gvim" or "rgview"
# etc., but not when it is invoked as "vim -g".
if [ "$gui" ]; then
	# Note: this isn't perfect, because any error output goes to the
	# terminal instead of the console log.
	# But if you use open instead, you will need to fully qualify the
	# path names for any filenames you specify, which is hard.
	exec "$binary" -g $opts ${1:+"[email protected]"}
else
	exec "$binary" $opts ${1:+"[email protected]"}
fi

With this better command:

# Last step:  fire up vim.
# The program should fork by default when started in GUI mode, but it does
# not; we work around this when this script is invoked as "gvim" or "rgview"
# etc., but not when it is invoked as "vim -g".
if [ "$gui" ]; then
  # Note: this isn't perfect, because any error output goes to the
  # terminal instead of the console log.
  # But if you use open instead, you will need to fully qualify the
  # path names for any filenames you specify, which is hard.

  # Handle stdin
  if $stdin; then
    exec "$binary" -g $opts -
  elif $diffmode; then
    exec "$binary" -f -g -d $opts $*
  elif $tabs && [[ `$binary --serverlist` = "VIM" ]]; then
    #make macvim open stuff in the same window instead of new ones
    exec "$binary" -g $opts --remote-tab-silent ${1:+"[email protected]"} & 
    wait
  else
    exec "$binary" -g $opts ${1:+"[email protected]"}
  fi
else
  exec "$binary" $opts ${1:+"[email protected]"}
fi

The first two branches are pretty clear – they just invoke the MacVim binary in the correct way, for our different modes. The third one uses the very awesome –remote-tab-silent option, which gives us the ability to reuse the same window with new tabs when we edit multiple files. Neato!

Finally, if you don’t want to do the modifications yourself, it’s available as a gist, so you can download it and use it as a drop-in replacement for the vanilla mvim script: https://gist.github.com/3780676

Jake Alheid

Jake is a Python evangelist and is a developer at about.me in San Francisco. He is also the creator of pyconfig and a code contributor on github.