This is a step by step tutorial on how to organize your vim config files using git, pathogen, and git submodules. This tutorial assumes that you are familiar with git basics, but you don’t really need to understand every step in order to follow it. For simplicity, only .vim directory is a repository in this example. You may want to have all your dotfiles under version control and use a script to symlink files to the home directory. For example see

Setting up

Let’s assume your .vim directory is a mess and is not under revision control. Let’s initialize a repository.

cd ~/.vim
git init
git remote add origin

Now let’s create .vim/bundle directory and clone pathogen plugin as a submodule.

mkdir bundle
cd bundle
git submodule add git@github.cfm:tpope/vim-pathogen.git

Pre-pend the following code to your ~/.vimrc to load pathogen from non-default directory:

runtime bundle/vim-pathogen/autoload/pathogen.vim
execute pathogen#infect()

Let’s add some more plugins as git submodules, for example:

git submodule add

Now we can add and commit everything and push it to a repository.

git add .
git commit -m "Use pathogen to keep track of vim plugins"
git push origin master


Assuming that your repository is located at

cd ~
git clone .vim

And you are done, all plugins are downloaded from their repositories now.


Git submodules keep track of specific commits and are not being automatically updated when target repositories have new commits. In order to update plugins you have:

cd ~/.vim
git submodule foreach git pull
git add bundle
git commit -m "Updated all the plugins in a bundle"
git push origin master

You probably want to make sure that new versions of plugins are compatible with each other before committing, however.

If you visit noisy IRC channels like the programming ones on freenode, you probably want to ignore all the annoying status messages.

To permanently ignore joins, parts, quits, and nickname changes from every channel in IRSSI:

/ignore * joins parts quits nicks

I keep forgetting the exact syntax, so maybe clipping the snippet in a blog post will keep it in my memory.

In some extremely rare cases you end up pushing data to the repo with the wrong credentials. If you are the only author and you’re as picky as I am, it can be corrected easily:

git filter-branch -f --env-filter
"GIT_AUTHOR_NAME='Stan Smith';
git push --force

In the case of there being multiple people working on a project, you may want to use the following gist posted by anonymous: (again, followed by git push --force).

I recently discovered an incredibly useful function - you can look up man pages for keywords by pressing K (read: Shift + k) in normal mode when cursor is over the word you need to look up.

It works with any shell or programming language keywords, as long as vim recognizes the filetype.