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.