17 Code overview
Justin M. Keyes edited this page 3 years ago

Here are a few hints for finding your way around the source code. This doesn’t make it less complex than it is, but it gets you started.

Jumping around

Use ctags -R to generate a tags file for the :tag command. (We recommend universal-ctags instead of the default ctags provided by most distros; see also Development-tips.)

To jump to a function or variable definition, move the cursor on the name and use the CTRL-] command. Use CTRL-T or CTRL-O to jump back.

To jump to a file, move the cursor on its name and use the gf command.

Most code can be found in a file with an obvious name (incomplete list):

Important variables

The current mode is stored in State. The values it can have are NORMAL, INSERT, CMDLINE, and a few others.

The current window is curwin. The current buffer is curbuf. These point to structures with the cursor position in the window, option values, the file name, etc.

All the global variables are declared in globals.h.

The main loop

This is conveniently called main_loop(). It updates a few things and then calls normal_cmd() to process a command. This returns when the command is finished.

The basic idea is that Vim waits for the user to type a character and processes it until another character is needed. Thus there are several places where Vim waits for a character to be typed. The vgetc() function is used for this. It also handles mapping.

Updating the screen is mostly postponed until a command or a sequence of commands has finished. The work is done by update_screen(), which calls win_update() for every window, which calls win_line() for every line. See the start of screen.c for more explanations.

Command-line mode

When typing a :, normal_cmd() will call getcmdline() to obtain a line with an Ex command. getcmdline() contains a loop that will handle each typed character. It returns when hitting <CR> or <Esc> or some other character that ends the command line mode.

Ex commands

Ex commands are handled by the function do_cmdline(). It does the generic parsing of the : command line and calls do_one_cmd() for each separate command. It also takes care of while loops.

do_one_cmd() parses the range and generic arguments and puts them in the exarg_t and passes it to the function that handles the command.

The : commands are listed in ex_cmds_defs.h. The third entry of each item is the name of the function that handles the command. The last entry are the flags that are used for the command.

Normal mode commands

The Normal mode commands are handled by the normal_cmd() function. It also handles the optional count and an extra character for some commands. These are passed in a cmdarg_t to the function that handles the command.

There is a table nv_cmds in normal.c which lists the first character of every command. The second entry of each item is the name of the function that handles the command.

Insert mode commands

When doing an i or a command, normal_cmd() will call the edit() function. It contains a loop that waits for the next character and handles it. It returns when leaving Insert mode.


There is a list with all option names in option.c, called options[].

Code Overview (Visualization)

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