Ctrlp.vim – A Comprehensive File Finder for VIM

Look for the file by the name ???, the file must be in the directory ???, the file starts (or ends)  with ???

These thoughts constantly passes one’s mind or are uttered by colleagues while editing code, fixing bugs or during pair programming sessions. These operations have to be performed multiple times (many times a minute) and to be productive the IDE in use has to be able to perform them fast and cover all the above requirements.

Initially I used NERDTree, it is an excellent file/directory explorer. You could browser through the directories, open, delete, copy, move files or directories. Further frequently visited directories can be bookmarked. However in situations like the above it fails miserably. 

A few months back I came across Command-T. Command-T is a good file finder. It was fast however I could not use regex in search input, also its reliant on Ruby was a hassle.

A few weeks back, I began to look for an alternative. There were few alternatives such as Lusty Explorer, Fuzzy Finder etc… Ctrlp caught my attention. Used it for a day at home and the last few days I have been using at work and am quite impressed with it.

When compared to the alternatives mentioned above, Ctrlp seems to be the most comprehensive file finder vim plugin. Why? (I hear you ask)

  • File or Path Search:
    While searching for a file one either remembers the name of the file or the path of the file. In Ctrlp you can specify whether you are searching for a file and it scans the file name index or alternatively a path can be specified. It can autocompletes path names.
  • Regex in Search:
    Most of the times we don’t remember the entire file name or the path. Regex comes to the rescure here. It supports vim regex syntax. 
  • Searching for files in Buffer or MRU List:
    VIM users use buffers instead of opening a large number of tabs. Search can be performed within the buffer. Further it maintains a list of mostly recently used files and searches can be performed within the MRU list as well.

I find the above three features as the most essentials ones and this plugin does it in a robust manner. However, in addition to the above it offers a few extra which sweetens the deal:

  • Multiple File Selection: 
    During a search you could select multiple files and open them in either in split (horizontal or vertical) windows or tabs. Further after selecting mutliple files you could type “:diffthis” in the prompt and view a diff of all the selected files. 
  • Create and delete files.
  • Using yanked text in search: 
    The yanked text can be pasted in the search prompt.

A noticeable issue with this tools is that the first time Ctrlp buffer is opened depending on the number of files in the project it could take a while to initialize. I have not investigated the cause of it, but I guess it performs some sort of indexing or refreshes the existing index.

Now head-over to the official site and try it out.

Happy coding 🙂






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