TagList in Vim

Posted: September 1, 2010 in C/C++, Programming, Python, Vim
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Exuberant ctags is a pretty nifty utility for source code browsing. Especially since it integrates so well with vim. Also exuberant ctags can understand many languages (41 as per the official website). So this is relevant not only for C/C++ or Python but for all 41 languages supported (and future ones too). In this post, we explore yet another popular plugin using exuberant ctags – TagList.

TagList is capable of showing a list of functions/global variables/class/struct towards one side of the vim. This is similar to some IDEs or event editors like Notepad++. This makes browsing and navigation pretty easy. Our aim will be to be able to navigate current file using TagList window and to always display current function name in the status line.

Screenshot of TagList plugin showing current function name in status line

For this, we will need:

TagList will work only with exuberant ctags and not with any other ctags (specifically GNU ctags). Install exuberant ctags if required. Also ensure that ctags command should actually invoke exuberant ctags.

Install TagList plugin (see elaborate steps in the link). Typically vim plugins are installed by simply copying to $HOME/.vim/plugin directory. If any documentation is there, copy that to $HOME/.vim/doc and re-index vim help by giving “:helptags $HOME/.vim/doc” command in vim.

Now we need to customize the TagList plugin options to get what we want.

" TagList options
let Tlist_Close_On_Select = 1 "close taglist window once we selected something
let Tlist_Exit_OnlyWindow = 1 "if taglist window is the only window left, exit vim
let Tlist_Show_Menu = 1 "show Tags menu in gvim
let Tlist_Show_One_File = 1 "show tags of only one file
let Tlist_GainFocus_On_ToggleOpen = 1 "automatically switch to taglist window
let Tlist_Highlight_Tag_On_BufEnter = 1 "highlight current tag in taglist window
let Tlist_Process_File_Always = 1 "even without taglist window, create tags file, required for displaying tag in statusline
let Tlist_Use_Right_Window = 1 "display taglist window on the right
let Tlist_Display_Prototype = 1 "display full prototype instead of just function name
"let Tlist_Ctags_Cmd = /path/to/exuberant/ctags

nnoremap <F5> :TlistToggle
nnoremap <F6> :TlistShowPrototype

set statusline=[%n]\ %<%f\ %([%1*%M%*%R%Y]%)\ \ \ [%{Tlist_Get_Tagname_By_Line()}]\ %=%-19(\LINE\ [%l/%L]\ COL\ [%02c%03V]%)\ %P

Notice the call to Tlist_Get_Tagname_By_Line() within the statuline. This is what displays the current function name (actually tag which can be class name or struct name or any tag) in the status line. With the above settings, pressing F6 will show the prototype of current function at the bottom.

Pressing F5 will open up the TagList window which will show the list of functions/classes/structs/define etc. The focus is automatically switched to the list window and we can quickly jump to the function/class/struct definition we want to. Upon selecting an entry, the list window is automatically closed.shrink the window back to default size.

Screenshot of TagList window

Now with the full prototype display, it is not very easy to read the actual function name. TagList has a zoom feature to overcome this. Press “x” and the TagList window will enlarge, occupying almost the complete vim screen. Selection of an entry or pressing F5 again will close the window. Pressing x again will shrink the window back to default size.

Screenshot of TagList window zoomed using "x" key

TagList generates its own tags file and does not require the user to provide a tags file. This file is generated every time we switch to a buffer. The tags file is created somewhere in /tmp/ folder. TagList cannot work with a user generated tags file.

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