File managers in VIM

Most people who use Vim are so used to setting up their environment with plug-ins such as NERDTree and CtrlP to help them navigate their projects that they forget (or, more likely, they just don’t realize) that Vim actually has a pretty good built-in file system explorer, called netrw. To open it, you have to run the :Explore command.

netrw has support for editing files across remote machines using either scp or ftp protocols. I’d suggest reading the help files, :h netrw, to understadn capabilities of this plugin.

Some useful netrw commands




Traverse back up a directory


Toggle visibility of dot files


Cycle explorer display modes (thin, long, wide, and tree)


Refresh the directory listing


Open file under the cursor in a horizontal split window


Open file under the cursor in a vertical split window


Create a new (unsaved) file

D or <Del>

Delete the directory/file under the cursor


Create a new directory


Rename the directory/file under the cursor. You can use this feature to move a file by changing the file’s directory path.


For the guys who used to find it hart to live without Total Commander, Norton Commander, Dos Navigator, Midnight Commander etc. (like myself as you guessed), the vimcommander plugin is a good alternative. The last version is from 2013 (vimcommander):

created by
Leandro Penz
script type
This is an adaptation of opsplorer (vimscript #362), intended to be more like the Total Comander ( file explorer.

This opens two panels of file explorers on the top half of the vim screen.
Targets for moving and copying defaults to the other panel, like totalcmd. TAB switches between panels.
Vimcommander keys are mostly totalcommander's:
F3 - view
F4 - edit
F5 - copy
F6 - move
F7 - create dir
F8 - del
Others: C-U, C-Left/C-Right, C-R, BS, DEL, C-H, etc.
Selection of files/dirs also works: INS, +, -. Then copy/move/del selected files.

Suggested binding is
noremap <silent> <F11> :cal VimCommanderToggle()<CR>

Tested on Linux. I have reports that it doesn't work on Windows.

If you want to contribute, note that vimcommander is hosted at github:
install details
Drop vimcommander.vim in ~/.vim/plugin
Put in you .vimrc a map to VimCommanderToggle():
noremap <silent> <F11> :cal VimCommanderToggle()<CR>



The fact of not needing to leave the editor while still working on some structured folder hierarchy is an important advantage of this plugin.

The editor still remains the app in charge (as opposed to using MC as main app and F4-ing your way to edit individual files); I like the nice toggle of the view, I also like the BS key (go up in the hierarchy) that I miss in MC, etc.

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Old News ;-)

The NERD tree - A tree explorer plugin for navigating the filesystem vim online

vi - File Manager tab in vim - Stack Overflow

very close to figuring this out, but can't seem to find the missing piece.

I have a pretty good vim set up for development. When doing MVC projects, I need multiple tabs open, and I've gotten pretty good at shifting between them and rearranging quickly.

I can even open a vertical tab with an interactive directory listing of my files.

What I really want and can't figure out:

  1. To be able to have this vertical tab persistent, that is, in the "foreground" of all tabs, and allow me open a file into a new tab. (Basically, I want vim to have a sidepane that is a file manager and when i press enter on a selected file in the directory, it will open a new tab, but the "file manager/directory tab" will stay open, and in front.
  2. To set the persistent "file manager/directory tab" to be a specific width - ie :vsplit 32(pixels?)

Does that make sense? Can anyone point me to the right part of the help section for this?

Thanks, Kevin

active oldest votes
up vote 7 down vote accepted Are you using NERDTree? If not, it might be the answer to your prayers.

You can set the width of the NERDTree window by putting this in your .vimrc:

let g:NERDTreeWinSize=32
share|improve this answer answered Jul 16 '11 at 16:55

Prince Goulash

NERDTree definitely sounds like what he is looking for. – Matt Greer Jul 16 '11 at 16:58
yes, that's what i was looking for, thanks buddy – Kevin Jul 16 '11 at 18:11
NERDTree won't stay if you change tabs though. You'll need to to open a new NERDTree for each tab and each NERDTree is going to be independent (showing different files/directories). I don't want to be pedantic but Vim's tabs are not supposed to represent files, they are more like "perspectives": you use a tab to work on a project or on a specific part (like the models) of a larger project or maybe an idea you want to pursue without polluting the current project. For editing files you are supposed to use buffers and split windows. Trying to force Vim to work like another editor won't work well. – romainl Jul 18 '11 at 7:55

project.tar.gz - Organize-Navigate projects of files (like IDE-buffer explorer) vim online

script type
You can use this plugin's basic functionality to set up a list of
frequently-accessed files for easy navigation. The list of files
will be displayed in a window on the left side of the Vim
window, and you can press <Return> or double-click on
filenames in the list to open the files. This is similar to how
some IDEs I've used work. I find this easier to use than
having to navigate a directory hierarchy with the file-explorer.
It also obviates the need for a buffer explorer because you
have your list of files on the left of the Vim Window.

But there's much, much more . . . .

You can also instruct the Plugin to change to a directory and
to run scripts when you select a file. These scripts can, for
example, modify the environment to include compilers in
$PATH. This makes it very easy to use quickfix with multiple
projects that use different environments. I give examples in
the documentation.

Other features include:
o Loading/Unloading all the files in a Project (\l, \L, \w, and \W)
o Grepping all the files in a Project (\g and \G)
o Running a user-specified script on a file (can be used
to launch an external program on the file) (\1 through \9)
o Running a user-specified script on all the files in a Project
(\f1-\f9 and \F1-\F9)
o Also works with the netrw plugin using directory
names like ftp://remotehost
(Good for webpage maintenance.)
o Support for custom mappings for version control
integration (example of perforce in the documentation).
o I also give an example in the documentation on how to
set up a custom launcher based on extension. The
example launches *.jpg files in a viewer. I have also set
up viewers for PDF (acroread) and HTML files (mozilla)
for my own use.

This plugin is known to work on Linux, Solaris, and Windows.
I cannot test it on Windows, though, so please let me know if
you run into any problems. If you use it on other platforms,
let me know.

(Let me know if you need a .zip file)

install details
Decompress and untar in your ~/.vim directory (or
equivalent). Inside Vim, enter this:
:helptags ~/.vim/doc
(or equivalent directory)
(Enter ":help add-global-plugin" to determine the directory to
untar it into.)

Then enter
:help project
for information

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