Fast Search with Vim

We often search our projects for specific text within Vim like so:

:grep sometext

How can we grep faster?

Override to use The Silver Searcher

grep is a built-in command of Vim. By default, it will use our system's grep command. We can overwrite it to use The Silver Searcher's ag command instead by putting this in our ~/.vimrc:

" The Silver Searcher
if executable('ag')
  " Use ag over grep
  set grepprg=ag\ --nogroup\ --nocolor

  " Use ag in CtrlP for listing files. Lightning fast and respects .gitignore
  let g:ctrlp_user_command = 'ag %s -l --nocolor -g ""'

  " ag is fast enough that CtrlP doesn't need to cache
  let g:ctrlp_use_caching = 0

Search for the word under the cursor

This searches for the text under the cursor and shows the results in a "quickfix" window:

" bind K to grep word under cursor
nnoremap K :grep! "\b<C-R><C-W>\b"<CR>:cw<CR>

It looks like this when we hit K with our cursor over SubscriptionMailer in the Upcase repo:


Cursor over each search result, hit Enter, and the file will be opened.

Using ag arguments

This defines a new command Ag to search for the provided text and open a "quickfix" window:

" bind \ (backward slash) to grep shortcut
command -nargs=+ -complete=file -bar Ag silent! grep! <args>|cwindow|redraw!

We can map it to any character, such as \:

nnoremap \ :Ag<SPACE>

When \ is pressed, Vim waits for our input:


Standard ag arguments may be passed in at this point:

:Ag -i Stripe app/models

Hitting Enter results in: