Folded config


I started using Neovim about a year ago. During the process, I have been constantly evolving my configuration (the init.vim file): adding some settings and plugins and dropping others. At its peak, my init.vim has over 1600 lines of settings and comments. Managing a configuration of this size requires grouping the relevant settings into different sections or even subsections. This is when I started thinking about folding my configuration properly. The end result is shown in the title image.

Nvim offers several methods to fold a file:

I found that fold-expr and fold-marker is easy to use and understand. In this article, I only introduce these two methods.

Folding with Marker

When we fold with a marker, Nvim will create a fold where the fold marker appears. The default fold marker is {{{ (for opening a fold) and }}} (for closing a fold). To fold the Nvim config with marker, you have to use marker as the folding method:

set foldmethod=marker

To indicate the fold level, you can append a number after the fold marker. I show an example config using fold markers below:

"{{{ Some settings
"{{{2 Plugin install
call plug#begin(expand('~/.local/share/nvim/plugged'))
Plug 'neoclide/coc.nvim', {'do': './'}
Plug 'Shougo/neco-vim'
Plug 'neoclide/coc-neco'
call plug#end()

"{{{2 Builtin options
set number
set relativenumber
set pyxversion=3
set foldmethod=marker
set wildoptions=pum

"{{{ Color schemes
set background=dark
color desert

In the above sample configuration, I define two level 1 sections. Inside the first level 1 section, there are two level 2 sub-sections.

If you open Nvim with the above configuration:

nvim -u init.vim init.vim

the folding is like the following:

+-- 17 lines: Some settings ··········································

+--  4 lines: Color schemes···········································

Two level 1 folds will be shown. Go to the first level 1 fold and use zo to open the fold. Now the buffer will be shown as the following:

"{{{ Some settings
+---  7 lines: Plugin install·········································

+---  7 lines: Builtin options········································

+--  4 lines: Color schemes···········································

In the closed fold line, there are some texts shown to indicate the meaning of this fold and how many lines have been folded1. It is called foldtext in Nvim. By default, the foldtext option will use the function foldtext() to evaluate the opening fold line and return a reasonable string as the fold text. See the foldtext() doc for details. If you are not satisfied with the style of the default fold text, you may define your fold text function to replace the foldtext(). We will cover that later in this post.

Folding with Expression

Folding with marker is not flexible enough since you have to use the marker and indicate the folding level by appending a number behind the marker. Folding with expression is more flexible and powerful.

To fold Nvim config with an expression, you have to use expr for the foldmethod option and define your custom folding function:

set foldmethod=expr
set foldexpr=VimFolds(v:lnum)

In the above settings, we define the folding function VimFolds(), which will evaluate each line of the config and return its folding level. The variable v:lnum is a special variable which indicates the current line the folding function is evaluating. That is where the power of fold-expr resides: you can structure your configuration the way you want and use the folding function to parse the config and returns the correct folding level for each line.

With custom folding expression, we can define our own fold indicator. For example, I am currently using the number of { to indicate the level of a folding:

  • "{: level 1
  • "{{: level 2
  • "{{{: level 3
  • ……

I use the following folding function to parse the configuration:

function! VimFolds(lnum)
    " get content of current line and the line below
    let l:cur_line = getline(a:lnum)
    let l:next_line = getline(a:lnum+1)

    if l:cur_line =~# '^"{'
        return '>' . (matchend(l:cur_line, '"{*') - 1)
        if l:cur_line ==# '' && (matchend(l:next_line, '"{*') - 1) == 1
            return 0
            return '='

For lines starting with "{, the above function will extract the number of curly braces and return its folding level. For empty lines which are followed by a level 1 fold, its folding level is 0, which means that this line is not in a fold and will not be folded. For other lines, its folding level is the same as the previous line.

The format for the folding level can be found in :h fold-expr.

Custom Folding Text

Now that we can define the folding level by the folding expression. We need to customize the folding text as well. Or the fold text produced by the default foldtext() function will look ugly:

+-- 21 lines: { Some settings··················································

+-- 27 lines: { Custom functions···············································

+--  4 lines: { Color schemes··················································

To customize the fold text, as I have mentioned earlier, we need to create a custom fold text function to produce the folding text we want.

Below I show a custom folding text function:

function! MyFoldText()
    let line = getline(v:foldstart)
    let folded_line_num = v:foldend - v:foldstart
    let line_text = substitute(line, '^"{\+', '', 'g')
    let fillcharcount = &textwidth - len(line_text) - len(folded_line_num)
    return '+'. repeat('-', 4) . line_text . repeat('.', fillcharcount) . ' (' . folded_line_num . ' L)'

In the above function, v:foldstart and v:foldend are the special variable provided by Vim for a particular folding level. We need to set the foldtext option to use the custom function:

set foldtext=MyFoldText()

Reopen Nvim and now the fold text becomes:

Some settings  -------------------------------------------------------- (20 L)···········

Custom functions  ----------------------------------------------------- (26 L)···········

Color schemes  --------------------------------------------------------- (3 L)···········

The trailing · characters at the end of each folding line is added by Nvim if there are spaces after the fold text in the current window. If you do not want these trailing characters, you can add the following setting to Nvim config:

" note that there is a space character behind backslash
set fillchars=fold:\ 


In this post, I introduced how to create folding for the Nvim configuration file and use custom folding text for a fold. With this knowledge, you can create fancy foldings and folding text as you want.


  1. See :h fold-foldtext for detailed explanations on fold text.