eschew obfuscation (and espouse elucidation)

Developing Clojure in Vim (2018 Edition)

When I wrote about developing Clojure in Vim for the first time, I was still early in my journey. For years, I’d only been able to tinker with Clojure in my free time and I was never able to really use it for anything large. Well, now I’m 5 or so months into using it full time and I’m really enjoying the development experience. So I thought I’d update my previous post with what my Vim configuration looks like now.

First of all, I should point out that while I’ve switched over to using Neovim, all of my set up works with both it and Vim 8.x. Neovim has some cool advantages (like inccommand), but they’re orthogonal to my Clojure dev workflow.


Here are the plugins I use that are Clojure related:

  • vim-clojure-static - This is still the way to go for base syntax highlighting and indentation.
  • vim-fireplace - Still the way to go for repl integration and code reloading.
  • rainbow - I previously used rainbow_parentheses.vim, but found that this one is simpler and more stable.
  • vim-sexp - This plugin lets me manipulate code as a tree, and it’s wonderful
  • vim-sexp-mappings-for-regular-people - Tim Pope’s riff on the above, minus the meta key
  • cljfold - I’m a compulsive code-folder, so after a few weeks I went to find a good folding plugin for Clojure and this is what I settled on. It’s old, but it still works, which is a testament to the stability of the language.


Most of the above plugins “just work” when you install them (hopefully via Pathogen or one of its newer workalikes). There are a few bits in my vimrc that tweak settings.

First is rainbow. I turn with a few rotating colors, and only for Clojure files:

" clojure rainbow parens
let g:rainbow_active = 1
let g:rainbow_conf = {
      \  'guifgs': ['royalblue3', 'darkorange3', 'seagreen3', 'firebrick'],
      \  'ctermfgs': ['lightblue', 'lightyellow', 'lightcyan', 'lightmagenta'],
      \  'parentheses': ['start=/(/ end=/)/ fold', 'start=/\[/ end=/\]/ fold', 'start=/{/ end=/}/ fold'],
      \  'separately': {
      \      '*': 0,
      \      'clojure': {},
      \  }

Next is cljfold. I like to fold more than the default:

" configure clojure folding
let g:clojure_foldwords = "def,defn,defmacro,defmethod,defschema,defprotocol,defrecord"

The final tweak is to add a couple of mappings for fireplace. The first is so that I can quickly evaluate a top level form (usually #_(...) when developing) without having to move my cursor. The second is for pulling up the result of the last evaluation in a vim buffer, which is super useful for referencing and copy/paste, especially now that evaluation output is now pretty printed by default.

" a few extra mappings for fireplace
" evaluate top level form
au BufEnter *.clj nnoremap <buffer> cpt :Eval<CR>
" show last evaluation in temp file
au BufEnter *.clj nnoremap <buffer> cpl :Last<CR>

Development workflow

These plugins have enabled me to settle into a very productive workflow, being able to leverage the power of Clojure’s dynamism while editing it all with Vim. I’ll outline the flow in a future post.