Meet minpac

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Minpac is a minimal package manager for Vim 8. It makes it easy to add plugins, keep them up to date, and remove them. In this video, we’ll see how it works.

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Installing minpac

Minpac should be installed as an optional plugin, in a package called minpac:

$ mkdir -p ~/.vim/pack/minpac/opt
$ cd ~/.vim/pack/minpac/opt
$ git clone https://github.com/k-takata/minpac.git

Add these lines to your vimrc file:

packadd minpac
call minpac#init()

That’s it. Now you can use minpac to install other plugins.

Registering plugins

You can register plugins with minpac by calling the minpac#add() function. The first argument is a string representing the author/repo-name on github. The optional second argument can be a dictionary of options.

For example, add these lines to your vimrc:

call minpac#add('tpope/vim-surround')
call minpac#add('k-takata/minpac', {'type':'opt'})

That registers Tim Pope’s surround plugin, as well as minpac itself. By default, minpac installs plugins to the pack/minpac/start directory. By specifying {'type': 'opt'}, you can make minpac install a plugin to the pack/minpac/opt directory.

Calling minpac#add() tells minpac that you intend to install the plugin. To actually install the plugin, you have to call the minpac#update() function. For each plugin that you’ve registered, minpac will fetch the latest version from github.

First, source your vimrc file, then call the function:

:source $MYVIMRC
:call minpac#update()

You won’t see much output while the command runs. Minpac uses Vim’s job control API to fetch the plugins in the background. When finished, it prints a summary showing how many plugins were installed or updated.

Removing plugins

To uninstall a plugin, remove the line of code in your vimrc where you registered the plugin, then source your vimrc and call the minpac#clean() function.

:source $MYVIMRC
:call minpac#clean()

Minpac will loop through all of the plugins in the pack/minpac/{start,opt} directories, marking for deletion any plugins that are not registered with minpac. You will see a prompt naming each plugin to be deleted, which gives you the chance to opt out if you change your mind.

Convenience commands

As the name suggests, minpac is a minimal package manager. It doesn’t define any commands it only defines functions, which you can execute via the :call command. For ease of use, you can create your own commands:

command! PackUpdate call minpac#update()
command! PackClean call minpac#clean()

Instead of :call minpac#update() you can now run :PackUpdate to do the same thing.

How I use minpac

I like to specify my plugins in a separate file called packages.vim, which starts like this:

command! PackUpdate packadd minpac | source $MYVIMRC | redraw | call minpac#update()
command! PackClean  packadd minpac | source $MYVIMRC | call minpac#clean()

if !exists('*minpac#init')
  finish
endif

call minpac#init()

call minpac#add('k-takata/minpac', {'type': 'opt'})
call minpac#add('tpope/surround')
" ...

My vimrc file contains this line, which loads the packages.vim file:

source ~/.vim/packages.vim

This is a variation of the method described in the documentation for loading minpac on demand. With this technique, minpac doesn’t load when Vim starts up. It only loads when you call either :PackUpdate or :PackClean. Pretty cool!

Further reading

Here’s an implementation detail which I find interesting: minpac uses Prabir Shrestha’s async.vim to run the update/clean jobs. The job control API differs between Neovim and Vim 8, which is a pain if you want to write plugins that work in both. The async.vim plugin normalizes these APIs, taking out the hassle.

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