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By itself, Vim is one of the best editors for shell scripting. With a little tweaking, however, you can turn Vim into a full-fledged IDE for writing scripts. You could do it yourself, or you can just install Fritz Mehner's Bash Support plugin.
To install Bash Support, download the zip archive, copy it to your ~/.vim directory, and unzip the archive. You'll also want to edit your ~/.vimrc to include a few personal details; open the file and add these three lines:
let g:BASH_AuthorName = 'Your Name' let g:BASH_Email = 'email@example.com' let g:BASH_Company = 'Company Name'
These variables will be used to fill in some headers for your projects, as we'll see below.
The Bash Support plugin works in the Vim GUI (gVim) and text mode Vim. It's a little easier to use in the GUI, and Bash Support doesn't implement most of its menu functions in Vim's text mode, so you might want to stick with gVim when scripting.
When Bash Support is installed, gVim will include a new menu, appropriately titled Bash. This puts all of the Bash Support functions right at your fingertips (or mouse button, if you prefer). Let's walk through some of the features, and see how Bash Support can make Bash scripting a breeze.
Header and comments
If you believe in using extensive comments in your scripts, and I hope you are, you'll really enjoy using Bash Support. Bash Support provides a number of functions that make it easy to add comments to your bash scripts and programs automatically or with just a mouse click or a few keystrokes.
When you start a non-trivial script that will be used and maintained by others, it's a good idea to include a header with basic information -- the name of the script, usage, description, notes, author information, copyright, and any other info that might be useful to the next person who has to maintain the script. Bash Support makes it a breeze to provide this information. Go to Bash -> Comments -> File Header, and gVim will insert a header like this in your script:
#!/bin/bash #=============================================================================== # # FILE: test.sh # # USAGE: ./test.sh # # DESCRIPTION: # # OPTIONS: --- # REQUIREMENTS: --- # BUGS: --- # NOTES: --- # AUTHOR: Joe Brockmeier, firstname.lastname@example.org # COMPANY: Dissociated Press # VERSION: 1.0 # CREATED: 05/25/2007 10:31:01 PM MDT # REVISION: --- #===============================================================================
You'll need to fill in some of the information, but Bash Support grabs the author, company name, and email address from your ~/.vimrc, and fills in the file name and created date automatically. To make life even easier, if you start Vim or gVim with a new file that ends with an .sh extension, it will insert the header automatically.
As you're writing your script, you might want to add comment blocks for your functions as well. To do this, go to Bash -> Comment -> Function Description to insert a block of text like this:
#=== FUNCTION ================================================================ # NAME: # DESCRIPTION: # PARAMETERS: # RETURNS: #===============================================================================
Just fill in the relevant information and carry on coding.
The Comment menu allows you to insert other types of comments, insert the current date and time, and turn selected code into a comment, and vice versa.
Statements and snippets
Let's say you want to add an if-else statement to your script. You could type out the statement, or you could just use Bash Support's handy selection of pre-made statements. Go to Bash -> Statements and you'll see a long list of pre-made statements that you can just plug in and fill in the blanks. For instance, if you want to add a while statement, you can go to Bash -> Statements -> while, and you'll get the following:
while _; do done
The cursor will be positioned where the underscore (_) is above. All you need to do is add the test statement and the actual code you want to run in the while statement. Sure, it'd be nice if Bash Support could do all that too, but there's only so far an IDE can help you.
However, you can help yourself. When you do a lot of bash scripting, you might have functions or code snippets that you reuse in new scripts. Bash Support allows you to add your snippets and functions by highlighting the code you want to save, then going to Bash -> Statements -> write code snippet. When you want to grab a piece of prewritten code, go to Bash -> Statements -> read code snippet. Bash Support ships with a few included code fragments.
Another way to add snippets to the statement collection is to just place a text file with the snippet under the ~/.vim/bash-support/codesnippets directory.
Running and debugging scripts
Once you have a script ready to go, and it's testing and debugging time. You could exit Vim, make the script executable, run it and see if it has any bugs, and then go back to Vim to edit it, but that's tedious. Bash Support lets you stay in Vim while doing your testing.
When you're ready to make the script executable, just choose Bash -> Run -> make script executable. To save and run the script, press
Ctrl-F9, or go to Bash -> Run -> save + run script.
Bash Support also lets you call the bash debugger (bashdb) directly from within Vim. On Ubuntu, it's not installed by default, but that's easily remedied with
apt-get install bashdb. Once it's installed, you can debug the script you're working on with
F9 or Bash -> Run -> start debugger.
If you want a "hard copy" -- a PostScript printout -- of your script, you can generate one by going to Bash -> Run -> hardcopy to FILENAME.ps. This is where Bash Support comes in handy for any type of file, not just bash scripts. You can use this function within any file to generate a PostScript printout.
Bash Support has several other functions to help run and test scripts from within Vim. One useful feature is syntax checking, which you can access with
Alt-F9. If you have no syntax errors, you'll get a quick OK. If there are problems, you'll see a small window at the bottom of the Vim screen with a list of syntax errors. From that window you can highlight the error and press
Enter, and you'll be taken to the line with the error.
Put away the reference book...
Don't you hate it when you need to include a regular expression or a test in a script, but can't quite remember the syntax? That's no problem when you're using Bash Support, because you have Regex and Tests menus with all you'll need. For example, if you need to verify that a file exists and is owned by the correct user ID (UID), go to Bash -> Tests -> file exists and is owned by the effective UID. Bash Support will insert the appropriate test (
[ -O _]) with your cursor in the spot where you have to fill in the file name.
To build regular expressions quickly, go to the Bash menu, select Regex, then pick the appropriate expression from the list. It's fairly useful when you can't remember exactly how to express "zero or one" or other regular expressions.
Bash Support also includes menus for environment variables, bash builtins, shell options, and a lot more.
Vim users can access many of Bash Support's features using hotkeys. While not as simple as clicking the menu, the hotkeys do follow a logical scheme that makes them easy to remember. For example, all of the comment functions are accessed with
\c, so if you want to insert a file header, you use
\ch; if you want a date inserted, type
\cd; and for a line end comment, use
Statements can be accessed with
\ac for a case statement,
\aie for an "if then else" statement,
\af for a "for in..." statement, and so on. Note that the online docs are incorrect here, and indicate that statements begin with
\s, but Bash Support ships with a PDF reference card (under .vim/bash-support/doc/bash-hot-keys.pdf) that gets it right.
Run commands are accessed with
\r. For example, to save the file and run a script, use
\rr; to make a script executable, use
\re; and to start the debugger, type
\rd. I won't try to detail all of the shortcuts, but you can pull up a reference using
:help bashsupport-usage-vim when in Vim, or use the PDF. The full Bash Support reference is available within Vim by running
:help bashsupport, or you can read it online.
Of course, we've covered only a small part of Bash Support's functionality. The next time you need to whip up a shell script, try it using Vim with Bash Support. This plugin makes scripting in bash a lot easier.
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