Build your modern Neovim config in Lua


In this tutorial you’ll learn how to build and structure a modern Neovim config in Lua. I’ll go through options, mappings, autocmds and plugins. You can read along with my configuration.

To learn more about what each option does, use :h 'option name' in Neovim.

How Neovim loads config

Neovim supports using init.lua as the configuration file. This should be placed in your config directory:

  • Linux, BSD or macOS: ~/.config/nvim
  • Windows: ~/AppData/Local/nvim/

Although you can put all the settings inside init.lua, you probably don’t want to because the file will become large and difficult to manage.

To avoid this, separate files to multiple modules and then load them in the init.lua using require. You can place those modules in the lua/ directory in your runtimepath (a list of directories to be searched on startup).

My Neovim config structure:

~/.config/nvim
|-- init.lua
|-- lua/
|  |-- config/
|  |  |-- options.lua
|  |  |-- mappings.lua
|  |  |-- autocmds.lua
|  |  |-- lazy.lua
|  |-- plugins/
|     |-- autoclose.lua
|     |-- lsp.lua
|       :

The first line of init.lua:

require("config.options")

When Neovim reads this line on startup, it goes through the runtimepath, search for lua/ and load /config/options.lua. The default runtimepath includes ~/.config/nvim. This is why we put the lua/ inside it.

Notes

  • . in the module name is treated as a directory separator when searching.
  • You don’t need to type the .lua extension.

Now we understand how Neovim finds our files. We can start configuring it! Note that all the directories specified below start from the Neovim config directory.

Options

You can set options via Lua in two ways: vim.opt and vim.o series. I recommend using vim.opt series because it is more Lua-style, you can:

  • use :append(), :prepend() and :remove() to manipulate options
  • set its value to Lua table

(see the differences between them with :h lua-guide-options)

You can set options with vim.opt.option-name = value.

Part of my lua/config/option.lua:

-- enable line number and relative line number
vim.opt.number = true
vim.opt.relativenumber = true

-- width of a tab
vim.opt.shiftwidth = 2
vim.opt.tabstop = 2
vim.opt.softtabstop = 2

-- use number of spaces to insert a <Tab>
vim.opt.expandtab = true

Remember to require("config.options") in init.lua.

Keymap

Define your leader key: (I use space. Change this to whatever you like.)

vim.g.mapleader = " "

Add a new mapping:

vim.keymap.set({mode}, {lhs}, {rhs}, {opts})
  • {mode} (string or table) mode short-name
    • "": Normal, Visual, Select, Operator-pending mode
    • "n": Normal mode
    • "v": Visual and Select mode
    • "s": Select mode
    • "x": Visual mode
    • "o": Operator-pending mode
    • "i": Insert mode
    • "t": Terminal mode
    • "!": Insert Insert and Command-line mode
  • {lhs}: (string) left-hand side of the mapping, the keys we want to map
  • {rhs}: (string or function) right-hand side of the mapping, the keys or function we want to execute after pressing {lhs}
  • {opts}: (table) optional parameters
    • silent: define a mapping that will not be echoed on the command line
    • noremap: disable recursive mapping

See all available options with :h map-arguments.

Part of my lua/config/mappings.lua:

-- map leader+w to save current file in normal mode
vim.keymap.set("n", "<Leader>w", ":write<CR>", { noremap = true, silent = true })

-- map leader+y to copy to system clipboard in normal and visual mode
vim.keymap.set({ "n", "v" }, "<Leader>y", '"+y', { noremap = true, silent = true })

Remember to require("config.mappings") in init.lua.

Auto commands

Create an autocommand event handler:

nvim_create_autocmd({event}, {*opts})

{event}: (string or array) events that will trigger the handler

  • BufEnter: after entering a buffer
  • CmdlineLeave: before leaving the command-line

See all available events with :h autocmd-events.

{opts}: options

  • pattern (string or array): pattern to match
  • callback (function or string): Lua function called when the event is triggered

See all available options with :h nvim_create_autocmd.

Part of my lua/config/autocmds.lua:

-- set tab to 3 space when entering a buffer with .lua file
vim.api.nvim_create_autocmd("BufEnter", {
   pattern = { "*.lua" },
   callback = function()
      vim.opt.shiftwidth = 3
      vim.opt.tabstop = 3
      vim.opt.softtabstop = 3
   end
})

Remember to require("config.autocmds") in init.lua.

Plugins

At this point, you should already have a basic Neovim setup. However you can install plugins to make it even better!

I use lazy.nvim to manage my plugins. We need to install it first. Remember to require("config.lazy") in init.lua.

Here’s my lua/config/lazy.lua:

-- install lazy.nvim
local lazypath = vim.fn.stdpath("data") .. "/lazy/lazy.nvim"
if not vim.loop.fs_stat(lazypath) then
   vim.fn.system({
      "git",
      "clone",
      "--filter=blob:none",
      "https://github.com/folke/lazy.nvim.git",
      "--branch=stable", -- latest stable release
      lazypath,
   })
end
vim.opt.rtp:prepend(lazypath)

-- load plugins
require("lazy").setup("plugins")

The command on the last line loads all the .lua file under lua/plugins/ and the returned table will be merged and passed to setup().

Example (my lua/plugins/autoclose.lua):

return {
   {
      "m4xshen/autoclose.nvim",
      opts = {
         options = {
            disabled_filetypes = { "text" },
            disable_when_touch = true,
            pair_spaces = true,
         },
      },
   },
   "windwp/nvim-ts-autotag",
   {
      "kylechui/nvim-surround",
      version = "*",
      event = "VeryLazy",
      config = function()
         require("nvim-surround").setup({
            keymaps = {
               normal = "gs",
               normal_cur = "gss",
            },
         })
      end,
   },
}

In the returned table, the first line is the plugin’s short url and the rest are arguments(optional) to set plugins up:

  • config: Function that is executed when the plugin loads. The default implementation will run require("plugin").setup(opts).
  • opts: Passing options to the config function.
  • init: Functions that is executed during startup.

Check out all available option on lazy.nvim’s README.md.

Follow this pattern to install and set other plugins up. You can also see my plugins config files to get some ideas.

Final Words

Now you have a modern Neovim configuration file written in Lua! If you want to explore more, you can install plugins like nvim-treesitter and nvim-lspconfig. These plugins can give you better experience when coding.

Discover more plugins on: