Introducing Yo-Dawg.nvim

Yo dawg, I heard you like Neovim, so I put a Neovim inside your Neovim, so you can edit while you edit! Ahem... anyway, in my previous post I proposed a plugin which would make it easier to control an embedded Neovim from within Neovim. So I went ahead and wrote yo-dawg.nvim (GitHub mirror), named after the “Yo dawg” internet meme.

Why would you need a plugin like this? Well, you really don't, Neovim provides all the tools you need, but if you find yourself starting Neovim processes and sending them messages over and over again the boilerplate code can add up very quickly. Let's take a look at an example from the manual. Here is what a minimal session looks like using the stock Neovim API:

-- Start the process
local cmd = {'nvim', '--embed', '--headless'}
local nvim = vim.fn.jobstart(cmd, {rpc = true})

-- Call an API method
local value = vim.rpcrequest(nvim, 'nvim_eval', '1 + 2')

-- Gracefully terminate the process
vim.rpcnotify(nvim, 'nvim_cmd', {cmd = 'quitall', bang = true}, {})

Now let's see what it looks like with yo-dawg:

local yd = require 'yo-dawg'

-- Start the process
local nvim = yd.start()

-- Call an API method
local value = nvim:eval('1 + 2')

-- Gracefully terminate the process

Much simpler and less noisy. We only need to spell out what really matters. Sure, if you only need to spin up a process once in a blue moon it might not be worth pulling in an extra plugin, but when writing tests you need to spin up a new process for each individual test.

The plugin is purely a library, there is nothing to configure, no new commands, no new mappings. The start function returns a handle to a new Neovim process, the stop function gracefull quits the process. You can call any API method as a method of the handle, the names are the same minus the nvim_ prefix. And the best part is that we are forwards compatible: thanks to metatable magic any new API method will be supported automatically.

I have gone ahead and added it as a test dependency to rainbow-delimiters.nvim and it has really improved the readability of my tests. You could say I was eating my own “dawg food”. I will definitely be using it in further tests for other plugins and I hope other people find it useful as well. Who knows, maybe you will find a different use for it other than testing.