I work with lots of different servers and would like to unify my vimrc across them all. I see that vim has the source command, which I'm assuming works similar to bash. In bash, to source a file from a webpage you go

. <(curl -s domain.com)

How can I do this with vim? I'm aware that I can instead apply each vim setting by adding an alias like so:

alias vim="vim +'colorscheme elflord'"

but I'd rather not pass thru all my settings like that. I don't want to have to create a file on the local server I'm on, hence the desire to instead source into the local session. Any ideas would be appreciated!

  • I'm not sure, but maybe you could try this: $ vim -Nu <(curl url) Oct 29, 2016 at 7:23
  • Wow, this actually worked. So simple too. I'll accept this as an answer as it fits my requirements if you post!
    – Egrodo
    Oct 30, 2016 at 3:47

2 Answers 2


From :h -u:

-u {vimrc}  The file {vimrc} is read for initializations.  Most other
        initializations are skipped; see |initialization|.  This can
        be used to start Vim in a special mode, with special
        mappings and settings.  A shell alias can be used to make
        this easy to use.  For example:  
            alias vimc vim -u ~/.c_vimrc !*

So, when you want to start Vim with a custom vimrc, you can use:

$ vim -u {custom_vimrc}

But starting Vim like this will enable the 'compatible' option:

    Using the "-u" argument has the side effect that the
    'compatible' option will be on by default.  This can have
    unexpected effects.  See |'compatible'|.

… which is probably not what you want. To be sure 'compatible' is disabled, you can add the -N argument:

$ vim -Nu {custom_vimrc}

Finally, if your {custom_vimrc} file is not on your local machine but on the web, you can use a process substitution, which appears to be:

a form of redirection where the input or output of a process (some sequence of commands) appear as a temporary file.

One of the possible syntax using process substitution seems to be:

$ shell_command <( <LIST> )

… where <LIST> is a command list.

You could use this to make the output of the shell command curl url appear as a temporary file to vim -Nu. So, maybe you could start Vim from your shell with a command like this:

$ vim -Nu <(curl url)

For example:

$ vim -Nu <(curl https://raw.githubusercontent.com/tpope/vim-sensible/master/plugin/sensible.vim)

AFAIK, source doesn't let you source anything other than a file.

This function is a little bit dirty but it works:

function! GetAndSource(url)

  execute '!curl ' . a:url . ' -o vimrc.vim'
  source vimrc.vim
  execute '!rm vimrc.vim'


command! -nargs=1 GS call GetAndSource(<f-args>)
This function will curl the file, source it and delete it afterwards.

Obviously you can execute each element separately, and it'll work the same.
  • nice, I just tried tested this with a vimrc from rawgit.com - as last I checked - github had ceased providing raw files with correct HTTP headers (i.e. they would only serve the file wrapped in a HTML webpage). But interestingly it seems github have restored their raw file service, e.g. this URL would work with your function raw.githubusercontent.com/thoughtbot/dotfiles/master/vimrc Oct 29, 2016 at 5:16
  • Would prefer not to create any files, but I'll definitely keep this in mind, thanks!I
    – Egrodo
    Oct 30, 2016 at 3:47
  • Starting with Vim 9, you can source unnamed buffers and a range of lines in a file/buffer. You can get the output of curl into a buffer and invoke ":source" without any arguments to source the current buffer. Sep 8, 2022 at 14:03

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