My friend showed me a cool trick on Emacs some days ago where he could just open a file on a remote server and I instantly thought "there should be a way to do that in vim too" and it was true.

I can just use :e scp://user@server//filepath to do that, no problem ;). However, he could just type the server name and then get completion for file paths and names (with tab), something that I haven't been able to do. Does somebody know if this can be done in vim?

  • 1
    I'd have though ctrlp might support it... but apparently it's a feature request.
    – muru
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 4:58

1 Answer 1


Yes, but currently(2015) not out-of-the-box, because the built-in file-manager of vim doesn't natively support remote browsing. .

Update Q3@2016:

There are several work-arounds, with varying degrees of comfort/compatibility/effort. All together they add up to a nice solution, but they can all also be used individually:

If you can't modify your environment or .vimrc-only: In the vim file-manager you can use the //? Keys to search forwards/backwards, and you could map TAB to one of them. This is more powerful than it sounds for quickly navigating you around the file-system. Description below.

Basic Workaround (for standard vim with NetRW):

  • Don't point vim to a remote file
  • Point to a directory "at the top" e.g. $HOME: vim scp://files/, or /: vim scp://files///
  • NetRW plugin opens in wanted top-level-folder (/ or $HOME).
  • In NetRW, you can navigate with surprisingly few keystrokes:
  • To edit remote /etc/network/interfaces with NetRW on /:


You can always use ? to search back upwards, without wrapping from the top.

Even better, for nearly mimicking TAB-Completion add in .vimrc:

  • Map TAB to / in NetRW: autocmd filetype netrw noremap <buffer> <TAB> /
  • Configure NetRW for TreeView: let g:netrw_liststyle=3
  • Add a toggle for a remote VExplore for <C-E>, if you want (I use it).
  • I also recommend incsearch, ignorecase and smartcase for NetRW, or all buffers.

Compared to "conventional" tab-completion, the above is different, yet very comfortable.

Note: All of the above assumes ssh certificate based password-less connections in ~/.ssh/config with User, Port, Compression, JumpHost (ProxyCommand are setup up such that only hostname/aliases are needed.

This has also been previously discussed offsite here and here

  • 1
    Can you expand on the trick by summarizing the link? A plain link is not very useful if the site goes down or dies.
    – muru
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 2:18
  • I think, this is more or less my final "solution", until NetRW can do this natively. I will still take care of remaining known issues, but expect to find (or be pointed to) more subtle bugs, fixes, and enhancements. They will be addressed/incorporated. Thank you for commenting. Commented Aug 12, 2015 at 18:47

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