I want to detect from a BufEnter autocommand whether the buffer is a netrw directory listing.

It seems that when the autocommand is fired, the filetype is empty and there are no netrw-related buffer variables. Furthermore the bufname() is empty. However when I manually look at the filetype it is "netrw", the b:netrw_curdir variable is set, and the buffer has a name (the directory it shows).

How can I determine during the autocommand when the buffer is a netrw directory listing?

This is on Vim 9.0.1276.

2 Answers 2


Obviously, netrw intercepts BufEnter itself to set the things up. So upon first BufEnter it depends on which autocmd was registered first: yours or netrw's one. As you want to go after netrw you can move your code under ~/.vim/after/plugin directory, for example.

However, I'd rather switched to BufWinEnter event, as it gets triggered less often than BufEnter (only after the buffer is shown in a window for the first time, and not after every buffer switching) and after the first BufEnter event anyway. In many cases it might be just what one needs.

Also, I would consider dropping netrw at all, as it is... well, what to say, I really dislike it.

  • Aha, it makes sense that netrw would intercept BufEnter. I tried to work through netrw's code but I found it very unclear. I haven't used it myself for many years. I'm trying to fix an issue with vim-rooter. Sep 13, 2023 at 13:41
  • BufWinEnter could work for my use case, I think. I'll try it. Sep 13, 2023 at 13:42
  • BufWinEnter seems to fire before BufEnter in this case. Sep 13, 2023 at 14:38

Thanks to Matt's answer I realised I couldn't detect a netrw directory listing in a BufEnter autocommand (unless the code is running from an after directory).

So I switched to using a Filetype netrw autocommand.

  • At which point you might as well use ~/.vim/after/ftplugin/netrw.vim or equivalent on your system.
    – D. Ben Knoble
    Sep 14, 2023 at 18:09
  • This is all for a plugin and for some reason I thought that plugins couldn't have after/ directories. But it turns out they can :) Sep 15, 2023 at 11:21
  • For a plugin, you probably don’t need after. I recommend it for personal configuration because 99% of the time it’s the right thing and it’s less confusing.
    – D. Ben Knoble
    Sep 15, 2023 at 11:41

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