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Setup Your vim editor for Ansible Playbook

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You may ignore this article if you are already an expert in vim as this is a quick note for those who are new to vim editor. As we know, Ansible is used by engineers from all platforms including Linux/Unix, Windows, Networking, DBA side, Developers, Middleware etc. And we know, that Ansible controlnode is available only for unix-based platforms so far. So handling playbooks is a headache as even a single white space in your playbook can spoil your entire day.

You have so many ways to edit a playbook – you can use any visual editor like atom, VSCode, Sublime etc or can sync with git or directly use GUI in Linux environment. And most of them have plugins for ansible as you can easily highlight syntax and understand the indentation.

But as a Linux user, my favourite editor is vim as I can make small changes and test the playbook instantly from CLI itself. See below, for how did I tune my vim variables to get an easy-to-understand look when I edit ansible playbooks.

vim variables

Learn about vim parameters and variables for easy editing of the yaml or any file format where indentation is very important. See some of the examples shown below.

set et ts=2 ai sw=2 nu
set nu - show line number
set tabstop=4
set et

See some of the definitions below.

  • ts: tabstop – eg: tabstop=2
  • et: expandtab
  • sw: shiftwidth – eg: shiftwidth=4
  • sts: softtabstop – eg: softtabstop=4
  • nu: show line number
  • cuc: cursorcolumn

Enable syntax

This is on by default in most of the cases but make sure.

syntax on

Choose your colorscheme

You can see the installed colorschemes by typing :colorscheme and then a space and press TAB in vim editor.

:colorscheme desert

Show Line Numbers

You must enable the line number visibility

set number 

Make your cursor more visible

It would be great if you enable this as your current cursor position will be more visible.

set cursorline 

Enable Indent Visibility

There are so many free plugins/codes to enable this and see I have used IndentLine by Yggdroot.

To set all items as permanent

Edit your ~/.vimrc file and add the below lines

autocmd FileType yaml setlocal et ts=2 ai sw=2 nu sts=0
set cursorline

Finally, see the vim editor with autoindent, cursorline, indentlines, etc

You may refer this gist or this article for more details on vim customization.

Do you want to learn more about Ansible practical use cases? Check the latest book from the author as follows. Available on Packt and Amazon.

Ansible for Real Life Automation


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Gineesh Madapparambath is the founder of techbeatly and he is the author of the book - 𝗔𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗥𝗲𝗮𝗹-𝗟𝗶𝗳𝗲 𝗔𝘂𝘁𝗼𝗺𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻. He has worked as a Systems Engineer, Automation Specialist, and content author. His primary focus is on Ansible Automation, Containerisation (OpenShift & Kubernetes), and Infrastructure as Code (Terraform). (aka Gini Gangadharan -


7 Responses

  1. zerodmg says:

    Hey , thanks !!!! very useful

  2. Narayan Banik says:

    set cursorlin –> set cursorline

  3. Chris says:

    if you dont use cuc then set cursorline doesn’t work

  4. Jeffrey says:

    Hey Gineesh, thanks for the tips! Peace and blessings. 🤓👍

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