A Garden of Meditations

Vim as a debugger

I recently learned about vim’s termdebug feature and this is small tutorial on the same. This requires at least vim 8.0 and a working gdb.

I shall be demonstrating it on the following C++ program.

#include <iostream>

int factorial(int n)
    std::cout << "n = " << n << std::endl;
    if(n < 2)
        return 1;
        return n * factorial(n - 1);

int main()
    int n = 5;
    int fact = factorial(n);
    std::cout << fact << std::endl;

Start vim, copy the above code into it and save the file as, say


To enable the debugger interface, enter

:packadd termdebug

in normal mode. For regular use, just add this to your vimrc.

To start the interface, enter


in normal mode. Now, you should see the following (perhaps with a different split layout).


One window is the source window, one is a gdb shell and the other is for interacting with program loaded.

Before proceeding further, I recommend :set mouse=a so that the mouse can be used to interact with vim.

Now compile the code by entering

:!g++ -g % -o factorial

in normal mode. Go to the gdb window and enter

file factorial

to load the executable.

Now you can not only use gdb in text mode as usual, but also use it from vim! For instance, try moving your mouse to some line and press right click -> set breakpoint. Note that this requires :set mouse=a, if you haven’t done this you can do a


after moving the cursor to the required line.

To start executing the program either do it from gdb as

run factorial

or from vim as


You can use the buttons at the top of the source window to interactively debug the program. As you should see something as follows.


For a comprehensive explanation of what can be done see this or enter :help terminal-debug.