Gutentags is a plugin that takes care of the much needed management of tags files in Vim. It will (re)generate tag files as you work while staying completely out of your way. It will even do its best to keep those tag files out of your way too. It has no dependencies and just works.

In order to generate tag files, Gutentags will have to figure out what’s in your project. To do this, it will locate well-known project root markers like SCM folders (.git, .hg, etc.), any custom markers you define (with gutentags_project_root), and even things you may have defined already with other plugins, like CtrlP.

If the current file you’re editing is found to be in such a project, Gutentags will make sure the tag file for that project is up to date. Then, as you work in files in that project, it will partially re-generate the tag file. Every time you save, it will silently, in the background, update the tags for that file.

Usually, ctags can only append tags to an existing tag file, so Gutentags removes the tags for the current file first, to make sure the tag file is always consistent with the source code.

Also, Gutentags is clever enough to not stumble upon itself by triggering multiple ctags processes if you save files to fast, or your project is really big.


The recommended method to install Gutentags is to use Pathogen:

cd ~/.vim/bundle
hg clone

You can then update the help tags with :call pathogen#helptags() and browse Gutentags’ help pages with :help gutentags.

You can alternatively download the latest snapshot as a ZIP archive and extract it yourself in the bundle directory, or any other place where Vim will pick it up.

The source code for Lawrencium is available on Github and Bitbucket, depending on which, between Git or Mercurial, is your cup of tea.

To generate the tags files, you’ll also need some kind of ctags tool. These days there’s really no need to go look beyond Exhuberant Ctags.

Quick Start

After both Gutentags and Ctags are installed, the plugin should start working for you automatically. If you open anything from inside a Git or Mercurial repository, it will recognize it and start generating tags in the background.

To know when Gutentags is generating tags, add this to your vimrc:

set statusline+=%{gutentags#statusline()}

This will print the string “TAGS” in your status-line when Gutentags is generating things in the background.

If you want to generate tags files for other things than usual source-control repositories (Git, Mercurial, Bazaar, Darcs), you can define the g:gutentags_project_root variable in your vimrc. For instance:

let g:gutentags_project_root = ['Makefile']

This will activate Gutentags when opening a file that’s somewhere under a directory that contains a Makefile file or folder.


Excluding files

If you want to exclude things on a per-project basis, or otherwise customize ctags parameters for a given project, you can place a .gutctags file at the root of your project. It’s a standard ctags options file, and will be passed to ctags via the --options parameter.

Note that your wildignore patterns are already passed as patterns to ignore, and of course your home ~/.ctags is automatically used by ctags.

Hiding tags files

If you don’t want the tags files to pollute your projects, you can define a g:gutentags_cache_dir variable in your vimrc. Tags files will go in this folder instead of each project directory.


There are more advanced options available. See :help gutentags for more information. You can also post questions and bug reports either in the Github issue tracker or the Bitbucket issue tracker.