You can achieve autocompletion like the cool IDEs (such as PHPStorm or NetBeans) by using the built in omni completion.

How you do that? Go to the variable you want to call a method on, and after the arrow invoke

public function foo(Bar $bar)

Then you will read the following message:

”– ^X mode (^]^D^E^F^I^K^L^N^O^Ps^U^V^Y)”

It means you can press Control (^) plus ](or D, or E, or F, or I, or K, or L, or N, or O, or Ps, or U, or V, or Y). Each of the options is a different type of completion.

Go for Ctrl+O

<ctrl>x <ctrl>o

You will most likely read: “– Omni completion (^O^N^P) Pattern not found”.

The reason is that vim does not know anything about your methods yet. Instead of implementing method indexing, VIM relies on CTAGS.

Assuming you have ctags installed, you can run:


That will create a tags file which is an index of all your functions/methods in your project. Go ahead, check how it looks like. Do not forget to ignore it in your project.

The format of this tags file can be changed with options in the command line. I do not remember what I should type to properly index my code, so I create a ~/.ctags with this content. For starters just copy mine. Remember that ctags --help is your friend.

When you have a config file you can just run ctags and forget about the options. It will read from the config file. Command arguments have priority over the config file.

Now that you have your tags file, you can try again.

<ctrl>x <ctrl>o

Now you should be able to read a list of methods. You can navigate with C-N (next) and C-P (previous).

But it may happen that instead of listing only the methods that belongs to that particular object, it lists all of the methods in your project. The reason is that ctags does not support php namespaces.

This is why you can install “patched CTAGS” as described in the vim phpcomplete plugin which you should totally use.

That should do it, but…

I found myself having some problems with omni complete in VIM, and do not know the reason. For example I cannot get PHPUnit_Framework_TestCase methods, such as assert* to be listed when I use patched ctags. I should take the time to figure that out some day, but in the end those cases won’t bother me so much so I end up leaving with that.

I suppose the reason is that PHPUnit_Framework_TestCase lives in the global namespace and patched ctags expects it to have at least one parent namespace.


Autocomplete is an important feature for developers, and VIM autocomplete options really rock. There is so much else to be talked about completion in vim. I briefly covered omni completion here. I admit that this particular type of completion tend to be much better in heavy IDEs such as PHPStorm and Netbeans, but I think it is good enough in VIM.

Please leave a comment if you need any help with that. I hope to record a video showing how that can be done.