This is the first article(collection) on how to build a *nix development environment by integrating remote servers and local Linux/Mac clients. For the following-up article on this topic, please refer to Building Remote+Local *nix Develop Environment(II).

1. .bashrc vs .bash_profile

The Bash is configured by .bashrc or .bash_profile. According to the bash man page, .bash_profile is executed for login shells, while .bashrc is executed for interactive non-login shells.

When you login (type username and password) via console(either sitting at the machine, or remotely via ssh), .bash_profile is executed to configure your shell before the initial command prompt.

HOwever, if you’ve already logged into your machine and open a new terminal window(like xterm) inside Gnome or KDE, then .bashrc is executed before the window command prompt. .bashrc is also run when you start a new bash instance by typing /bin/bash in a terminal.

An exception to the terminal window guidelines is Mac OS X’s, which runs a login shell by default for each new terminal window, calling .bash_profile instead of .bashrc.

There are two options to make one copy of bash config file work for all scenarios:

  • force .bash_profile to be a link of .bash_rc, or vice versa: ln -s ~/.bashrc ~/.bash_profile.
  • or source .bashrc from your .bash_profile file, then putting PATH and common settings in .bashrc. To do this, add the following lines to .bash_profile:

    if [ -f ~/.bashrc ]; then source ~/.bashrc fi

2. sshfs

SSHFS (SSH Filesystem) is a filesystem client to mount and interact with directories and files located on a remote server or workstation. SSHFS is based on FUSE (the best userspace filesystem framework for *nix ).

For Linux distributions, you can install sshfs using sudo apt-get install sshfs or sudo yum install sshfs. However, for Mac OS X, you will need to download FUSE and SSHFS from the osxfuse site.

To mount remote directories, you can use command

sshfs username@hostname_or_ip:/remote/dir /local/dir [ssh_options]

After mounting the remote directory, you can manipulate remote files just like local files. And you can use any local tools that’s convenient for you to read/write remote files.

To remove the mounted remote directory, please use command

fusermount -u <LOCAL_MOUNT_POINT>

for Linux, and use command

umount [-f] <LOCAL_MOUNT_POINT>

for Mac OS X.

Since sshfs command requires too much parameters, and things will be worse when the network is not stable. This wrapper script will ease your pain.

3. vim/gvim/mvim

File $HOME/.vimrc is used for Vim configuration, and Vim plugins are can be installed into directory $HOME/.vim.

3.1 Word, variable, function, and line completion

Word completion: if words or functions are in your dictionary, or in the current file, you can save a lot of time with <Ctrl-P> and <Ctrl-N>.

vim completion

Line completion: <Ctrl-X>, <Ctrl-L> will load the matching lines (white space matters!) into the menu, and from there you can move forward and backward with arrows or <Ctrl-P> and <Ctrl-N> (for Previous and Next).

3.2 Indentation

To turn indentation on, use command :filetype indent plugin on. You also can add this line into .vimrc.

For those times when you’ve pasted some text in and the indentation is wrong, (your indent plugin must be loaded), you can use the = command. It’s probably easiest to type 10= to re-indent the next ten lines, or to use visual mode and press <=>.

If you want, you can indent lines with >> and unindent them with <<.

If you are in insert mode, use <Ctrl-D> and <Ctrl-T> to change the indentation of the line (<Ctrl-D> decreases indentation by one level and <Ctrl-T> increases it by one level).

3.3 Open Multiple Files

If you want to start vim with several files in a splitted window, just type

vim -o a b c

for the horizontal split, and

vim -O a b c

for the vertical split.

To change between the windows opened, use <crtl+ww>.

Here are some commands to turn one vim session (inside one xterm) into multiple windows.

:e filename      - edit another file
:split filename  - split window and load another file
ctrl-w up arrow  - move cursor up a window
ctrl-w ctrl-w    - move cursor to another window (cycle)
ctrl-w_          - maximize current window
ctrl-w=          - make all equal size
10 ctrl-w+       - increase window size by 10 lines
:vsplit file     - vertical split
:sview file      - same as split, but readonly
:hide            - close current window
:only            - keep only this window open
:ls              - show current buffers
:b 2             - open buffer #2 in this window

3.4 Execute shell command

To execute a shell command in vim, use :! <command> .

4. ctags+vim+Tagbar

ctags generates an index (or tags) file of language objects found in source files that allows these items to be quickly and easily located by a text editor or other utility. Exuberant-ctags is the most popular tags tool in *nix world. However, the built-in Mac OS X is not exuberant-ctags and is missing most of the useful features. Command brew install ctags can be used to install exuberant-ctags in OS X.

To use ctags:

ctags -R .  # create file "tags" for current directory
ctags -R -f ./.git/tags .   # create "tags"  file under a specified directory

In Vim:

  • To show the tags you’ve traversed since you opened vim, run :tags.
  • Typing :tag text will cause Vim to search through tags for a tag name,
  • and :tag /pattern will search for pattern instead.
  • :ts or :tselect shows the list.
  • :tn or :tnext goes to the next tag in that list.
  • :tp or :tprev goes to the previous tag in that list.
  • :tf or :tfirst goes to the first tag of the list.
  • :tl or :tlast goes to the last tag of the list.

After moving the cursor to a word,

  • <Ctrl+]> - go to definition.
  • <Ctrl+T> - Jump back from the definition.
  • <Ctrl+W Ctrl+]> - Open the definition in a horizontal split.
  • <Ctrl+Left MouseClick> - Go to definition.
  • <Ctrl+Right MouseClick> - Jump back from definition

To open the definition of a tag in a new tab, add the following lines in .vimrc:

map <C-\> :tab split<CR>:exec("tag ".expand("<cword>"))<CR>
map <A-]> :vsp <CR>:exec("tag ".expand("<cword>"))<CR>


  • <Ctrl+\> - Open the definition in a new tab.
  • <Alt+]> - Open the definition in a vertical split.

To search for a specific tag and open Vim to its definition, run command vim -t <tag> in your shell.

Tagbar is another useful vim plugin to browse the tags of the current file and get an overview of its structure. Before using Tagbar, map shortcut in .vimrc, like

nmap tb :TagbarToggle<CR>

, which bind key <t+b> to show/hide Tagbar.

To save the effort of generating ctags, I wrote a cross-platform(Linux & Mac OS X) wrapper script, which can be found in my GitHub channel.

5. vnc

Vncserver and vncviewer are convenient for accessing remote GUI. Actually I am trying my best to avoid the use of remote GUI and VNC. Because I don’t like start heavy GUI like Gnome or KDE in remote server, I will try to use MWM or OLVWM if I have to. To make them fancy, you need to modify or download the corresponding .*rc files, .Xdefaults or .Xresources files.


  1. .bash_profile vs .bashrc
  2. What’s the difference between .bashrc, .bash_profile, and .environment?
  3. How To Use SSHFS to Mount Remote File Systems Over SSH
  4. Vim and Ctags
  5. Vim 101: Tags
  6. Vim and Ctags tips and tricks