Finding files in Neovim with fzy

PublishedJanuary 27 2022
Neovim with a floating window showing fzy searching for the string 'win'.

I'm a big fan of fzy for quickly finding things in a list. I used to use it as my fuzzy file finder in vim, but lost that functionality when I moved to neovim a while back. It's time to finally fix that.

In vim, we're able to use the system function to run a command synchronously and capture its output. Since neovim focuses on asynchronicity, this behaviour is no longer supported. While this seemed like a blocker at the time, it turns out to not be a significant problem.

With neovim, we can create a buffer, start an embedded terminal in it, and then read the contents of that buffer when the terminal exits. Since fzy prints the file you selected as its only output, we can easily use the neovim buffer API's nvim_buf_get_lines to read the lines in the buffer.

The neovim support for Lua configuration has really provided a comfortable platform for me to build upon. Part of the reason for my sharing this integration was because of how pleased I was with the brevity and clarity of the final solution.

Here is the entirety of what it takes:

function _G.FzyFiles(vim_command)
	local terminal_command = 'fd -t f -H | fzy'

	CreateFloatingWindow({ height = 10 })

	local opts = {
		on_exit = function()
			local filename = table.concat(vim.api.nvim_buf_get_lines(0, 0, -1, false), " ")
			vim.fn.execute(vim_command .. ' ' .. filename)
	vim.fn.termopen(terminal_command, opts)

There's not much to it! The magic is really in the on_exit callback function, where we use the neovim API nvim_buf_get_lines function to return the lines of output from the terminal buffer, which will be the file path printed by fzy when it terminates.

Then we delete the terminal buffer, and execute a vim_command (:e, :vs, etc.) with the file path we got.

CreateFloatingWindow is a little helper function I have to make popping up a floating window easier. It's a little dense but pretty simple (most of the complexity is just calculating how to centre it):

function CreateFloatingWindow(overrides)
	-- Window maths lovingly stolen from:
	local width = vim.api.nvim_get_option('columns')
	local height = vim.api.nvim_get_option('lines')
	local win_height = math.ceil(height * 0.8 - 4)
	local win_width = math.ceil(width * 0.8)
	local col = math.ceil((width - win_width) / 2)
	local buf = vim.api.nvim_create_buf(false, true)

	local opts = {
		relative = 'editor',
		width = win_width,
		height = win_height,
		col = col,
		row = 2,
		border = 'rounded',
	for k,v in pairs(overrides) do opts[k] = v end

	return vim.api.nvim_open_win(buf, true, opts)

Then, all we need to do is bind v:lua.FzyFiles(':e') to a key, and we're done! We now have fzy integrated into neovim.