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Automatically refresh display of html on saving file

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created June 15, 2010 · complexity basic · author A generic person · version 7.0

Editing HTML in Vim is a lot nicer if you can see updates in Firefox without needing to remove your hands from the keyboard. With MozRepl and a little vimrc script, you can do just that!

The bad old way

You are probably all too familiar with this annoying mini-workflow:

  • Edit your HTML/CSS file.
  • Hit save in Vim.
  • CMD/CNTRL/ALT + TAB over to Firefox.
  • Press Ctrl-R in Firefox to refresh.
  • CMD/CNTRL/ALT + TAB back to Vim.
  • Do it again and again, wincing a little bit each time.

The joyful new Vim + MozRepl way

With the little vimrc + MozRepl hack shown below, all you need to do is:

  • Edit your HTML/css file.
  • Hit save in Vim – Firefox will refresh automatically, preserving its scroll offsets!

This integration is no where near as fancy as the Emacs MozRepl binding, but this one feature makes it super useful.

Vim + MozRepl

When editing an .html,.css, or .gtpl file, make Firefox refresh after the buffer is saved, preserving the current scroll offset.


  1. MozRepl must be installed and running in Firefox
  2. Netcat (nc) must be on your path.
  3. Firefox and Vim are both on the same machine (localhost).

How it works

I use echo + netcat (nc) to send a dopey little MosRepl script (see below) to Firefox. All the output is tossed away (2>&1 > /dev/null) because MozRepl is chatty.

Global variables are used (vimXo, vimYo) to capture the X,Y offset of the web page for Vim. Maybe there's a way to not use a global, but I don't know what that might be. After saving the buffer and reloading the browser, scroll to the X,Y offset.

See also:

Code for vimrc

autocmd BufWriteCmd *.html,*.css,*.gtpl :call Refresh_firefox()
function! Refresh_firefox()
  if &modified
    silent !echo  'vimYo = content.window.pageYOffset;
          \ vimXo = content.window.pageXOffset;
          \ BrowserReload();
          \ content.window.scrollTo(vimXo,vimYo);
          \ repl.quit();'  |
          \ nc -w 1 localhost 4242 2>&1 > /dev/null

- added "-w 1" flag to netcat to solve occasional hung connections

A few additions

To put in vimrc:

command! -nargs=1 Repl silent !echo
      \ "repl.home();
      \ content.location.href = '<args>';
      \ repl.enter(content);
      \ repl.quit();" |
      \ nc localhost 4242

nmap <leader>mh :Repl http://
" mnemonic is MozRepl Http
nmap <silent> <leader>ml :Repl file:///%:p<CR>
" mnemonic is MozRepl Local
nmap <silent> <leader>md :Repl http://localhost/
" mnemonic is MozRepl Development

Now, when working on local html files, if you switch files often then just press <leader>ml and the file is shown in Firefox. Also, <leader>mh will bring you to ex mode where you can type in a URL and go there in Firefox etc.

See also


Excellent! Needed something to replace LiveReload on my Linux workstation at work. This did the trick. Thanks.

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