NERDTree seems to be the de facto file explorer for Vim, but it’s hard to find a good introduction to its quirks and some basic configurations without duckduckgo’ing tons of blog posts and reverse engineering individual .vimrcs. This post tries to compile all the things I learned over several hours into an easily digestable summary.

Show Hidden Files

By default, NERDTree hides dot files. For many developers, this is a frustrating default setting that makes it hard to open and edit .gitignore, .travis.yml, and other really important dotfiles. I couldn’t find any documentation about how to change the default in my .vimrc, but here’s how to do it:

" .vimrc
let NERDTreeShowHidden=1

Filter Out Custom Files and Directories

The syntax is a little weird, so let’s look at an example and then break it down:

" .vimrc
let NERDTreeIgnore=['.git$[[dir]]', '.swp']
  • Use the variable NERDTreeIgnore to configure the filters
  • Specify an array of patterns to ignore, using [ and ] to bookend the list of comma delimited patterns
  • Files should be specified as string literals (ex: '.swp')
  • Directories should be specified as string literals with the magic suffix $[[dir]]

I’m guessing that glob patterns are also supported, but I haven’t experimented with that yet. Open a PR on this article if you have experience with globs!

Update NERDTree’s View of Files


  • Click on the NERDTree buffer
  • Press R or r

Full story For performance reasons, NERDTree caches its view of the file system. This means that if you add, rename, move, or delete a file outside NERDTree, you won’t be able to see that change reflected.

Adding, Renaming, Moving, and Deleting Files and Directories

  • Click on the NERDTree buffer
  • Press m
  • Pick the option you want


This is all super basic NERDTree stuff, but I couldn’t find a good summary elsewhere. What are you advanced tricks to get the most of NERDTree?