I am in love with language servers

30 Jul 2019 · Two minute read · on Gianluca's blog

Hello everybody! I am writing this article because I had a chat with a friend of mine @wdalmut. He is a busy businessman and vimmer like me.

This article is a quick and practical way to understand why language servers are fantastic! Because they are!

When I started to use vim, I was developing almost all the time with PHP. PHP is a tricky language, and back in the day, YouCompleteMe was the way to go to have some autocomplete. However, as I said, PHP was not an excellent language for that because the number of files is enormous, and to load all of them to suggest functions and methods is tricky. Probably it is still like that.

Compared with a couple of years ago, we have more IDE and editors: Atom, VSCode, Sublime, and many more. All of them to be successful requires the same features:

You can see the language serves as a protocol to abstract and reuse those features, and many more such as go to definition, find all references, show documentation. Vim is almost like WordPress; there is a plugin for everything; for example, there is an excellent vim-go plugin to make vim to work smart with golang. The problem is works for vim and as I said, almost all the editors need the set of shared features just listed to be usable on a daily base.

The community that builds a language has a lexer a parser, and it can traverse the AST for the language that it develops. It has the knowledge and all the building blocks to provide a tool usable by different clients. The way for them to build something reusable is a language server. The clients are different editors.

This story is real, and the Golang community develops gopls (it stays for go please), the Golang language server. I use it with vim, and as a client, I use vim-coc

vim-go >1.20 works with gopls as well, you need to set it explicitly:

let g:go_def_mode='gopls'
let g:go_info_mode='gopls'

This article expresses my love for language server, not for Go or vim-go or vim! Even if I love all of them!

We spent a good amount of time to achieve developer happiness and to boost our productivity.

There are more tools and developers around here. The killer feature for LSP is its ability to create communities and to give us the ability to share reusable code.

Other than the gopls I also use sourcegraph/javascript-typescript-langserver for JavaScript and TypeScript and rust-lang/rls-vscode for rust.

As you can see, rls-vscode looks from the name a VSCode project, but only because also VSCode supports the language server protocol!

Thanks sourcegraph, microsoft and everybody behind the LSP effort!

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