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4 days ago


This is the Neovim implementation of the famous Emacs Hydra package.

Description for Poets

Once you summon the Hydra through the prefixed binding (the body + any one head), all heads can be called in succession with only a short extension.

The Hydra is vanquished once Hercules, any binding that isn't the Hydra's head, arrives. Note that Hercules, besides vanquishing the Hydra, will still serve his original purpose, calling his proper command. This makes the Hydra very seamless.

Description for Pragmatics

Imagine you want to change the size of your current window. Vim allows you to do it with <C-w>+, <C-w>-, <C-w><, <C-w>> bindings. So, you have to press <C-w>+<C-w>+<C-w>+<C-w><<C-w><<C-w><... as many times as you need (I know about count prefixes, but I was never fun of them). Hydra allows you to press <C-w> just once and then get access to any <C-w>... bindings without pressing the prefix again: <C-w>+++++--<<<<. Or buffer side scrolling: instead of zlzlzlzlzlzl... press zlllllllllhhhl to freely scroll buffer left and right. Any key other than bind to a hydra will stop hydra state and do what they should.

Hydra also allows assigning a custom hint to such group of keybindings to allows you an easy glance at what you can do.

If you want to quickly understand the concept, you can watch the original Emacs Hydra video demo

Sample Hydras

Side scroll

Simple hydra to scroll screen to the side with auto generated hint.

local Hydra = require('hydra')

   name = 'Side scroll',
   mode = 'n',
   body = 'z',
   heads = {
      { 'h', '5zh' },
      { 'l', '5zl', { desc = '←/→' } },
      { 'H', 'zH' },
      { 'L', 'zL', { desc = 'half screen ←/→' } },

Git submode

A full fledged git "submode".

Link to the code

Telescope menu

You can also create a fancy menu to easy recall seldom used mappings.

Link to the code

Frequently used options

Link to the code

More hydras

You can find more hydras in the wiki. Feel free to add your own or edit the existing ones!


To install with packer use:

use 'anuvyklack/hydra.nvim' 

How to create hydra

To create hydra you need to call Hydra's constructor with input parameters table of the next form:

local Hydra = require('hydra')
    name = "Hydra's name",
    hint = [[...]] -- multiline string
    config = {...}
    mode = 'n',
    body = '<leader>o',
    heads = {...},

Each of the fields of this table is described in details below.


string (optional)

The name of the hydra. Not necessary, used only in auto-generated hint.


string | string[]
default: "n"

Mode or modes in which this hydra will exist. Same format as vim.keymap.set() accepts.


string (optional)

To summon the hydra you need to press in sequence keys corresponds to body + any head. For example, if body is z and heads are: a, b, c, you can invoke hydra with any of the za, zb, zc keybindings.

Hydra without body can only be summoned through Hydra:activate() method.



With this table, you can set the behavior of the whole hydra, which later can be customized for each head particularly. Below is a list of all options.


default: true
parent table: config

The exit option (heads can override it) defines what will happen after executing head's command:

  • exit = false (the default) means that the hydra state will continue — you'll still see the hint and be able to use hydra bindings;
  • exit = true means that the hydra state will stop.


"warn" | "run" | nil
default: nil
parent table: config

The foreign_keys option belongs to the body and decides what to do when a key is pressed that doesn't belong to any head:

  • foreign_keys = nil (the default) means that the hydra state will stop and the foreign key will do whatever it was supposed to do if there was no hydra state.
  • foreign_keys = "warn" will not stop the hydra state, but instead will issue a warning without running the foreign key.
  • foreign_keys = "run" will not stop the hydra state, and try to run the foreign key.


"red" | "amaranth" | "teal" | "pink"
default: "red"
parent table: config

The color option is a shortcut for both exit and foreign_keys options and aggregates them in the following way:

| color    | toggle                             |
| red      |                                    |
| blue     | exit = true                        |
| amaranth | foreign_keys = 'warn'              |
| teal     | foreign_keys = 'warn', exit = true |
| pink     | foreign_keys = 'run'               |

It's also a trick to make you instantly aware of the current hydra keys that you're about to press: the keys will be highlighted with the appropriate color.

Note: The exit and foreign_keys options are higher priority than color option and can't be overridden by it. I.e, if manually set values of exit and foreign_keys options contradict the color option value, then exactly thees values will be taken into account and for color option the matching value will be automatically set

More about colors concept

Each hydra head has a basic associated color, red or blue, that determines whether or not the hydra will continue after the head is called:

  • red head will execute the command and continue the state
  • blue head will execute the command and stop the state

They may have a reddish or a bluish face that isn't exactly red or blue, but that's what they are underneath.

Overall, the hydra body can have one of five variants of the basic colors: amaranth, teal, pink, red, blue. They (according to basic color) determines the default behavior of all the heads; and determines what happens when a key that is not associated to a head is pressed. The following table summarizes the effects of the different colors.

Body Color Basic color Executing NON-HEAD Executing HEAD
amaranth red Disallow and Continue Continue
teal blue Disallow and Continue Quit
pink red Allow and Continue Continue
red red Allow and Quit Continue
blue blue Allow and Quit Quit
Amaranth color

The amaranth color wasn't chosen by accident because it is the variation of the red color, but it has the sense underneath. According to Wikipedia:

The word amaranth comes from the Greek word amaranton, meaning "unwilting" (from the verb marainesthai, meaning "wilt"). The word was applied to amaranth because it did not soon fade and so symbolized immortality.

Hydras with amaranth body are impossible to quit with any binding except a blue head.

Blue and teal colors

A blue hydra has little sense in Vim since it works exactly like standard Vim multi-key keybinding with addition you can add a custom hint to it.

A teal hydra working the same way, except it blocks all other keys which are not hydra heads, what can be useful.

Pink color

Pink hydra is of a different nature. It is a key-layer inside, so all keys except overwritten are work as usual. Even [count] prefixes.


true | number
parent table: config

Define hydra only for particular buffer. If true — the current buffer will be used.


default: false
parent table: config

By default, to invoke the hydra you need to press in sequence keys corresponds to body + any non-private head (about private heads see later). This option allows you to summon hydra by pressing only the body keys.

on_enter and on_exit

parent table: config

Functions that will be called on enter and on exit hydra.


Inside the on_enter functions the vim.o, vim.go, and vim.wo meta-accessors are redefined to work the way you think they should. If you want some option value to be temporary changed while Hydra is active, you need just set it with one of this meta-accessor in the on_enter function. And that's it. No need to set it back in on_exit function. All other will be done automatically in the backstage.

config = {
    on_enter = function()
       print('Hydra enter') = false  -- temporary set `nomodifiable` while Hydra is active
    on_exit = function()
       print('Hydra exit')
       -- No need to set modifiable back here


parent table: config

Function that will be called after every hydra head.


boolean | number parent table: config

The timeout option set a timer after which the hydra will be automatically disabled. Calling any head will refresh the timer. (see :help timeout, :help timeoutlen)

  • timeout = true — enable timer and set its to 'timeoutlen' option value;
  • timeout = false — disabled timer: the hydra will wait as long as you want, until you manually cancel it;
  • timeout = 5000 — set timer to desired amount of milliseconds.


table | false parent table: config

If false — doesn't show hint. Or a table with settings for manually- or auto-generated hint.

  • type "window" | "cmdline" | "statusline" (default: if hint passed: "window", else: "cmdline")

    • "window" — show hint in a floating window;

    • "cmdline" — show hint in a echo area;

    • "statusline" — show auto-generated hint in the statusline. If hint is passed, then this value will be ignored and "window" will be used.

  • position string (default: "bottom")
    (valid when type is "window")

    Set the position of the hint. Should be one from the next table:

      top-left   |   top    |  top-right
     middle-left |  middle  | middle-right
     bottom-left |  bottom  | bottom-right
  • offset number (default: 0)
    (valid when type is "window")

    The offset from the nearest editor border.

  • border "single" | "double" | "rounded" | "solid" | "shadow" | "none" | string[] (default: "none")
    (valid when type is "window")

    The border of the hint window. See :help nvim_open_win()

  • show_name boolean (default: true)

    Show hydras name or HYDRA: label at the beginning of an auto-generated hint.

  • funcs table<string, fun():string> (built-in functions)

    Table where keys are function names and values are functions them self. Each function should return string. This functions can be required from hint with %{func_name} syntaxis.

Hydra's heads

Each hydra's head has the form:

{ head, rhs, opts }

which is pretty-much compares to the signature of the vim.keymap.set() function.


The lhs (left-hand-side) of the mapping, i.e the keys you press to call an action.


string | function | nil

Right-hand-side of the mapping. Can be nil which means just do nothing, but if you also want to pass opts table, you need to pass nil explicitly.



A table with head options to tune its behavior.



When the hydra hides (not active), the private head does not bounce outside.

I.e., the private head is unreachable outside of the hydra state.



Stop the hydra state after executing a command corresponds to such head.

Note: All exit heads are also private.

Note: If no exit head is specified, the <Esc> key will be set by default.

Note: Remind that rhs can be nil, so the pure escape head looks like this:

{ '<Esc>', nil, { exit = true } }


If false config.on_key function won't be executed after this head.


string | false

The description that will be shown in the auto-generated part of the hint. If false won't be show in the hint window

expr, silent


Built-in map arguments. See:

  • :help :map-<expr>
  • :help :map-<silent>


Only relevant for pink hydra. For all others will be skipped. The pink hydra is a layer inside, and Layer binds its keymaps buffer local, which makes flag nowait available. See :help :map-<nowait>.

This allows, for example bind exit key:

config = {
    color = 'pink',
heads = {
    { 'q', nil, { nowait = true } }

which will exit layer, without waiting &timeoutlen milliseconds for possible continuation.


string | string[]

Overwrite mode field for this particular head. Only relevant for pink hydra, for all others will be ignored.


multiline string

You can create any hint you wish.

horizontal vertical

To highlight a key, just wrap it in underscores. Note that the key must belong to one of the heads. The key will be highlighted with the color that is appropriate to the behavior of the key, i.e. if the key will make the hydra exit, the color will be blue.

To insert an empty character, use ^. It won't be rendered. The only use of it is to have your code aligned as nicely as the result.

You can also create a Lua functions which returns a string and place it in config.hint.funcs table under some key which will be used as a function name. Than you can require this function from the hint wrap its name (key in the table) with %{...}. The result of the function will be inserted in that place in the hint when it will be shown. And later this function will be called every time when hydra head will be pressed and the hint will be updated with the function result string. Some functions are already built-in, you can find them in this file. You may submit or request some others which you think may be useful. The using of this feature is shown in options hydra.

If you pass no hint, then one line hint will be generated automatically. The keys and their descriptions will be placed in the order heads were passed in the heads table. Heads with desc = false in opts table will be skipped.

Every head that won't be found in the manually created hint, will be automatically added at the bottom of the hint window according to rules of auto generated hint.

Public methods

  • Hydra:activate() — a public method, which serves to activate hydra programmatically;
  • Hydra:exit() — exit hydra if it is active.


Hydra defines next highlight groups with their defaults:

HydraRed        #FF5733
HydraBlue       #5EBCF6
HydraAmaranth   #ff1757
HydraTeal       #00a1a1
HydraPink       #ff55de
  • HydraHint — linked to NormalFloat, defines the fore- and background of the hint window;
  • HydraBorder — linked to FloatBorder, defines the fore- and background of the border.

Keymap utility functions

Utility functions to use in keymaps. Can be required from the next table:

  • cmd(command)

    Get a string and wrap it in <Cmd>, <CR>. I.e.:

    cmd(vsplit)  ->  "<Cmd>vsplit<CR>"

    param: command : string
    return: string

  • pcmd(try_cmd, catch?, catch_cmd?)

    Protected cmd. Examples explain better:

    pcmd("wincmd k", "E11", "close")
    ->  "<Cmd>try | wincmd k | catch /^Vim\%((\a\+)\)\=:E11:/ | close | endtry<CR>"
    pcmd("wincmd k", nil, "close")
    ->  "<Cmd>try | wincmd k | catch | close | endtry<CR>"
    ->  "<Cmd>try | close | catch | endtry<CR>"

    See: :help exception-handling


    • try_cmd : string
    • catch : string (optional) — String of the form E + some digits, like E12 or E444.
    • catch_cmd : string (optional)

    return: string


In the statusline module require('hydra.statusline') there are functions that can help you to integrate Hydra in your statusline:

  • is_active() — returns true if there is an active hydra;
  • get_name() — get the name of an active hydra if it has it;
  • get_color() — get the color of an active hydra;
  • get_hint() — get an active hydra's statusline hint. Return not nil only when config.hint is set to false.


[count] is not supported in a red, amaranth and teal hydras (see :help count). But supported in pink hydra since it is a layer.

How it works under the hood

You can read about the internal mechanics in the CONTRIBUTING