Writing your first Sublime Text 3 plugin

Sublime text is an amazing text editor. Sleek, full of features, multi platform, very usable without a mouse. It is my editor of choice since a few years already.

One of its great advantages is that it is extensible in python, which makes it very easy to tweak.

I recently played with a vagrant box in which I needed to update a file. The file was mounted inside vagrant, but needed to be copied elsewhere inside the box, meaning it had to be copied manually every time I saved it. As I am very lazy (laziness drives progress, one of the favorite saying of my director of studies) I wanted to do that automagically. This is a very simple job, ideal for a first plugin.

So, where to start? Well, it is quite easy: on the menu bar click tools, then new plugin, Et voilà, you have your first plugin. Congratulations!

import sublime, sublime_plugin
class ExampleCommand(sublime_plugin.TextCommand):
 def run(self, edit):
 self.view.insert(edit, 0, "Hello, World")

This is a nice skeleton, but it does no go very far.

As I want to have an action on save, I needed to have an event listener plugin, in my case listening to a save event. I wanted to act after the event (use the file only after it was written). The API says that on_post_save_async is the best event for me, as it runs in a separate thread and is non blocking.

import sublime
import sublime_plugin

class UpdateOnSave(sublime_plugin.EventListener):

    def on_post_save_async(self, view):
        filename = view.file_name()
        # do something with the filename

Good, this is getting somewhere! All the base is present, now I just had to do something with this file.

The something is that case was a kind of subprocess call, to use vagrant ssh. Sublime already has a wrapper around subprocess, named exec. Exec can run in 2 contexts, view (basically the sublime buffer you are editing) to run TextCommands or window (sublime itself) to run all type of commands. Finding in which context to run your command is a bit of trial and error, but once done the last bit of the plugin is thus a trivial (once you know it) call to exec:

# please always use shlex with subprocess
import shlex
import sublime
import sublime_plugin
import os

class UpdateOnSave(sublime_plugin.EventListener):

    def on_post_save_async(self, view):
        filename = view.file_name()
        savedfile = os.path.basename(filename)
        saveddir = os.path.dirname(filename)

        # write in sublime status buffer
        sublime.status_message('Manually saving ' + filename)

        source_in_vagrant = '/vagrant/' + savedfile
        dest_in_vagrant = '/project/' + savedfile

        cmd_cp = "vagrant ssh -c 'sudo cp {0} {1}'".format(source, dest)

        view.window().run_command('exec', {
            'cmd': shlex.split(cmd_cp),
            'working_dir': saveddir,

Good, your plugin is ready! The last question is to know where to put it to have it actually used. With Sublime 3 under Linux, you need to have it in $HOME/.config/sublime-text-3/Packages/User. Note that it must be named something.py, with the .py extension, not the .py3 extension, or it would not be found.

You can find the plugin on github.


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