Tab completion in Neovim with LazyVim and nvim-cmp

It took me way longer than it probably should have to make Neovim do what I wanted.

tl;dr: Here is the section of my neovim config where I got nvim-cmp to complete on Tab instead of Enter.

Neovim is my text editor of choice. I’m trying as much as possible to get out of the “maintain my own vim config” game, but a little bit of customization is unavoidable (and even desirable!) so that I can get the editing experience that makes me the most productive, that removes as much interference as possible between what I’m thinking and how I need the text to change.

To whit: I don’t want to have to press Enter everytime I want to accept a completion from hrsh7th/nvim-cmp, I want to press Tab. Pressing Enter kept dumping a bunch of completions into the editor when I didn’t want them to often enough to get really annoying. Occasionally I’d press Enter and get some multiline piece of text from Copilot dumped in, too. No bueno.

The Players

A couple of things are at work in my config, making things complicated. I mean, they’re also making my general text editing experience wonderful, but in this case – badness.


My neovim config is based on LazyVim, which is a great starting config for neovim. LazyVim, in turn, makes tremendous use of folke/lazy.nvim. LazyVim is the total config package, lazy.nvim is a plugin manager. I know, a little confusing.

LazyVim is opinionated and comes with tons of plugins all painstakingly set up to work together.

Naturally, since I can’t leave well enough alone, I added a bunch of things and turned off a bunch of other things. Which means that I’ve upset the balance of carefully crafted config beauty and left a bunch of muddy footprints all over the place.


As near as I can tell, hrsh7th/nvim-cmp is basically what everyone uses for completions in neovim. It’s really great. I get a little frustrated trying to browse its documentation but I’ve found its code to be readable enough while angry and frustrated to solve my problems. That’s a great metric, I think.

You were talking about Tab instead of Enter?

Right, right.

In lots of places all over the internet I’d seen examples that looked like this:

-- ... nvim-cmp config stuff before this...
['<Tab>'] = cmp.mapping(function(fallback)
  if cmp.visible() then
    -- You could replace select_next_item() with confirm({ select = true }) to get VS Code autocompletion behavior
  -- You could replace the expand_or_jumpable() calls with expand_or_locally_jumpable()
  -- this way you will only jump inside the snippet region
  elseif luasnip.expand_or_jumpable() then
  elseif has_words_before() then
end, { 'i', 's' }),
-- ...nvim-cmp config stuff ater this...

I was pretty sure that this said “in insert and select modes, when cmp is doing stuff and I press Tab, run this lua code”. This configuration snippet is a lot like what nvim-cmp calls its “vim-vsnip” example mapping.

I thought that meant I could stick that mapping into my LazyVim config and call it a day. But when I did that, pressing Tab did not run nor select the current completion. No variation of this code was working. I tried debugging it with some print statements and never saw those strings appear in my :messages. Drat. 😡

I figured it was something in LazyVim that I was missing, but I was having trouble figuring out what that was.

print(vim.inspect()) to the rescue!

opts and LazyVim configs

My LazyVim override for nvim-cmp looks something like this:

    lazy = false,
    dependencies = { 'hrsh7th/cmp-emoji' },
    opts = function(_, opts)
      -- ... stuff goes here ...

I’m shoving stuff in that function I’m assigning to opts, including my non-working Tab mapping. But I want to be careful not to override the other mappings from LazyVim.

According to the folke/lazy.nvim docs:

opts should be a table (will be merged with parent specs), return a table (replaces parent specs) or should change a table. The table will be passed to the Plugin.config() function. Setting this value will imply Plugin.config()

Cool, cool. I knew the block as a whole was working (even if my Tab mapping wasn’t); print statements in the function proved it was running. I knew LazyVim was putting a bunch of default mappings in there as well, because that’s what makes it useful – a bunch of plugins configured to work well together.

When I ran a print(vim.inspect(opts.mapping)) in that function I saw the default mappings provided by LazyVim for CR and S-CR (that’s Enter and Shift + Enter to you and me). Well, heck! What happens if I reset those after I set my Tab mapping?

opts.mapping['<CR>'] = nil
opts.mapping['<S-CR>'] = nil

Et voilà! Now my Tab completions were working and pressing Enter no longer accepted the completion choices!

In order not to overwrite the stuff I didn’t want to overwrite, I was setting the opts.mapping like this:

opts.mapping = vim.tbl_extend('force', opts.mapping, {
-- ...more mapping stuff...

If I set those two properties as nil inside that vim.tbl_extend('force', opts.mapping, {... business they won’t override – I guess vim.tbl_extend won’t override an exiting table value if the rightmost value is nil, even under force. TIL!

The End!

You made it!

I honestly don’t know why Enter was getting privileged above Tab in my case. I poked around in the nvim-cmp and LazyVim codebases a bit but nothing jumped out at me. I might’ve been the victim of arbitrary key sorting in the options table, maybe?

That’s not a satisfying answer, and doesn’t imply that the problem will never come up again, which is unfortunate.

But it’s working now and I’m happy. And I wanted to write down my thought process so it might help someone else sometime. Including me, in the future, when I’ve forgotten all this. 🧠

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