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About Language Server Protocol and Kakoune text editor

Written by Solène, on 24 November 2020.
Tags: #kakoune #openbsd

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In this article I will explain how to install a lsp plugin for kakoune to add language specific features such as autocompletion, syntax error reporting, easier navigation to definitions and more.

The principle is to use "Language Server Protocol" (LSP) to communicate between the editor and a daemon specific to a programming language. This can be also done with emacs, vim and neovim using the according plugins.

Language Server Protocol on Wikipedia

For python, _pyls_ would be used while for C or C++ it would be _clangd_.

The how-to will use OpenBSD as a base. The package names may certainly vary for other systems.


We need _kak-lsp_ which requires rust and cargo. We will need git too to fetch the sources, and obviously kakoune.

# pkg_add kakoune rust git


Official building steps documentation

I recommend using a dedicated build user when building programs from sources, without a real audit you can't know what happens exactly in the build process. Mistakes could be done and do nasty things with your data.

$ git clone https://github.com/kak-lsp/kak-lsp
$ cd kak-lsp
$ cargo install --locked --force --path .


There are a few steps. kak-lsp has its own configuration file but the default one is good enough and kakoune must be configured to run the kak-lsp program when needed.

Take care about the second command if you built from another user, you have to fix the path.

$ mkdir -p ~/.config/kak-lsp
$ cp kak-lsp.toml ~/.config/kak-lsp/

This configuration file tells what program must be used depending of the programming language required.

filetypes = ["python"]
roots = ["requirements.txt", "setup.py", ".git", ".hg"]
command = "pyls"
offset_encoding = "utf-8"

Taking the configuration block for python, we can see the command used is _pyls_.

For kakoune configuration, we need a simple configuration in ~/.config/kak/kakrc

eval %sh{/usr/local/bin/kak-lsp --kakoune -s $kak_session}
hook global WinSetOption filetype=(rust|python|go|javascript|typescript|c|cpp) %{

Note that I used the full path of kak-lsp binary in the configuration file, this is due to a rust issue on OpenBSD.

Link to Rust issue on github

Trying with python

To support python programs you need to install python-language-server which is available in pip. There are no package for it on OpenBSD. If you install the program with pip, take care to have the binary in your $PATH (either by extending $PATH to ~/.local/bin/ or by copying the binary in /usr/local/bin/ or whatever suits you).

The pip command would be the following (your pip binary name may change):

$ pip3.8 install --user 'python-language-server[all]'

Then, opening python source file should activate the analyzer automatically. If you add a mistake, you should see `!` or `*` in the most left column.

Trying with C

To support C programs, clangd binary is required. On OpenBSD it is provided by the clang-tools-extra package. If clangd is in your $PATH then you should have working support.

Using kak-lsp

Now that it is installed and working, you may want to read the documentation.

kak-lsp usage

I didn't look deep for now, the autocompletion automatically but may be slow in some situation.

Default keybindings for "gr" and "gd" are made respectively for "jump to reference" and "jump to definition".

Typing "diag" in the command prompt runs "lsp-diagnostics" which will open a new buffer explaining where errors are warnings are located in your source file. This is very useful to fix errors before compiling or running the program.


The official documentation explains well how you can check what is wrong with the setup. It consists into starting kak-lsp in a terminal and kakoune separately and check kak-lsp output. This helped me a lot.

Official troubleshooting guide