Content Based Filetype Detection in Vim
Yesterday I spent a little over an hour finally figuring out how to detect a file based on its contents in vim. It’s pretty easy!
I have become convinced that, for programs that you run, extensions declaring a
filetype are wrong. If you were to think of a program as a black box, including
.sh at the end to say what language they are is pointless
Vim almost always can detect a file automatically based on the contents of the file, but sometimes there are rarely used files that need the detection added.
I have been using
dash, the Debian Almquist Shell, since about a week
after Shellshock was announced. I like
dash; part of the
reason is because it’s simpler than
zsh) and thus has a simpler
surface attack area. More though, is because it is very fast to start up, and
forces me to write almost strictly
POSIX shell. The manpage is concise and
Unfortunately, vim tends to think that
dash scripts are
conf files. Here’s
how I fixed it:
if getline(1) =~ '#!\/bin\/dash'
au BufRead,BufNewFile * call DetectDash()
And that’s all you have to do, if it’s as simple as looking at the shebang. I
suspect I’ll end up making this fancier by improving the regex, but this works
for everything I write. It is so refreshing to leave off the
# vim: ft=sh!
I’ve posted about upstart twice before this, and despite the fact that
it is a sinking ship, it continues to do the heavy init lifting at work and
likely will for at least another year. Frustratingly, Upstart detection in vim
is pretty bad. As far as I can tell it only works if the file is in the
I did a lot of Upstart work yesterday (which I’ll hopefully post
about soon) and was annoyed that syntax highlighting was broken most of the
time. I then came up with the following, in the obviously named
for i in getline(1, 1000)
if i =~ '\v^(start|stop) on'
elseif i =~ '\v^(respawn limit|(end|(pre|post)-start) script)'
let likely += 2
elseif i =~ '\v^(set(uid|gid)|env|description|author|respawn)'
let likely += 1
if likely > 4
au BufRead,BufNewFile * call DetectUpstart()
It’s weird and heuristic based, but it seems to work pretty well. Also shows some vimscript that is not actually that hard to read.
I am glad to have finally dug into this. The official docs are somewhat hard to follow, so I hope the above example can lead people in the right direction.
(The following includes affiliate links.)
If you’d like to learn more about vim, I can recommend two excellent books. I first learned how to use vi from Learning the vi and Vim Editors. The new edition has a lot more information and spends more time on Vim specific features. It was helpful for me at the time, and the fundamental model of vi is still well supported in Vim and this book explores that well.
Second, if you really want to up your editing game, check out Practical Vim. It’s a very approachable book that unpacks some of the lesser used features in ways that will be clearly and immediately useful. I periodically review this book because it’s such a treasure trove of clear hints and tips.Posted Wed, Sep 20, 2017
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