I start vanilla vim8 $ vim -u NONE with these settings:

:set ft=python
:set smartindent
:set cinkeys-=0#

When I enter in insertion mode the following:


The # is automatically unindent as follow:


Of course if I enable :set cindent everything works because cinkeys is now taken in account.

My question is why is # automatically moved left while cindent is disabled? Is there any better solution other than using an auto command?

autocmd FileType python setlocal cindent

1 Answer 1


Typing the # character causes an outdent because you have set 'smartindent', which is designed for C-like languages (where # indicates the start of a preprocessor directive).

Quoting from the output of :help 'smartindent'

When typing '#' as the first character in a new line, the indent for that line is removed, the '#' is put in the first column. The indent is restored for the next line. If you don't want this, use this mapping: ":inoremap # X^H#", where ^H is entered with CTRL-V CTRL-H. When using the ">>" command, lines starting with '#' are not shifted right.

(emphasis mine)

If you wish to continue using 'cindent' but want a better way of setting it than an autocommand, you can simply place a file containing:

setlocal cindent

In the location: ~/.vim/after/ftplugin/python.vim.

Alternatively, you could simply turn off 'smartindent' and use 'autoindent', or, perhaps best, look into obtaining a plugin that is designed specifically to implement Python indentation. Here's one. Here's another.

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