I'm on a server, and the server-administrator are really conservative about what I put on that server. It took bottles of wine, just to be able to put a .vimrc-file on there - so in order to install a plugin, then I assume I will have to give him my first-born child.

I'm editting these files that has CRAAAZY indentation. Tabs, spaces - you name it. I was looking for at way in my .vimrc-file to set up the following:

  • Make all tabs one color.
  • If there is 3 spaces in a row, then make them another color
  • If there is 6 spaces in a row, then make them a third color
  • if there is 9 spaces in a row, then make them a a fourth color ... etc. etc. etc.

This way, then I can make some pseudo-indentation-guides, that I can have on the server, and keep all my babies to myself.

This answer has something that comes close, but no cigar: How to add indentation guides/lines

  • 1
    "Plugins" are just "bits of vimrc in another directory". Just copy/paste the plugin code you want in your vimrc. Jun 28, 2017 at 11:42

1 Answer 1


So you want a custom plugin, that you can copy paste into your .vimrc and be done?

Something like this should do it:

function! MyPoorIndentGuide(clear)
    if !exists("w:ids")
        let w:ids=[]
    if a:clear
        call map(w:ids, 'matchdelete(v:val)')
        unlet! w:ids
    hi HiTabs ctermfg=red guibg=red ctermbg=red
    hi HiSpaces3 ctermfg=blue guibg=blue ctermbg=blue
    hi HiSpaces6 ctermfg=yellow guibg=yellow ctermbg=yellow
    hi HiSpaces9 ctermfg=green guibg=green ctermbg=green
    call add(w:ids, matchadd('HiTabs', '\t'))
    for i in range(3, 9, 3)
        exe printf("call add(w:ids, matchadd('HiSpaces%d', '\\s\\{%d\\}', %d))", i, i, i+10)

function! ToggleIndentGuides()
    if !exists('#MyIndentGuideGroup')
        augroup MyIndentGuideGroup
            au WinEnter * call MyPoorIndentGuide(0)
        augroup end
        call MyPoorIndentGuide(0)
        augroup MyIndentGuideGroup
        augroup end
        augroup! MyIndentGuideGroup
        call MyPoorIndentGuide(1)

com! MyIndentGuideToggle :call ToggleIndentGuides()

Note: it uses the background color to highlight, since we are highlighting invisible things, we cannot use the foreground (unless one uses :set list listchars=...), however that means, highlighting might be a little bit, well funky. You might want to customize the colors to your liking.

  • That's awesome!! Thank you. For other bone-heads like me, who don't get it straight away, then you have to write :call ToggleIndentGuides() in order to activate this magic.
    – Zeth
    Jun 28, 2017 at 20:39
  • 3
    @Zeth you can actually use :MyIndentGuideToggle to call the function. Jun 28, 2017 at 20:52

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