I'm just looking for a very basic indentation scheme. In .vimrc I have :set tabstop=2. Adding :set smartindent has the effect of indenting the code by four tabs, very strange? A single tab the size of four spaces would be fine (despite my preferred tabstop), but four tabs? What is the issue here? :set cindent has the same effect.

edit: vim 7.4 on ubuntu 16.04

1 Answer 1


set tabstop=2 means tabs are displayed as at most 2 characters, it does not control the amount of indent. You have shiftwidth=8 which controls the amount of indent. When vim indents (assuming noexpandtab), it tries to use tabs first, hence you get 4 tabs of 2 apparent spaces each for a total of 4*2=8 spaces equivalent indent. The solution is to set shiftwidth appropriately

  • Note that setting 'shiftwidth' to zero means that the value for 'tabstop' will also be used for shiftwidth.
    – Rich
    Nov 22, 2017 at 21:58

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