From :h indent.txt:

...each one overrides the previous if it is enabled...

Now if I set 'cin' after 'ai', Does 'cin' disable the effect of 'ai'?.
If no, so what is the purpose of "override" exactly?

1 Answer 1


Order does not matter. The override behavior is based on what is currently set/unset, changing one option value does not change others. Additionally, indent.txt refers to methods not settings, so the behavior is not completely straight-forward since the expression in indentexpr can itself return "not enabled." The documentation requires some further explanation:

  1. If indentexpr is set, cindent,smartindent, and autoindent will all have no base effect (* caveat 1 applies). Note that for indentexpr "unset" means set to empty string.
  2. If cindent is set and indentexpr is unset, {smartindent,autoindent} will have no effect.
  3. If smartindent is set and {cindent, indentexpr} are unset, autoindent will have no effect (* caveat 2 applies).
  4. Finally, if {cindent, indentexpr, smartindent} are unset autoindent takes effect.

(* caveat 1 ) If indentexpr returns -1, vim specifies that the value of autoindent is used. So, if smartindent or cindent is on, and autoindent is off, and the indentexpr evaluates to -1, indenting will not take place, which is potentially unexpected.

(* caveat 2 ) The documentation is misleading here. You should set autoindent if you have smartindent for reasons that are unclear (besides perhaps the reason given in (* caveat 1) above). From :h smartindent:

Normally 'autoindent' should also be on when using 'smartindent'.

The bottom line is you should always set "lesser" indent methods when using "greater" ones, although it sometimes doesn't matter.

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