I edit a lot of different file types, like .c, .cc, .S, .py, .rs, .ld, plus maybe a dozen more. And I'm constantly editing new file types, so I'm adding to this list. I have settings I want to apply equivalently to all of them, like shift width.

But, I don't want to do this to all files, since I also edit a lot of non-programming files.

It doesn't make sense to have to create a new config every time I come across a new file type, even if I have a common base file. The autocmd FileType is no better since I still need to add more configuration to .vimrc for every file type.

Is there some equivalent of an emacs prog-mode-hook where I can configure settings once and have them apply to all programming files?

  • Doesn't autocmd FileType work for you?
    – jdhao
    Dec 21, 2020 at 2:10
  • 2
    How does the emacs mechanism know a new file type is associated with a "programming file" or not?
    – B Layer
    Dec 21, 2020 at 2:17
  • 1
    Make a "super auto command" preconfigured with every supported programming language filetype...in the event you start using any of those in the future...? ;) Or create a single base "after" file and symlink it for every supported file type. (Easily scritable.)
    – B Layer
    Dec 21, 2020 at 2:20
  • 1
    I'm not very familiar with Emacs, but from what I can gather the mode ("filetype" in Emacs jargon) for e.g. C (c-mode) inherits from prog-mode. It looks like you can actually inherit from multiple modes – it seems pretty neat. The closest you can get with Vim is by using dot-separated multiple filetypes (i.e set ft=prog.c). Dec 21, 2020 at 4:17
  • 1
    Couldn't it be that something like vim-sleuth will do?
    – Matt
    Dec 21, 2020 at 6:52

2 Answers 2


I'm using a workaround on this topic. I have a function in my library plugin where I register all the filetypes I've encountered that relates to text, IOW they are non-programming filetypes.

" Function: lh#ft#is_text(...) {{{3
function! lh#ft#is_text(...)
  let ft = a:0 == 0 ? &ft : (a:1)
  return ft =~ '^$\|text\|latex\|tex\|html\|docbk\|help\|mail\|man\|xhtml\|markdown\|rst\|gitcommit'

The downside is that this list is far from being complete. Occasionally I have to register a new filetype. Fortunately my DRY policy centered around my library-plugin permits to avoid redundancy.

So, you could register an autocommand at the same (priority) level that checks whether your filetype doesn't belong to text related filetypes.


In my case, I use function with autocommand all in one .vimrc file. See :help function or learn_vimscript.

Function structure:

function FunctionName()

Managing multiple file types

  1. I use one autocmd for each type of file. Each autocmd call a specific function that will get all the needed configs.

For instance if it's a python file:

autcmd FileType python call Python()

Or if it's an exotic file extention like ".pl" for Prolog:

autocmd BufReadPre *.s call Swipl()

Like that, the all the settings/keybinding/function-call/commands for a file type will be triggered only if this file type is read by vim. (don't forget to use key bindings with <buffer> option if you want to edit multiple file types in one session)

  1. To define a function (The first letter of the function name must take an uppercase) for example:
function Python()
    set wildmenu
    call CustomFunction()

Managing options for a specific group of file type

Now we can create a specific function that will contain all the settings we need to code. For instance:

function ProgrammingFile()
    set cindent_shiftwidth=4

To add those settings to a file type settings, I just have to put this in his function settings.

call ProgrammingFile()

You can define how many function you want to make some specific groups and call them where you want.

I Hope it will help you.

  • 1
    Those are prolog files, not swipl (though some of them are instead perl!). Also, you seem to re-inventing the FileType and ftplugin systems, which is really not necessary. Just drop the relevant code in (eg) ~/.vim/after/ftplugin/python.vim and use setlocal/etc
    – D. Ben Knoble
    Dec 26, 2020 at 23:02
  • @D.Ben Knoble, that's interesting. I didn't know about the ftplugin systems. I still have lot to learn. Thanks Dec 27, 2020 at 14:32

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