I have two scenarios where I want vim to highlight those items. Currently my fix for these are to add the return types directly into the after/syntax/c.vim file, but this gets incredibly tedious. Here are two examples:

typedef struct Item {
    char* tag;
} Item;

Item* fetch_item(void)

int main(void)
    Item *item = fetch_item();

So, I would like two things highlighted here:

  • Item <-- the new 'type' I've added, similar to how vim highlights int or char, etc.
  • fetch_item() <-- the new 'function' I've added, similar to how vim highlights printf.

What is the best way to do this without having to manually add a function name to the c.vim file whenever I create a new function?

1 Answer 1


This is quite a crude way to do it. Though from the various highlighting tag plugins I found -- such as https://github.com/xolox/vim-easytags and https://github.com/ludovicchabant/vim-gutentags -- this was the only solution that worked to capture all the items I wanted to grab.

Here's a python script that will generate additional tags for enums, typedefs, and functions:

# ~/.vim/after/generate_ctags.py
import re
from sys import argv

# write the new tags to the following C syntax file
syntax_file = '/home/ubuntu/.vim/after/syntax/c.vim'

# define basic regexes for the types to capture. These are quite crude for the
# structs and especially functions, but works for my functions/structs
with open(argv[-1), 'r') as f: input_data=f.read()
typedefs = re.findall(r'typedef\s+struct\s+([^\s{]+).+}\s*\1\s*;', input_data, re.DOTALL)
enums = re.findall(r'typedef\s+enum\s{[^}]+}\s+(\w+)\s*;', input_data, re.DOTALL)
functions = re.findall(r'(?:^|\n)(?:[\w*]+\s){1,2}(\w+)(?=\s*\()', input_data, re.DOTALL)

# See what we've already written
with open(syntax_file, 'r') as f: existing=f.read()

# If we haven't added it manually, append a line to the file with it
with open(syntax_file, 'a') as f:
    for tag in (typedefs + enums):
        format_string = 'syn keyword StorageClass %s\n' % tag
        if format_string not in existing: f.write(format_string)
    for tag in functions:
        if re.search(r'\nsyn keyword .+ %s\s' % tag, existing): continue
        f.write('syn keyword function %s\n' % tag)

And as a shortcut in vimrc:

" Generate new tags (typedef + enum + function)
function GenerateCTags()
    silent !python /home/ubuntu/.vim/after/generate_ctags.py %
nnoremap <Leader>7C :call GenerateCTags()<CR>
inoremap <Leader>7C <Esc>:call GenerateCTags()<CR>

Note that this does not handle the case of tags being removed -- i.e., if a function name is changed from my_function to my_new_function.

A better method would make use of ctags, but I haven't really figured that out yet (at least how to get parsable data from it). But either way, whatever is parsed needs to be inserted/modified/removed from the syntax file or something similar.

Here is a screenshot of the solution, highlighting Item and fetch_item:

enter image description here

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