I'd like to have different indentations based on the type of file I am working on. For example, working on a .c file I'd like my indentation be 4 spaces. In .html files I'd like to (have to) work with tabs.

How do I achieve that?

  • In case you would like to disable auto-indention for LaTeX, use autocmd FileType plaintex,tex,context setlocal indentexpr=.
    – zyy
    Commented Oct 17, 2021 at 7:46

4 Answers 4


The best method is to put those settings in ~/.vim/after/ftplugin/<filetype>.vim.

For HTML (assuming you want 4 characters-wide tabs):


setlocal shiftwidth=4
setlocal softtabstop=4
setlocal noexpandtab

Using an ftplugin is prefered to using autocommands because Vim already does filetype checks by itself and already tries to source the adequate ftplugin so there's no reason to force even more checks and reimplement the wheel.

-- edit --

Assuming you have filetype plugin on in your vimrc — which you should — Vim will try to detect the filetype of the files you edit and, once the correct filetype is found and set for the buffer, try to source the corresponding ftplugin in these standard locations:


All of that happens automatically so, if your filetype is recognized by Vim, there is absolutely no reason to add any filetype detection logic: just add your settings to the right ftplugin and you are good.

  • Do I need to activate the ftplugin somehow or will creating the file(s) activate it automatically?
    – DeltaLima
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 17:37
  • Make sure you have filetype plugin indent on in your vimrc.
    – romainl
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 17:38
  • 1
    @DeltaLima vim has a path that it goes through to check for settings. As long as filetype plugin on is set, vim's path includes the ftplugin/<filetype>.vim and after/ftplugin/<filetype>/vim files in its path. Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 20:24
  • @DeltaLima, please see my edit.
    – romainl
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 20:49
  • Setting softtabstop and shiftwidth will use a mix of tabs and spaces. You're usually better off using tabstop.
    – Walf
    Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 1:29

You can do this with autocommands in your .vimrc.

For example, I have a function html_like_mode that sets up various things for editing HTML files. In my .vimrc, I have:

au BufNewFile,BufRead *.html call s:html_like_mode()

That keys off of the file extension. You can also key off of the filetype, if you have that enabled:

au FileType perl setlocal equalprg=perltidy

As you can see, you can have it do any command there. So you could easily do a setlocal shiftwidth 4 for your *.c files.


augroup allows you to group related autocommands into named groups. (See here to learn about Autocommand Groups.) We use augroups to add autocommands to ~/.vimrc in a way that won't add a duplicate every time we source it.

augroup vimrc
augroup END

autocmd vimrc FileType html setlocal shiftwidth=4 tabstop=4
  • 2
    It would be useful if you would explain what this does and how to set it up, not everyone will know ;)
    – Seth
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 17:01

Used autocmd and FileType

autocmd FileType html setlocal shiftwidth=4 tabstop=4

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