If I set syntax highlighting rules manually (not in a file), is there a way to save them out to a file? Specifically, the goal is to source this file to restore the syntax highlighting rules later on.

  • 1
    You should improve the question to make it more clear what you want. Based on the question as it stands now, @romainl has given a good answer. However, as is clear from the (rather childish) discussion between you guys, what you ask is if there is a way to save the highlighting commands to a file for them to be sourced later on. This is really quite different. Oct 19 '15 at 7:01
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    FWIW, I updated the question. I also added a new answer that might be more helpful. Oct 19 '15 at 7:11
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    Could you provide an example of what you want to save to a file. If it's what I think a combination of using the .viminfo and yolenor's answer and adding to .vimrc might do what you want
    – Steve
    May 1 '18 at 23:26

No, there is no command that will save the syntax/highlight definitions to a file that can be parsed to restore the same definitions at a later stage. Or, to be more specific, I do not think that any such command exists. I also do not know of any plugins or addons that will do this.

However, the command history is stored in ~/.viminfo. Thus, if you want to copy manually typed highlight/syntax commands into a file for later sourcing, you may copy the relevant commands from the command history. Of course, this requires some manual parsing and tweaking, but I think this is the simplest solution to your problem.

For more details, see:
- :h viminfo
- :h 'viminfo'


You can use :redir for that.

Dump highlight definitions:

:redir > file
:redir END

Dump syntax definitions:

:redir > file
:redir END


  • you will probably need to press G and <CR> to get to the end of the listing if you don't want to go through everything.
  • neither method will produce a working syntax script or a working colorscheme, you will need to edit the result anyway.

See :help :redir

  • Not quite; that just shows what links to what. That's not something that can be loaded back in as a syntax file. Oct 19 '15 at 3:32
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    It is exactly what you asked for: a snapshot of every current hi, linked or not. Now, there is no magical command to turn that into a proper colorscheme so you will have to do a bit of editing. And it so happens that Vim is pretty good at editing text.
    – romainl
    Oct 19 '15 at 6:06
  • That is not what I asked. Being pedantic doesn't help anything; you know what I meant. Oct 19 '15 at 6:07
  • Revenge downvoting doesn't help either. Oct 19 '15 at 6:11
  • Yes, that's exactly what you asked. I used that very command to create a flat clone of Solarized and it worked perfectly. If you don't want to dump your hi whatever commands don't ask how to dump them and ask what you want.
    – romainl
    Oct 19 '15 at 6:12

This may be helpful for future readers:

This function returns an executable command which can restore the actual highlight attributes for one highlight group (not fully tested, but it handles linked groups):

function! GetHiCommand(group)
    redir => l:output
        silent! exec 'hi' a:group
    redir end

    let l:link = matchstr(l:output, 'links to \zs\w\+')

    if empty(l:link)
        let l:attrs = matchstr(l:output, '\<xxx \zs[^\n]*')
        return printf('hi %s %s', a:group, l:attrs)
        return printf('hi! link %s %s', a:group, l:link)

Example output:

:echo GetHiCommand('LineNr')
hi LineNr term=underline ctermfg=243 guifg=#7c6f64

:echo GetHiCommand('MoreMsg')
hi! link MoreMsg GruvboxYellowBold

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