I like to have :set list on so that I can tell if things are spaces or tabs. My tabs show as >--- which is nice, but they are the same color are the text, is there a way to dim them so they're less distracting?

  • Did you read all of :help 'list' and :help 'listchars'?
    – romainl
    Jan 15, 2016 at 19:49

1 Answer 1


:help 'listchars' mentions:

    The "NonText" highlighting will be used for "eol", "extends" and
    "precedes".  "SpecialKey" for "nbsp", "space", "tab" and "trail".
    hl-NonText hl-SpecialKey

And if we go to :help hl-SpecialKey we read:

SpecialKey      Meta and special keys listed with ":map", also for text used
                to show unprintable characters in the text, 'listchars'.
                Generally: text that is displayed differently from what it
                really is.

You can change this with the :highlight command, or :hi for short:

:hi SpecialKey ctermfg=grey guifg=grey70

Note that this also change the colours of non-printable characters; for example the ^M when you're dealing with a file that mixes Unix and DOS line endings.

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