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class & function names highlighting in Vim

Posted by: admin November 30, 2017 Leave a comment


I just recently set up my Vim environment from Textmate, after becoming addicted to its modal input.

However, syntax highlighting seems to be not so beautiful in Vim. I code in C++ and since the function call and class names can’t be highlighted, the code is more difficult to read. I played with color scheme for a bit, but couldn’t find any field that corresponded to “class name” or “function name”.

In the picture below, notice how DroughtLayer:: and *.size() is not highlighted on the right in MacVim.

Picture comparison between Textmate(left) and Vim(right) http://ivzhao.com/temp/vimHL.png

Any ideas how to solve this? It really annoys me as I am so much a visual-sensitive guy.


Interestingly, the syntax highlighters in VIM don’t support applying a syntax to identifiers or function names – at least not the syntax highlighters for C and C++. So, even if you do:

:hi Function guifg=red


:hi Identifier guifg=red

it doesn’t give these a color. I just seems to be not much more than keywords and constants for these languages.

Here, someone has started extending the cpp syntax file to support method names. It’s a start I guess.


I had this very same problem when I started using vim. The solution is simple, you just have to edit the c syntax file used by vim, here’s how to do it:

When you start editing a C or C++ file, vim reads the default c syntax file located in


(Where $VIMRUNTIME is where you have vim installed. You can find out it’s default value by opening vim and using the command “:echo $VIMRUNTIME”).

You can simply overwrite that file, or you can create your custom C syntax file (which will be loaded by vim instead of the default one) in this location:

$HOME/.vim/syntax/c.vim      (for UNIX)
$HOME/vimfiles/syntax/c.vim  (for PC or OS/2)

(I have never used a Mac so I dunno which one will work for you. You can find out more in the vim help, “:help vimfiles”)

Now the fun part. Copy the default “$VIMRUNTIME/syntax/c.vim” file to your vimfiles directory (“$HOME/.vim/syntax/c.vim” for UNIX), and edit it by adding these lines:

" Highlight Class and Function names
syn match    cCustomParen    "(" contains=cParen,cCppParen
syn match    cCustomFunc     "\w\+\s*(" contains=cCustomParen
syn match    cCustomScope    "::"
syn match    cCustomClass    "\w\+\s*::" contains=cCustomScope

hi def link cCustomFunc  Function
hi def link cCustomClass Function

That’s it! Now functions and class names will be highlighted with the color defined in the “Function” highlight (“:hi Function”). If you want to customize colors, you can change the last two lines above to something like this:

hi def cCustomFunc  gui=bold guifg=yellowgreen
hi def cCustomClass gui=reverse guifg=#00FF00

or you can leave the C syntax file alone and define colors in your vimrc file (“:help vimrc”):

hi cCustomFunc  gui=bold guifg=yellowgreen
hi cCustomClass gui=reverse guifg=#00FF00

(Note the absence of the “def” keyword, go to “:help highlight-default” for details). For the available parameters to the “:hi” command see “:help :highlight”.

You can find the complete c.vim file for Vim 7.2 on this link (Note: only use this if you have a non-modified Vim, version 7.2):


And the obligatory screenshot:

http://img16.imageshack.us/img16/2073/vimy.png (Sorry for imageshack)


this is my first post here and i didn’t know how to make an observation, the answer of Eduardo makes “(” and “{” look unmached and bugs syntax foldind, I changed it a little to fix this.

syn match    cCustomParen    "?=(" contains=cParen,cCppParen
syn match    cCustomFunc     "\w\+\s*(\@=" contains=cCustomParen
syn match    cCustomScope    "::"
syn match    cCustomClass    "\w\+\s*::" contains=cCustomScope
hi def cCustomFunc  gui=bold guifg=yellowgreen
hi def link cCustomClass Function


The one solution is to use built ctags database. So create one with the ctags utility. Then set the ‘tags’ variable and put the following to the


function! s:highlight()
    let list = taglist('.*')

    for item in list
        let kind = item.kind

        if kind == 'f' || kind == 'c'
            let name = item.name
            exec 'syntax keyword Identifier '.name

call s:highlight()

I must warn you that this can work very slow on the very big ctags database.

Also there is one solution on the vim.org but I didn’t try this one. Let me know if it works for you.


EDIT: color_coded may be too heavy for you. try octol/vim-cpp-enhanced-highlight. It supports C++11/14 and integrates what @Eduardo answers.

Semantic based highlighter:
I would recommend jeaye/color_coded,
A vim plugin for libclang-based highlighting
So sorry that i’m new to stackoverflow which means I’ve not enough reputation to post images. Go see its effects if you wanna give it a shot. 🙂


  • Easy installation
  • Semantic highlighting
  • Clighter mentioned as above, need vim compiled with python2.7.
    However, color_coded is written in C++ and provides lua binding ->


  • It delays unless you make some vim events to acitve it.
  • Customization is bit harder; you need to edit syntax/color_coded.vim
    yourself. But customization has been placed on its roadmap.

Although it’s still under development, it’s increasingly gaining attention.



Sergey, changing the first line from

syn match    cCustomParen    "(" contains=cParen,cCppParen


syn match    cCustomParen    "(" contains=cParen contains=cCppParen

seems to fix it for me.


Use a plug-in for vim like Taglist or set up ctags or cscope integration with vim (here’s a tutorial for the vim/cscope.)


Try using this plugin http://www.vim.org/scripts/script.php?script_id=2646
Its does all ctags highlighting very efficiently for you


I really recommend you the taghighlight plugin, click here for it’s website.


The Clighter plugin can also be considered, which is a

plugin for c-family semantic source code highlighting, based on Clang

However, requires fairly recent versions and software: vim 7.4.330 +python2 and libclang.