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cmake-font-lock - Advanced, type aware, highlight support for CMake

Author: Anders Lindgren
Version: 0.1.6

Advanced syntax coloring support for CMake scripts.

The major feature of this package is to highlighting function arguments according to their use. For example:

Example CMake script

CMake, as a programming language, has a very simple syntax. Unfortunately, this makes it hard to read CMake scripts. CMake supports function calls, but they may not be nested. In addition, the functions do not support return values like normal programming languages, instead a function is capable of setting variables in the scope of the parent. In other words, a parameter could be anything like the name of a variable, a keyword, a property, or even a plain string.

By highlighting each argument, CMake scripts becomes much easier to read, and also to write.

This package is aware of all built-in CMake functions. In addition, it allows you to add function signatures for your own functions.

The following is colored

  • Function arguments are colored according to it's use, An argument can be colored as a keyword, a variable, a property, or a target. This package provides information on all built-in CMake functions. Information on user-defined functions can be added.
  • All function names are colored, however, special functions like if, while, function, and include are colored using a different color.
  • The constants true, false, yes, no, y, n, on, and off.
  • The constructs ${...}, $ENV{...}, and $<name:...>.
  • In preprocessor definitions like -DNAME, NAME is colored.
  • Comments and quoted strings.


Place the file in a directory in Emacs' load path.

Add the following lines to a suitable init file, like ~/.emacs, to enable this package:

(autoload 'cmake-font-lock-activate "cmake-font-lock" nil t)
(add-hook 'cmake-mode-hook 'cmake-font-lock-activate)

This package is designed to be used together with a major mode for editing CMake files. Once such package is cmake-mode.el distributed by Kitware, however this package is not dependent upon or associated with any specific CMake major mode. (Note that the Kitware package contains rudimentary syntax coloring support.)


In order to perform syntax coloring correctly, this package has to be aware of the keywords and types of the CMake functions used. To add information about non-standard CMake function, the following functions can be used:

cmake-font-lock-add-keywords -- Add keyword information

Adding the list of keywords to a function is a simple way to get basic coloring correct. For most functions, this is sufficient. For example:

       "my-func" '("FILE" "RESULT" "OTHER"))

cmake-font-lock-set-signature -- Set full function type

Set the signature (the type of the arguments) for a function. For example:

       "my-func" '(:var nil :prop) '(("FILE" :file) ("RESULT" :var)))

Custom types

The signatures of CMake functions provided by this package use a number of types (see cmake-font-lock-function-signatures for details). However, when adding new signatures, it's possible to use additional types. In that case, the variable cmake-font-lock-argument-kind-face-alist must be modified to map the CMake type to a concrete Emacs face. For example:

(cmake-font-lock-set-signature "my_warn" (:warning))
(add-to-list '(:warning . font-lock-warning-face)


  • In CMake, function taking expressions, like if and while, treat any string as the name of a variable, if one exists. This mode fontifies all such as variables, whether or not they actually refer to variable. You can quote the arguments to fontify them as strings (even though that will not prevent CMake from interpreting them as variables).

  • Normally, keywords are written explicitly when calling a function. However, it is legal to assigning them to a variable, which is expanded at the time the function is called. In this case, remaining arguments will not be colored correctly. For example:

      set(def DEFINITION var2)
      get_directory_property(var1 ${def} my_property)

Converted from cmake-font-lock.el by el2markdown.


Emacs Font-lock rules for CMake




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