VIM plugin to improve c-family development environment based on Clang
Python VimL
Latest commit 780d174 Aug 20, 2016 @bbchung committed on GitHub Update

Clighter: VIM plugin to improve c-family development environment based on Clang

Clighter is not maintained anymore, instead, you can:

Try Clighter8 If You Use VIM8

Try Clighter8 if you use VIM8, it runs 10x faster than Clighter

Try Clamp If You Use NeoVim

Try Clamp if you use NeoVim, it use NeoVim's new plugin api with lighting highlight speed


Clighter(C lighter) makes vim a better c-family development environment as a plugin based on libclang. Clighter provides following features currently:

  • Context-sentitive highlight
    • Syntax highlight
    • Occurrences highlight
  • Experimental rename-refactoring function

Clighter GIF demo


Clighter requires the following:

  • Vim version 7.4 with python2.x enabled
  • libclang. Please reference to install
  • Clighter has been tested under Linux


  • Vundle Install:
Bundle 'bbchung/clighter'
  • Manuall Install

Untar the clighter.tar.gz to your vim path.



Clighter will automatically start while g:clighter_autostart == 1.

Default: 1

let g:clighter_autostart = 1


Clighter searches libclang-3.5 in your system automatically. You must set this option when clighter cannot find libclang, or other version of libclang is used.

Default: ''

let g:clighter_libclang_file = '/usr/lib/'


The prompt level of rename refactoring.

0: no prompt

1: prompt while do cross buffer renaming

2: prompt of each word that going to be replaced

Default: 1

let g:clighter_rename_prompt_level = 1


0: disable

1: enable

Default: 1

let g:clighter_enable_cross_rename = 1


Define the group of syntax NOT to be highlighted.

Default: ['cligherInclusionDirective']

The recommend setting to not be dazzled:

let g:clighter_highlight_blacklist = ['clighterNamespaceRef', 'clighterFunctionDecl', 'clighterFieldDecl', 'clighterDeclRefExprCall', 'clighterMemberRefExprCall', 'clighterMemberRefExprVar', 'clighterNamespace', 'clighterNamespaceRef', 'cligherInclusionDirective', 'clighterVarDecl']


If value is 0, the behavior of occurrences highlight is visual studio liked(some delay before highlighting different cursors), or the cursors will always be highlighted immediately.

Default: 0

let g:clighter_occurrences_mode = 0


Clighter will search the compilation database to compile, however the compilation database the CMake generated doesn't include the header files(make sense, but clighter needs it). Clighter can heuristic search the compilation database to guess the most possible compile args if set this option, and it's useful for header files.

Default: 1

let g:clighter_heuristic_compile_args = 1


The global compile args of clighter. It will be appended in each file's compile args.

Default: []

let g:clighter_compile_args = []


Enable occurrences highlight. Occurrences highlight is a clighter function that highlight all words with the same semantic symbol.

Default: 1

let g:ClighterOccurrences = 1

Commands and Functions

Clighter provides these commands and functions.


Enable clighter plugin.


Disable clighter plugin.


Toggle occurrences highlighting.


Show clighter runtime informations.


  • An experimental function to do rename refactoring.
  • The scope is opened vim buffers.
  • There is no one-step undo/redo method.
  • Strongly recommend that backing up all files before calling this function.
  • For convenience, you can add key mapping in your vimrc:
nmap <silent> <Leader>r :call clighter#Rename()<CR>

Compilation Database

Clighter automatically load and parse the compilation database "compile_commands.json" if it exists in current working directory, then the compile options will be passed to libclang. For more information about compilation database, please reference Compilation Database.

Highlight Group

Clighter defines these highlight groups corresponded to libclang.

hi default link clighterPrepro PreProc
hi default link clighterDecl Identifier
hi default link clighterRef Type
hi default link cligherInclusionDirective cIncluded
hi default link clighterMacroInstantiation Constant
hi default link clighterVarDecl Identifier
hi default link clighterStructDecl Identifier
hi default link clighterUnionDecl Identifier
hi default link clighterClassDecl Identifier
hi default link clighterEnumDecl Identifier
hi default link clighterParmDecl Identifier
hi default link clighterFunctionDecl Identifier
hi default link clighterFieldDecl Identifier
hi default link clighterEnumConstantDecl Constant
hi default link clighterDeclRefExprEnum Constant
hi default link clighterDeclRefExprCall Type
hi default link clighterMemberRefExprCall Type
hi default link clighterMemberRefExprVar Type
hi default link clighterTypeRef Type
hi default link clighterNamespace Identifier
hi default link clighterNamespaceRef Type
hi default link clighterTemplateTypeParameter Identifier
hi default link clighterTemplateRef Type
hi default link clighterOccurrences IncSearch

You can customize these colors in your colorscheme, for example:

hi clighterTypeRef term=NONE cterm=NONE ctermbg=232 ctermfg=255 gui=NONE
hi clighterClassDecl term=NONE cterm=NONE ctermbg=255 ctermfg=232 gui=NONE


The clighter plugin doesn't work?

Vim version 7.4 with python2.x is required, and make sure libclang(3.5 and 3.6 is recommended) is installed correctly and set g:clighter_libclang_file if need.

Why rename-refactoring function is an experimental function?

Due to the character of c-family language, even libclang provides a powerful c-family parser, it still hard to do rename refactoring. Clighter can only search the current opened buffer to do rename refactoring and it can't guarantee the result correct.

Libclang crash?

When incorrect compile args meet incorrect source code, libclang possibly crashes(for example: empty compile arg meet .hxx), and it may happend in vim thread or background thread of clighter. Currently clighter can't catch such crash, so vim will become unstable if it happens.

Highlighting always are messed up as typing, can fix?

No, Clighter use position based matching by vim. When typing, it can't automatically move the typing offset for highlighted word. Once vim provides such api, it will be fixed.

How to set compile args?

Clighter set the compile args for each file with (g:clighter_compile_args + "compilation database"), and both are optional. Compile args will affect the correctness of highlight and refactoring function.


This software is licensed under the GPL v3 license.

Note: This license does not cover the files that come from the LLVM project.