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#Vim JavaScript Context Coloring


This is a plugin for the Vim text editor to highlight JavaScript code according to its scope. This was inspired by an idea by Douglas Crockford in his presentation at YUIConf 2012. (See from around the 16 minute mark onwards.)

##Other implementations See this discussion on Google Plus for information on other implementations.


When the JSContextColor command is executed, the current buffer is colorized according to the scope of the code. By default this will happen when a JavaScript file is loaded, and whenever the file is changed. If you disable the plugin (see below), you could arrange to call the JSContextColor command in response to a keymap of your choice. Here is a summary of the commands available:



##Global Variables



  • The plugin relies on NodeJS being installed, preferably > 0.10.

  • UNIX-like environment. The command line script which runs jslint in Node to obtain the coloring data requires a Unix-like environment to work. This means it's probably not going to work on Windows, unless inside Cygwin or something like that.

  • Vim version: 7.4 recommended, however it also works now on 7.3. Untested on earlier versions.


Using Pathogen.

  1. Install Pathogen

  2. Clone the repo from GitHub into your 'bundle' directory:

    git clone

  3. Run this command in the repo dir to install required node modules:

    npm install

  4. Install docs (in Vim):


Using NeoBundle.

  1. Install NeoBundle

  2. Add the following to your vimrc:

NeoBundle 'bigfish/vim-js-context-coloring', {
  \ 'build' : {
  \     'mac' : 'npm install --update',
  \     'unix' : 'npm install --update',
  \    },
  \ }
  1. Close & re-open Vim.


By default the plugin is enabled for all .js files. The highlighting will be applied whenever a change is made to the text, whether in Normal or Insert mode. Note that it will only be done after Insert mode is exited (back to Normal mode) so it will not update as you type.


The default colors for JavaScript scope levels are:

1:white, 2:green, 3: yellow 4:blue, 5:red, 6:cyan, 7:grey.

The highlighting is now handled by a colorscheme file, in standard vim colorscheme format. If you're upgrading from a previous version of the plugin (<= 0.6), you will need to reconfigure your colors by copying the 'jscc_colors.vim' colorscheme file from the plugin's /colors directory, to your VIMRUNTIME/colors directory (create if necessary). On unix this will be ~/.vim/colors. Make sure the name is still the same. Then you can make modifications to the highlight groups in the file as you wish. See ':help highlight-args' or look at other colorschemes for guidance. You may add additional levels if you wish.

The special syntax group 'JSCC_UndeclaredGlobal' targets undeclared global variables, in order to distinguish them from global variables which were declared in the current file. If you don't want to distinguish these, just set this group to the same highlighting as JSCC_Level_0.

You may use the XtermColorTable plugin to see what colors are available

Note that the color changes will not take effect immediately. To update the colors, you can use the :JSContextColorUpdate command.

###256 Color Support


Ubuntu (and I suspect most modern distros?) do support 256 colors by default, but Vim does not know this as the $TERM environment is set to 'xterm' by default and Vim does not think that the terminal can support 256 colors and does not even try. This can be remedied by adding the following line to your .bashrc:

[ -z "$TMUX" ] && export TERM=xterm-256color

This will set the $TERM environment variable to xterm-256colr unless we are using tmux (which sets its own $TERM value and should allow the plugin to work).

####Mac OS X does not support 256 colors in Snow Leopard and older. If you have Snow Leopard you can use iTerm2 to enable 256 color support. If you have a newer OSX you should be OK but the $TERM variable must still be set to 'xterm-256color'. Apparently this is default in Lion, and more recent versions, so that it should just work.


By default, comments are not colorized, but set to a middle grey color. If you want to colorize comments as well, do this:

let g:js_context_colors_colorize_comments = 1

If you want to use a custom highlight group for comments, define the group, and then assign it to the g:js_context_colors_comment_higroup, eg:

highlight MyComment ctermfg=red
let g:js_context_colors_comment_higroup = 'MyComment'

Or to use the comment syntax highlighting from your colorscheme:

let g:js_context_colors_comment_higroup = 'Comment'

This will only take effect if the g:js_context_colors_colorize_comments option is not set to 1.

Highlighting Function names

Setting the g:js_context_colors_highlight_function_names option to 1 will highlight declared function names with the parent scope level color, to indicate that the name was exported to the container scope.

###ES6 Support

The plugin now supports ES6 code. Arrow functions will be highlighted. If you also want to highlight block scopes, you can set the g:js_context_colors_block_scope option, but be aware this will also affect ES3/5 code if you open it. So you can use the g:js_context_colors_block_scope_with_let option, to only highlight blocks with let variables.

##ES5 only mode

If you only want to support ES5 syntax, you can set the g:js_context_colors_es5 option

JSX support

Set the g:js_context_colors_jsx option to 1 to support JSX (and ES6). If the file extension is .jsx this will be automatically turned on.

If you want JXS syntax to be used, overriding the scope colors, set g:js_context_colors_allow_jsx_syntax to 1. The vim-jsx or equivalent syntax must be loaded after this plugin.


The foldmethod is set to syntax by default, so if you do 'zc' to close the current fold, it will fold the current function. ('zo' opens it again). If g:js_context_colors_block_scope is set, it will fold the current block. There is another option to automatically fold functions after a certain depth of nesting, which is 9 by default. The option that controls this is g:js_context_colors_foldlevel. Set to a lower number to fold sooner, or a higher to avoid folding if you don't want auto folding. To not set foldmethod to syntax, and disable autofolding, set the g:js_context_colors_foldlevel to 0.

###Error Message When the plugin fails to get a valid response from the parser script, it will show an error... it will also not highlight. This is most likely a syntax error, but it could also be a problem with the CLI script (perhaps it was not installed). To stop annoying users, however it is now suppressed by default.

But it can be re-enabled with this option:

let g:js_context_colors_show_error_message = 1


The plugin is enabled by default. To disable it, set the g:js_context_colors_enabled variable to 0, in your .vimrc file.


By default, h is mapped to the JSContextColor command. By default, t is mapped to the JSContextColorToggle command.

These are local to the buffer. They can be disabled by setting the g:js_context_colors_usemaps variable to 0.


This plugin has a Neovim specific version, on the 'neovim' branch.

if you're new to neovim, this has helpful info on configuring nvim to use your existing vim config.

The advantage of the nvim fork is that the scope-analysis is done in a different thread than (n)vim, so it does not block input. This makes vim more responsive while using this plugin, especially when editing larger js files. Also, since the node code is running continually in the background, it will become compiled and thus faster.


  • Check out the neovim branch, and install node modules:

    cd vim-js-context-colors git fetch -a git checkout neovim cd rplugin/node npm install

  • The neovim version of my plugin depends on the node-host nvim plugin So this must be installed as well (eg. using Vundle:)

    if has('nvim') Plugin 'neovim/node-host' endif

  • You also need to do npm install inside the node-host repo as well..

  • When you run nvim, you also need to do


command, and then restart nvim. AFAIK, this only needs to be done the first time, or after updating the plugin.

  • You may sometimes notice the js code appears with default highlighting for a split second.. this is a side effect of the asynchronous nature of the plugin. It is more noticable on the Mac for some reason, than on Linux, and for the first file after starting the computer, as the node-host runtime has to startup. After that it shouldn't be noticable.


MIT -- see LICENSE file


JavaScript Context Coloring in Vim







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