An NSViewController (and optional document class) that implements syntax coloring and code editing-related features in an NSTextView.
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Syntax Definitions



This is a view controller class that implements a text editor that performs "live" syntax coloring in an NSTextView, and generally tries to be helpful to editing structured text documents for programming.


You must check out UliKit into a folder next to this one, or you will get missing files.


  • Live syntax coloring as you type, fast through localized updates
  • Most information about the things to colorize is kept in a SyntaxDefinitions.plist file that can easily be adapted to other programming languages than the included Objective C and HTML.
  • All colors used have aesthetically pleasing defaults and are read from the user defaults database. That means no more pink, turquoise and brown unless you want these colors. And the defaults are initially fetched from the syntax definitions, which you can adjust for your apps.
  • NSDocument subclass for the most common case, editing text files.
  • Built-in support for "Go To Line" and "Go To Character" to select parts of the text, also useful for highlighting lines when reporting coding errors.
  • Controller classes for editing preferences included.
  • Maintains indentation (if desired).

##Adapting to Other Programming Languages

To adapt the syntax coloring to another language, change the SyntaxDefinition.plist file using Apple's Property List Editor. A syntax definition file is an NSDictionary saved as a property list (and can thus be edited using Apple's Property List Editor). It currently contains two required entries.

The first has the key "Components", which is an array of dictionaries each describing one "thing" that can be colorized. Here's what the various keys mean:

###Name The name of this component that can be colorized. Used internally to mark some text styles, and also used to refer to this component from other components. (NSString)

###Color The default color to use for coloring this component. This will only be used when the user didn't specify a different color in the NSUserDefaults. Colors in the user defaults should have the key "SyntaxColoring:Color:COMPNAME" where COMPNAME is the name you specified as "Name" for this component. (NSArray, Red, Green, Blue, Alpha)

###Type The type of this component. This can be any one of "String", "BlockComment", "Tag", "OneLineComment" or "Keywords" and decides what other keys you should put into this component. (NSString)

###Start The character or character sequence that indicates the beginning of a range of text belonging to this component. (Not needed for "Keywords"). (NSString)

###End The character or character sequence that indicates the end of a range of text belonging to this component. (Not needed for "Keywords" or "OneLineComment"). (NSString)

###EscapeChar The character to use for indicating an "Escape sequence" in a "String". This character will cause the next character to be ignored in determining if this is an end of a "String". (NSString)

###IgnoredComponent The "Name" of another component in which this "Tag" range may not start or end. This can be used, when parsing HTML tags, to ignore '>' characters when they are specified inside a quoted character, so they're not accidentally considered as being the end of the tag. (NSString)

###Keywords An array of keyword strings to be colorized (Only used for "Keywords"-type components). If this isn't specified for a "Keywords" component, this will look in NSUserDefaults for an array under the key "SyntaxColoring:Keywords:COMPNAME", where COMPNAME is the "Name" you specified for this component. You can use this to colorize keywords or to colorize user-defined keywords. (NSArray of NSStrings)

###Charset All characters that are valid in a keyword for this "Keywords" style. Specify both upper- and lowercase characters separately. If this is specified, only keywords that are preceded and followed by characters not listed here will be colored, thus enforcing complete matches. Otherwise, parts of keywords will be colored as well, if they match an item in the "Keywords" list. (NSString)

Colorizing is done in the order the components are listed in the array. So, if you colorize strings first and comments afterward, any strings occurring inside a comment will get the comment color, because that color was applied last.

The second entry is "FileNameSuffixes", which is an array of strings, each designating one file name extension which UKMultiSyntaxColoredTextDocument will use to determine the syntax coloring file to use for an opened file.

Currently, you can also put the following optional keys in the dictionary:

###OneLineCommentPrefix A string that will be used by the action method -toggleCommentForSelection: to determine what comment character sequence to look for/to add. Note that if this entry has leading or trailing whitespace, that whitespace will be added when inserting a new comment, but when trying to determine whether a line has a comment that should be removed, it will also match the string without the whitespace. This could cause problems in languages where whitespace is syntactically relevant.


Copyright (c) 2003-2010 Uli Kusterer.

This software is provided 'as-is', without any express or implied warranty. In no event will the authors be held liable for any damages arising from the use of this software.

Permission is granted to anyone to use this software for any purpose, including commercial applications, and to alter it and redistribute it freely, subject to the following restrictions:

  1. The origin of this software must not be misrepresented; you must not claim that you wrote the original software. If you use this software in a product, an acknowledgment in the product documentation would be appreciated but is not required.

  2. Altered source versions must be plainly marked as such, and must not be misrepresented as being the original software.

  3. This notice may not be removed or altered from any source distribution.

##Revisions 0.1 - First public release.

0.1.1 - Fixed a tiny bug that could cause a crash when the last character in the document was deleted. Removed a couple of outdated files and added some missing identifiers to the example SyntaxDefinition.plist.

0.1.5 - Added option to maintain indentation of previous line for new lines when a return key is typed, added accessors for auto syntax coloring and maintain indentation flags.

0.2.0 - Added "Identifiers2" list, "comments2", coloring of "tags", -syntaxDictionary method, support for specifying the escape character for coloring strings, HTML sample syntax definition, leaving out the charset for identifiers, icons indicating selection type, UKSCTDColorWellPrefsController, new-style syntax definitions and UKSCTDUserIdentifiersPrefsController, and UKMultiSyntaxColoredTextDocument.

0.3.0 - Fixed exceptions when undoing, hopefully finally fixed the bug where editing an empty document would occasionally crash.

0.4.0 - Fixed indent/unindent to not indent the next line after a full-line (triple click) selection and made it support undo. Made "new" ObjC coloring scheme support user identifiers, added more identifiers. Multi syntax colored document now tries to pick the right syntax coloring definition file based on extension. Misc. stability fixes.

0.5.0 - Various improvements to undo, comment/uncomment menu item, actual syntax coloring code now extracted into a view controller. Removed support for old-style syntax definitions. Prettier top bar containing status messages.

##Contact Information

You can find the newest version of UKSyntaxColoredTextDocument at

E-Mail: witness_dot_of_dot_teachtext_at_gmx_dot_net