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Semantic highlighting for Lua in Vim

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Semantic highlighting for Lua in Vim

The Vim plug-in luainspect.vim uses the LuaInspect tool to (automatically) perform semantic highlighting of variables in Lua source code. It was inspired by lua2-mode (for Emacs) and the SciTE plug-in included with LuaInspect.

Screenshot of semantic highlighting


  1. Unzip the most recent ZIP archive file inside your Vim profile directory (usually this is ~/.vim on UNIX and %USERPROFILE%\vimfiles on Windows) and move or symlink the file luainspect4vim.lua somewhere where Lua's require() function can find it.

  2. Download the latest LuaInspect sources and unpack the contents of the luainspectlib/ and metalualib/ directories where Lua's require() function can find them.

  3. Restart Vim and edit any Lua file. Within a few seconds semantic highlighting should be enabled automatically.


When you open any Lua file the semantic highlighting should be enabled automatically within a few seconds, so you don't have to configure anything if you're happy with the defaults.

The :LuaInspect command

You don't need to use this command unless you've disabled automatic highlighting using g:lua_inspect_events. When you execute this command the plug-in runs the LuaInspect tool and then highlights all variables in the current buffer using one of the following highlighting groups:

  • luaInspectGlobalDefined
  • luaInspectGlobalUndefined
  • luaInspectLocalUnused
  • luaInspectLocalMutated
  • luaInspectUpValue
  • luaInspectParam
  • luaInspectLocal
  • luaInspectFieldDefined
  • luaInspectFieldUndefined
  • luaInspectSelectedVariable

If you don't like one or more of the default styles the Vim documentation describes how to change them.

If you want to disable the semantic highlighting in a specific Vim buffer execute :LuaInspect! in that buffer. When you want to reenable the highlighting execute :LuaInspect again, but now without the bang.

The g:loaded_luainspect option

This variable isn't really an option but if you want to avoid loading the luainspect.vim plug-in you can set this variable to any value in your vimrc script:

:let g:loaded_luainspect = 1

The g:lua_inspect_events option

By default semantic highlighting is automatically enabled after a short timeout and when you save a buffer. If you want to disable automatic highlighting altogether add the following to your vimrc script:

:let g:lua_inspect_events = ''

You can also add events, for example if you also want to run :LuaInspect the moment you edit a Lua file then try this:

:let g:lua_inspect_events = 'CursorHold,CursorHoldI,BufReadPost,BufWritePost'

Note that this only works when the plug-in is loaded (or reloaded) after setting the g:lua_inspect_events option.

The g:lua_inspect_internal option

The plug-in uses the Lua interface for Vim when available so that it doesn't have to run LuaInspect as an external program (which can slow things down). If you insist on running LuaInspect as an external program you can set this variable to false (0) in your vimrc script:

:let g:lua_inspect_internal = 0

Not yet implemented

  • When LuaInspect fails because of a syntax error the position of the error should be marked like e.g. spelling errors

  • Right now the highlighting styles used by luainspect.vim are the same as those used by the SciTE plug-in and they don't work well on dark backgrounds. As soon as I get around to picking some alternate colors I'll include those in the plug-in.

  • Bindings for other features of LuaInspect like renaming variables on command and showing tooltips for identifiers. This might be a lot of work but could prove to be really useful in making Lua easy to use in Vim.


If you have questions, bug reports, suggestions, etc. the author can be contacted at The latest version is available at and If you like this plug-in please vote for it on


This software is licensed under the MIT license.
© 2010 Peter Odding <>.

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