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Syntax checking hacks for vim

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Syntastic is a syntax checking plugin that runs files through external syntax checkers and displays any resulting errors to the user. This can be done on demand, or automatically as files are saved. If syntax errors are detected, the user is notified and is happy because they didn't have to compile their code or execute their script to find them.

At the time of this writing, syntax checking plugins exist for applescript, c, coffee, cpp, css, cucumber, cuda, docbk, erlang, eruby, fortran, gentoo_metadata, go, haml, haskell, html, javascript, json, less, lua, matlab, perl, php, puppet, python, rst, ruby, sass/scss, sh, tcl, tex, vala, xhtml, xml, xslt, yaml, zpt


Below is a screenshot showing the methods that Syntastic uses to display syntax errors. Note that, in practise, you will only have a subset of these methods enabled.

Screenshot 1

  1. Errors are loaded into the location list for the corresponding window.
  2. When the cursor is on a line containing an error, the error message is echoed in the command window.
  3. Signs are placed beside lines with errors - note that warnings are displayed in a different color.
  4. There is a configurable statusline flag you can include in your statusline config.
  5. Hover the mouse over a line containing an error and the error message is displayed as a balloon.
  6. (not shown) Highlighting errors with syntax highlighting. Erroneous parts of lines can be highlighted.


Installing syntastic is easy but first you need to have the pathogen plugin installed. If you already have pathogen working then skip Step 1 and go to Step 2.

Step 1: Install pathogen.vim

First I'll show you how to install tpope's pathogen.vim so that it's easy to install syntastic. Do this in your Terminal so that you get the pathogen.vim file and the directories it needs:

mkdir -p ~/.vim/autoload ~/.vim/bundle; \
curl -so ~/.vim/autoload/pathogen.vim \

Next you need to add this to your ~/.vimrc:

    call pathogen#infect()

Step 2: Install syntastic as a pathogen bundle

You now have pathogen installed and can put syntastic into ~/.vim/bundle like this:

cd ~/.vim/bundle
git clone

Quit vim and start it back up to reload it, then type:


If you get an error when you do this, then you probably didn't install pathogen right. Go back to step 1 and make sure you did the following:

  1. Created both the ~/.vim/autoload and ~/.vim/bundle directories.
  2. Added the "call pathogen#infect()" line to your ~/.vimrc file
  3. Did the git clone of syntastic inside ~/.vim/bundle
  4. Have permissions to access all of these directories.

Google group

To get information or make suggestions check out the google group.


Q. I installed syntastic but it isn't reporting any errors ...

A. The most likely reason is that the syntax checker that it requires isn't installed. For example: python requires either flake8, pyflakes or pylint to be installed and in $PATH. To see which executable is required, just look in syntax_checkers/<filetype>.vim.

Another reason it could fail is that the error output for the syntax checker may have changed. In this case, make sure you have the latest version of the syntax checker installed. If it still fails then create an issue - or better yet, create a pull request.


2.3.0 (16-feb-2012)

  • Add syntastic_loc_list_height option
  • Allow errors to have a "subtype" that is signed differently to standard errors. Currently geared towards differentiating style errors from syntax errors. Currently implemented for phpcs (technosophos).
  • New checkers for:
    • yaml
    • haxe (davidB)
    • ocaml (edwintorok)
    • pylint (parantapa)
    • rust (cjab)
  • Updates to existing checkers:
    • jslint
    • jshint (gillesruppert)
    • fortran (bmattern)
    • sass
    • html (darcyparker)
    • coffee (darcyparker)
    • docbk (darcyparker)
    • xml
    • xslt
    • less (irrationalfab)
    • php (AD7six, technosophos)
    • cuda
    • python (mitchellh, pneff)
    • perl (Anthony Carapetis)
    • c (naoina, zsprackett)
    • puppet (frimik)

2.2.0 (24-dec-2011)

  • only do syntax checks when files are saved (not when first opened) - add g:syntastic_check_on_open option to get the old behavior back
  • bug fix with echoing error messages; fixes incompatability with cmd-t (datanoise)
  • dont allow warnings to mask errors when signing/echoing errors (ashikase)
  • auto close location list when leaving buffer. (millermedeiros)
  • update errors appropriately when :SyntasticToggleMode is called
  • updates/fixes to existing checkers:
    • javascript/jshint (millermedeiros)
    • javascript/jslint
    • c (kongo2002)
  • Support for new filetypes:
    • JSON (millermedeiros, tocer)
    • rst (reStructuredText files) (JNRowe)
    • gentoo-metadata (JNRowe)
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