Sign

Nvim :help pages, generated from source using the tree-sitter-vimdoc parser.


and Bram Moolenaar
Sign Support Features

1. Introduction sign-intro signs

When a debugger or other IDE tool is driving an editor it needs to be able to give specific highlights which quickly tell the user useful information about the file. One example of this would be a debugger which had an icon in the left-hand column denoting a breakpoint. Another example might be an arrow representing the Program Counter (PC). The sign features allow both placement of a sign, or icon, in the left-hand side of the window and definition of a highlight which will be applied to that line. Displaying the sign as an image is most likely only feasible in gvim (although Sun Microsystem's dtterm does support this it's the only terminal emulator I know of which does). A text sign and the highlight should be feasible in any color terminal emulator.
Signs and highlights are not useful just for debuggers. There are plugins that use signs to mark build errors or display version control status.
There are two steps in using signs:
1. Define the sign. This specifies the image, text and highlighting. For example, you can define a "break" sign with an image of a stop roadsign and text "!!".
2. Place the sign. This specifies the file and line number where the sign is displayed. A defined sign can be placed several times in different lines and files.
sign-column When signs are defined for a file, Vim will automatically add a column of two characters to display them in. When the last sign is unplaced the column disappears again. This behavior can be changed with the 'signcolumn' option.
The color of the column is set with the SignColumn highlight group hl-SignColumn. Example to set the color:
:highlight SignColumn guibg=darkgrey
If 'cursorline' is enabled, then the CursorLineSign highlight group is used hl-CursorLineSign. sign-identifier Each placed sign is identified by a number called the sign identifier. This identifier is used to jump to the sign or to remove the sign. The identifier is assigned when placing the sign using the :sign-place command or the sign_place() function. Each sign identifier should be a unique number. If multiple placed signs use the same identifier, then jumping to or removing a sign becomes unpredictable. To avoid overlapping identifiers, sign groups can be used. The sign_place() function can be called with a zero sign identifier to allocate the next available identifier.
sign-group Each placed sign can be assigned to either the global group or a named group. When placing a sign, if a group name is not supplied, or an empty string is used, then the sign is placed in the global group. Otherwise the sign is placed in the named group. The sign identifier is unique within a group. The sign group allows Vim plugins to use unique signs without interfering with other plugins using signs.
sign-priority Each placed sign is assigned a priority value. When multiple signs are placed on the same line, the attributes of the sign with the highest priority is used independently of the sign group. The default priority for a sign is 10. The priority is assigned at the time of placing a sign.
When two signs with the same priority are present, and one has an icon or text in the signcolumn while the other has line highlighting, then both are displayed.
When the line on which the sign is placed is deleted, the sign is moved to the next line (or the last line of the buffer, if there is no next line). When the delete is undone the sign does not move back.

2. Commands sign-commands :sig :sign

Here is an example that places a sign "piet", displayed with the text ">>", in line 23 of the current file:
:sign define piet text=>> texthl=Search
:exe ":sign place 2 line=23 name=piet file=" .. expand("%:p")
And here is the command to delete it again:
:sign unplace 2
Note that the ":sign" command cannot be followed by another command or a comment. If you do need that, use the :execute command.
DEFINING A SIGN. :sign-define E255 E160 E612
See sign_define() for the equivalent Vim script function.
:sign define {name} {argument}... Define a new sign or set attributes for an existing sign. The {name} can either be a number (all digits) or a name starting with a non-digit. Leading zeros are ignored, thus "0012", "012" and "12" are considered the same name. About 120 different signs can be defined.
Accepted arguments:
icon={bitmap} Define the file name where the bitmap can be found. Should be a full path. The bitmap should fit in the place of two characters. This is not checked. If the bitmap is too big it will cause redraw problems.
toolkit supports
Win32 .bmp, .ico, .cur
linehl={group} Highlighting group used for the whole line the sign is placed in. Most useful is defining a background color.
numhl={group} Highlighting group used for the line number on the line where the sign is placed. Overrides hl-LineNr, hl-LineNrAbove, hl-LineNrBelow, and hl-CursorLineNr.
text={text} E239 Define the text that is displayed when there is no icon or the GUI is not being used. Only printable characters are allowed and they must occupy one or two display cells.
texthl={group} Highlighting group used for the text item.
culhl={group} Highlighting group used for the text item when the cursor is on the same line as the sign and 'cursorline' is enabled.
Example:
:sign define MySign text=>> texthl=Search linehl=DiffText
DELETING A SIGN :sign-undefine E155
See sign_undefine() for the equivalent Vim script function.
:sign undefine {name} Deletes a previously defined sign. If signs with this {name} are still placed this will cause trouble.
Example:
:sign undefine MySign

LISTING SIGNS :sign-list E156

See sign_getdefined() for the equivalent Vim script function.
:sign list Lists all defined signs and their attributes.
:sign list {name} Lists one defined sign and its attributes.

PLACING SIGNS :sign-place E158

See sign_place() for the equivalent Vim script function.
:sign place {id} line={lnum} name={name} file={fname} Place sign defined as {name} at line {lnum} in file {fname}. :sign-fname The file {fname} must already be loaded in a buffer. The exact file name must be used, wildcards, $ENV and ~ are not expanded, white space must not be escaped. Trailing white space is ignored.
The sign is remembered under {id}, this can be used for further manipulation. {id} must be a number. It's up to the user to make sure the {id} is used only once in each file (if it's used several times unplacing will also have to be done several times and making changes may not work as expected).
The following optional sign attributes can be specified before "file=": group={group} Place sign in sign group {group} priority={prio} Assign priority {prio} to sign
By default, the sign is placed in the global sign group.
By default, the sign is assigned a default priority of 10. To assign a different priority value, use "priority={prio}" to specify a value. The priority is used to determine the sign that is displayed when multiple signs are placed on the same line.
Examples:
:sign place 5 line=3 name=sign1 file=a.py
:sign place 6 group=g2 line=2 name=sign2 file=x.py
:sign place 9 group=g2 priority=50 line=5
                                \ name=sign1 file=a.py
:sign place {id} line={lnum} name={name} [buffer={nr}] Same, but use buffer {nr}. If the buffer argument is not given, place the sign in the current buffer.
Example:
:sign place 10 line=99 name=sign3
:sign place 10 line=99 name=sign3 buffer=3
E885 :sign place {id} name={name} file={fname} Change the placed sign {id} in file {fname} to use the defined sign {name}. See remark above about {fname} :sign-fname. This can be used to change the displayed sign without moving it (e.g., when the debugger has stopped at a breakpoint).
The optional "group={group}" attribute can be used before "file=" to select a sign in a particular group. The optional "priority={prio}" attribute can be used to change the priority of an existing sign.
Example:
:sign place 23 name=sign1 file=/path/to/edit.py
:sign place {id} name={name} [buffer={nr}] Same, but use buffer {nr}. If the buffer argument is not given, use the current buffer.
Example:
:sign place 23 name=sign1
:sign place 23 name=sign1 buffer=7

REMOVING SIGNS :sign-unplace E159

See sign_unplace() for the equivalent Vim script function.
:sign unplace {id} file={fname} Remove the previously placed sign {id} from file {fname}. See remark above about {fname} :sign-fname.
:sign unplace {id} group={group} file={fname} Same but remove the sign {id} in sign group {group}.
:sign unplace {id} group=* file={fname} Same but remove the sign {id} from all the sign groups.
:sign unplace * file={fname} Remove all placed signs in file {fname}.
:sign unplace * group={group} file={fname} Remove all placed signs in group {group} from file {fname}.
:sign unplace * group=* file={fname} Remove all placed signs in all the groups from file {fname}.
:sign unplace {id} buffer={nr} Remove the previously placed sign {id} from buffer {nr}.
:sign unplace {id} group={group} buffer={nr} Remove the previously placed sign {id} in group {group} from buffer {nr}.
:sign unplace {id} group=* buffer={nr} Remove the previously placed sign {id} in all the groups from buffer {nr}.
:sign unplace * buffer={nr} Remove all placed signs in buffer {nr}.
:sign unplace * group={group} buffer={nr} Remove all placed signs in group {group} from buffer {nr}.
:sign unplace * group=* buffer={nr} Remove all placed signs in all the groups from buffer {nr}.
:sign unplace {id} Remove the previously placed sign {id} from all files it appears in.
:sign unplace {id} group={group} Remove the previously placed sign {id} in group {group} from all files it appears in.
:sign unplace {id} group=* Remove the previously placed sign {id} in all the groups from all the files it appears in.
:sign unplace * Remove all placed signs in the global group from all the files.
:sign unplace * group={group} Remove all placed signs in group {group} from all the files.
:sign unplace * group=* Remove all placed signs in all the groups from all the files.
:sign unplace Remove a placed sign at the cursor position. If multiple signs are placed in the line, then only one is removed.
:sign unplace group={group} Remove a placed sign in group {group} at the cursor position.
:sign unplace group=* Remove a placed sign in any group at the cursor position.

LISTING PLACED SIGNS :sign-place-list

See sign_getplaced() for the equivalent Vim script function.
:sign place file={fname} List signs placed in file {fname}. See remark above about {fname} :sign-fname.
:sign place group={group} file={fname} List signs in group {group} placed in file {fname}.
:sign place group=* file={fname} List signs in all the groups placed in file {fname}.
:sign place buffer={nr} List signs placed in buffer {nr}.
:sign place group={group} buffer={nr} List signs in group {group} placed in buffer {nr}.
:sign place group=* buffer={nr} List signs in all the groups placed in buffer {nr}.
:sign place group={group} List placed signs in all sign groups in all the files.
:sign place group=* List placed signs in all sign groups in all files.
JUMPING TO A SIGN :sign-jump E157
See sign_jump() for the equivalent Vim script function.
:sign jump {id} file={fname} Open the file {fname} or jump to the window that contains {fname} and position the cursor at sign {id}. See remark above about {fname} :sign-fname. If the file isn't displayed in window and the current file can not be abandoned this fails.
:sign jump {id} group={group} file={fname} Same but jump to the sign in group {group}
:sign jump {id} [buffer={nr}] E934 Same, but use buffer {nr}. This fails if buffer {nr} does not have a name. If the buffer argument is not given, use the current buffer.
:sign jump {id} group={group} [buffer={nr}] Same but jump to the sign in group {group}

3. Functions sign-functions-details

sign_define({name} [, {dict}]) sign_define() sign_define({list}) Define a new sign named {name} or modify the attributes of an existing sign. This is similar to the :sign-define command.
Prefix {name} with a unique text to avoid name collisions. There is no {group} like with placing signs.
The {name} can be a String or a Number. The optional {dict} argument specifies the sign attributes. The following values are supported: icon full path to the bitmap file for the sign. linehl highlight group used for the whole line the sign is placed in. text text that is displayed when there is no icon or the GUI is not being used. texthl highlight group used for the text item culhl highlight group used for the text item when the cursor is on the same line as the sign and 'cursorline' is enabled. numhl highlight group used for 'number' column at the associated line. Overrides hl-LineNr, hl-CursorLineNr.
If the sign named {name} already exists, then the attributes of the sign are updated.
The one argument {list} can be used to define a list of signs. Each list item is a dictionary with the above items in {dict} and a "name" item for the sign name.
Returns 0 on success and -1 on failure. When the one argument {list} is used, then returns a List of values one for each defined sign.
Examples:
call sign_define("mySign", {
        \ "text" : "=>",
        \ "texthl" : "Error",
        \ "linehl" : "Search"})
call sign_define([
        \ {'name' : 'sign1',
        \  'text' : '=>'},
        \ {'name' : 'sign2',
        \  'text' : '!!'}
        \ ])
Can also be used as a method:
GetSignList()->sign_define()
sign_getdefined([{name}]) sign_getdefined() Get a list of defined signs and their attributes. This is similar to the :sign-list command.
If the {name} is not supplied, then a list of all the defined signs is returned. Otherwise the attribute of the specified sign is returned.
Each list item in the returned value is a dictionary with the following entries: icon full path to the bitmap file of the sign linehl highlight group used for the whole line the sign is placed in; not present if not set. name name of the sign text text that is displayed when there is no icon or the GUI is not being used. texthl highlight group used for the text item; not present if not set. culhl highlight group used for the text item when the cursor is on the same line as the sign and 'cursorline' is enabled; not present if not set. numhl highlight group used for 'number' column at the associated line. Overrides hl-LineNr, hl-CursorLineNr; not present if not set.
Returns an empty List if there are no signs and when {name} is not found.
Examples:
" Get a list of all the defined signs
echo sign_getdefined()

" Get the attribute of the sign named mySign
echo sign_getdefined("mySign")
Can also be used as a method:
GetSignList()->sign_getdefined()
sign_getplaced([{buf} [, {dict}]]) sign_getplaced() Return a list of signs placed in a buffer or all the buffers. This is similar to the :sign-place-list command.
If the optional buffer name {buf} is specified, then only the list of signs placed in that buffer is returned. For the use of {buf}, see bufname(). The optional {dict} can contain the following entries: group select only signs in this group id select sign with this identifier lnum select signs placed in this line. For the use of {lnum}, see line(). If {group} is '', then signs in all the groups including the global group are returned. If {group} is not supplied or is an empty string, then only signs in the global group are returned. If no arguments are supplied, then signs in the global group placed in all the buffers are returned. See sign-group.
Each list item in the returned value is a dictionary with the following entries: bufnr number of the buffer with the sign signs list of signs placed in {bufnr}. Each list item is a dictionary with the below listed entries
The dictionary for each sign contains the following entries: group sign group. Set to '' for the global group. id identifier of the sign lnum line number where the sign is placed name name of the defined sign priority sign priority
The returned signs in a buffer are ordered by their line number and priority.
Returns an empty list on failure or if there are no placed signs.
Examples:
" Get a List of signs placed in eval.c in the
" global group
echo sign_getplaced("eval.c")

" Get a List of signs in group 'g1' placed in eval.c
echo sign_getplaced("eval.c", {'group' : 'g1'})

" Get a List of signs placed at line 10 in eval.c
echo sign_getplaced("eval.c", {'lnum' : 10})

" Get sign with identifier 10 placed in a.py
echo sign_getplaced("a.py", {'id' : 10})

" Get sign with id 20 in group 'g1' placed in a.py
echo sign_getplaced("a.py", {'group' : 'g1',
                                \  'id' : 20})

" Get a List of all the placed signs
echo sign_getplaced()
Can also be used as a method:
GetBufname()->sign_getplaced()
sign_jump() sign_jump({id}, {group}, {buf}) Open the buffer {buf} or jump to the window that contains {buf} and position the cursor at sign {id} in group {group}. This is similar to the :sign-jump command.
For the use of {buf}, see bufname().
Returns the line number of the sign. Returns -1 if the arguments are invalid.
Example:
" Jump to sign 10 in the current buffer
call sign_jump(10, '', '')
Can also be used as a method:
GetSignid()->sign_jump()
sign_place() sign_place({id}, {group}, {name}, {buf} [, {dict}]) Place the sign defined as {name} at line {lnum} in file or buffer {buf} and assign {id} and {group} to sign. This is similar to the :sign-place command.
If the sign identifier {id} is zero, then a new identifier is allocated. Otherwise the specified number is used. {group} is the sign group name. To use the global sign group, use an empty string. {group} functions as a namespace for {id}, thus two groups can use the same IDs. Refer to sign-identifier and sign-group for more information.
{name} refers to a defined sign. {buf} refers to a buffer name or number. For the accepted values, see bufname().
The optional {dict} argument supports the following entries: lnum line number in the file or buffer {buf} where the sign is to be placed. For the accepted values, see line(). priority priority of the sign. See sign-priority for more information.
If the optional {dict} is not specified, then it modifies the placed sign {id} in group {group} to use the defined sign {name}.
Returns the sign identifier on success and -1 on failure.
Examples:
" Place a sign named sign1 with id 5 at line 20 in
" buffer json.c
call sign_place(5, '', 'sign1', 'json.c',
                                \ {'lnum' : 20})

" Updates sign 5 in buffer json.c to use sign2
call sign_place(5, '', 'sign2', 'json.c')

" Place a sign named sign3 at line 30 in
" buffer json.c with a new identifier
let id = sign_place(0, '', 'sign3', 'json.c',
                                \ {'lnum' : 30})

" Place a sign named sign4 with id 10 in group 'g3'
" at line 40 in buffer json.c with priority 90
call sign_place(10, 'g3', 'sign4', 'json.c',
                \ {'lnum' : 40, 'priority' : 90})
Can also be used as a method:
GetSignid()->sign_place(group, name, expr)
sign_placelist() sign_placelist({list}) Place one or more signs. This is similar to the sign_place() function. The {list} argument specifies the List of signs to place. Each list item is a dict with the following sign attributes: buffer buffer name or number. For the accepted values, see bufname(). group sign group. {group} functions as a namespace for {id}, thus two groups can use the same IDs. If not specified or set to an empty string, then the global group is used. See sign-group for more information. id sign identifier. If not specified or zero, then a new unique identifier is allocated. Otherwise the specified number is used. See sign-identifier for more information. lnum line number in the buffer {buf} where the sign is to be placed. For the accepted values, see line(). name name of the sign to place. See sign_define() for more information. priority priority of the sign. When multiple signs are placed on a line, the sign with the highest priority is used. If not specified, the default value of 10 is used. See sign-priority for more information.
If {id} refers to an existing sign, then the existing sign is modified to use the specified {name} and/or {priority}.
Returns a List of sign identifiers. If failed to place a sign, the corresponding list item is set to -1.
Examples:
" Place sign s1 with id 5 at line 20 and id 10 at line
" 30 in buffer a.c
let [n1, n2] = sign_placelist([
        \ {'id' : 5,
        \  'name' : 's1',
        \  'buffer' : 'a.c',
        \  'lnum' : 20},
        \ {'id' : 10,
        \  'name' : 's1',
        \  'buffer' : 'a.c',
        \  'lnum' : 30}
        \ ])

" Place sign s1 in buffer a.c at line 40 and 50
" with auto-generated identifiers
let [n1, n2] = sign_placelist([
        \ {'name' : 's1',
        \  'buffer' : 'a.c',
        \  'lnum' : 40},
        \ {'name' : 's1',
        \  'buffer' : 'a.c',
        \  'lnum' : 50}
        \ ])
Can also be used as a method:
GetSignlist()->sign_placelist()
sign_undefine([{name}]) sign_undefine() sign_undefine({list}) Deletes a previously defined sign {name}. This is similar to the :sign-undefine command. If {name} is not supplied, then deletes all the defined signs.
The one argument {list} can be used to undefine a list of signs. Each list item is the name of a sign.
Returns 0 on success and -1 on failure. For the one argument {list} call, returns a list of values one for each undefined sign.
Examples:
" Delete a sign named mySign
call sign_undefine("mySign")

" Delete signs 'sign1' and 'sign2'
call sign_undefine(["sign1", "sign2"])

" Delete all the signs
call sign_undefine()
Can also be used as a method:
GetSignlist()->sign_undefine()
sign_unplace({group} [, {dict}]) sign_unplace() Remove a previously placed sign in one or more buffers. This is similar to the :sign-unplace command.
{group} is the sign group name. To use the global sign group, use an empty string. If {group} is set to '', then all the groups including the global group are used. The signs in {group} are selected based on the entries in {dict}. The following optional entries in {dict} are supported: buffer buffer name or number. See bufname(). id sign identifier If {dict} is not supplied, then all the signs in {group} are removed.
Returns 0 on success and -1 on failure.
Examples:
" Remove sign 10 from buffer a.vim
call sign_unplace('', {'buffer' : "a.vim", 'id' : 10})

" Remove sign 20 in group 'g1' from buffer 3
call sign_unplace('g1', {'buffer' : 3, 'id' : 20})

" Remove all the signs in group 'g2' from buffer 10
call sign_unplace('g2', {'buffer' : 10})

" Remove sign 30 in group 'g3' from all the buffers
call sign_unplace('g3', {'id' : 30})

" Remove all the signs placed in buffer 5
call sign_unplace('*', {'buffer' : 5})

" Remove the signs in group 'g4' from all the buffers
call sign_unplace('g4')

" Remove sign 40 from all the buffers
call sign_unplace('*', {'id' : 40})

" Remove all the placed signs from all the buffers
call sign_unplace('*')
Can also be used as a method:
GetSigngroup()->sign_unplace()
sign_unplacelist({list}) sign_unplacelist() Remove previously placed signs from one or more buffers. This is similar to the sign_unplace() function.
The {list} argument specifies the List of signs to remove. Each list item is a dict with the following sign attributes: buffer buffer name or number. For the accepted values, see bufname(). If not specified, then the specified sign is removed from all the buffers. group sign group name. If not specified or set to an empty string, then the global sign group is used. If set to '', then all the groups including the global group are used. id sign identifier. If not specified, then all the signs in the specified group are removed.
Returns a List where an entry is set to 0 if the corresponding sign was successfully removed or -1 on failure.
Example:
" Remove sign with id 10 from buffer a.vim and sign
" with id 20 from buffer b.vim
call sign_unplacelist([
        \ {'id' : 10, 'buffer' : "a.vim"},
        \ {'id' : 20, 'buffer' : 'b.vim'},
        \ ])
Can also be used as a method:
GetSignlist()->sign_unplacelist()
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