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

Nvim style guide
This is style guide for developers working on Nvim's source code.


One way in which we keep the code base manageable is by enforcing consistency. It is very important that any programmer be able to look at another's code and quickly understand it.
Maintaining a uniform style and following conventions means that we can more easily use "pattern-matching" to infer what various symbols are and what invariants are true about them. Creating common, required idioms and patterns makes code much easier to understand.
In some cases there might be good arguments for changing certain style rules, but we nonetheless keep things as they are in order to preserve consistency.

Header Files dev-style-header

The #define Guard
All header files should have #define guards to prevent multiple inclusion. The format of the symbol name should be NVIM_<DIRECTORY>_<FILE>_H.
In foo/bar.h:
#ifndef NVIM_FOO_BAR_H
#define NVIM_FOO_BAR_H


#endif  // NVIM_FOO_BAR_H
Do not use macros to define constants in headers.
Macro constants in header files cannot be used by unit tests.
However, you are allowed to define a macro that holds the same value as a non-enum constant (defined in the same header) if the value of the constant represents the size of an array.

Scoping dev-style-scope

Local Variables
Place a function's variables in the narrowest scope possible, and initialize variables in the declaration.
C99 allows you to declare variables anywhere in a function. Declare them in as local a scope as possible, and as close to the first use as possible. This makes it easier for the reader to find the declaration and see what type the variable is and what it was initialized to. In particular, initialization should be used instead of declaration and assignment, e.g.
int i;
i = f();      // BAD: initialization separate from declaration.

int j = g();  // GOOD: declaration has initialization.

Nvim-Specific Magic

Use to detect style errors.
src/ is a Python script that reads a source file and identifies style errors. It is not perfect, and has both false positives and false negatives, but it is still a valuable tool. False positives can be ignored by putting // NOLINT at the end of the line.
src/uncrustify.cfg is the authority for expected code formatting, for cases not covered by We remove checks in if they are covered by uncrustify rules.

Other C Features dev-style-features

Variable-Length Arrays and alloca()
We do not allow variable-length arrays or alloca().
Variable-length arrays can cause hard to detect stack overflows.
Postincrement and Postdecrement
Use postfix form (i++) in statements.
for (int i = 0; i < 3; i++) { }
int j = ++i;  // OK: ++i is used as an expression.

for (int i = 0; i < 3; ++i) { }
++i;  // BAD: ++i is used as a statement.
Use of const
Use const pointers whenever possible. Avoid const on non-pointer parameter definitions.
Where to put the const
Some people favor the form int const *foo to const int *foo . They argue that this is more readable because it's more consistent: it keeps the rule that const always follows the object it's describing. However, this consistency argument doesn't apply in codebases with few deeply-nested pointer expressions since most const expressions have only one const, and it applies to the underlying value. In such cases, there's no consistency to maintain. Putting the const first is arguably more readable, since it follows English in putting the "adjective" (const) before the "noun" (int).
That said, while we encourage putting const first, we do not require it. But be consistent with the code around you!
void foo(const char *p, int i);

int foo(const int a, const bool b) {

int foo(int *const p) {
Integer Types
Of the built-in integer types only use char, int, uint8_t, int8_t, uint16_t, int16_t, uint32_t, int32_t, uint64_t, int64_t, uintmax_t, intmax_t, size_t, ssize_t, uintptr_t, intptr_t, and ptrdiff_t.
Use int for error codes and local, trivial variables only.
Use care when converting integer types. Integer conversions and promotions can cause non-intuitive behavior. Note that the signedness of char is implementation defined.
Public facing types must have fixed width (uint8_t, etc.)
There are no convenient printf format placeholders for fixed width types. Cast to uintmax_t or intmax_t if you have to format fixed width integers.
Type unsigned signed char %hhu %hhd int n/a %d (u)intmax_t %ju %jd (s)size_t %zu %zd ptrdiff_t %tu %td
Use bool to represent boolean values.
int loaded = 1;  // BAD: loaded should have type bool.
Don't use "yoda-conditions". Use at most one assignment per condition.
if (1 == x) {

if (x == 1) {  //use this order

if ((x = f()) && (y = g())) {
Function declarations
Every function must not have a separate declaration.
Function declarations are created by the gendeclarations.lua script.
static void f(void);

static void f(void)
General translation unit layout
The definitions of public functions precede the definitions of static functions.


Integration with declarations generator
Every C file must contain #include of the generated header file, guarded by #ifdef INCLUDE_GENERATED_DECLARATIONS.
Include must go after other #includes and typedefs in .c files and after everything else in header files. It is allowed to omit #include in a .c file if .c file does not contain any static functions.
Included file name consists of the .c file name without extension, preceded by the directory name relative to src/nvim. Name of the file containing static functions declarations ends with .c.generated.h, *.h.generated.h files contain only non-static function declarations.
// src/nvim/foo.c file
#include <stddef.h>

typedef int FooType;

# include "foo.c.generated.h"


// src/nvim/foo.h file
#ifndef NVIM_FOO_H
#define NVIM_FOO_H


# include "foo.h.generated.h"
#endif  // NVIM_FOO_H
64-bit Portability
Code should be 64-bit and 32-bit friendly. Bear in mind problems of printing, comparisons, and structure alignment.
Remember that sizeof(void *) != sizeof(int). Use intptr_t if you want a pointer-sized integer.
You may need to be careful with structure alignments, particularly for structures being stored on disk. Any class/structure with a int64_t/`uint64_t` member will by default end up being 8-byte aligned on a 64-bit system. If you have such structures being shared on disk between 32-bit and 64-bit code, you will need to ensure that they are packed the same on both architectures. Most compilers offer a way to alter structure alignment. For gcc, you can use __attribute__((packed)). MSVC offers #pragma pack() and __declspec(align()).
Use the LL or ULL suffixes as needed to create 64-bit constants. For example:
int64_t my_value = 0x123456789LL;
uint64_t my_mask = 3ULL << 48;
sizeof ~
Prefer sizeof(varname) to sizeof(type).
Use sizeof(varname) when you take the size of a particular variable. sizeof(varname) will update appropriately if someone changes the variable type either now or later. You may use sizeof(type) for code unrelated to any particular variable, such as code that manages an external or internal data format where a variable of an appropriate C type is not convenient.
Struct data;
memset(&data, 0, sizeof(data));

memset(&data, 0, sizeof(Struct));

if (raw_size < sizeof(int)) {
  fprintf(stderr, "compressed record not big enough for count: %ju", raw_size);
  return false;

Naming dev-style-naming

The most important consistency rules are those that govern naming. The style of a name immediately informs us what sort of thing the named entity is: a type, a variable, a function, a constant, a macro, etc., without requiring us to search for the declaration of that entity. The pattern-matching engine in our brains relies a great deal on these naming rules.
Naming rules are pretty arbitrary, but we feel that consistency is more important than individual preferences in this area, so regardless of whether you find them sensible or not, the rules are the rules.
General Naming Rules
Function names, variable names, and filenames should be descriptive; eschew abbreviation.
Give as descriptive a name as possible, within reason. Do not worry about saving horizontal space as it is far more important to make your code immediately understandable by a new reader. Do not use abbreviations that are ambiguous or unfamiliar to readers outside your project, and do not abbreviate by deleting letters within a word.
int price_count_reader;    // No abbreviation.
int num_errors;            // "num" is a widespread convention.
int num_dns_connections;   // Most people know what "DNS" stands for.

int n;                     // Meaningless.
int nerr;                  // Ambiguous abbreviation.
int n_comp_conns;          // Ambiguous abbreviation.
int wgc_connections;       // Only your group knows what this stands for.
int pc_reader;             // Lots of things can be abbreviated "pc".
int cstmr_id;              // Deletes internal letters.
File Names
Filenames should be all lowercase and can include underscores (_).
Use underscores to separate words. Examples of acceptable file names:
getline_fix.c  // OK: getline refers to the glibc function.
C files should end in .c and header files should end in .h.
Do not use filenames that already exist in /usr/include, such as db.h.
In general, make your filenames very specific. For example, use http_server_logs.h rather than logs.h.
Type Names
Typedef-ed structs and enums start with a capital letter and have a capital letter for each new word, with no underscores: MyExcitingStruct.
Non-Typedef-ed structs and enums are all lowercase with underscores between words: struct my_exciting_struct .
struct my_struct {
typedef struct my_struct MyAwesomeStruct;
Variable Names
Variable names are all lowercase, with underscores between words. For instance: my_exciting_local_variable.
Common Variable names
For example:
string table_name;  // OK: uses underscore.
string tablename;   // OK: all lowercase.

string tableName;   // BAD: mixed case.
Struct Variables
Data members in structs should be named like regular variables.
struct url_table_properties {
  string name;
  int num_entries;
Global Variables
Don't use global variables unless absolutely necessary. Prefix global variables with g_.
Constant Names
Use a k followed by mixed case: kDaysInAWeek.
All compile-time constants, whether they are declared locally or globally, follow a slightly different naming convention from other variables. Use a k followed by words with uppercase first letters:
const int kDaysInAWeek = 7;
Function Names
Function names are all lowercase, with underscores between words. For instance: my_exceptional_function(). All functions in the same header file should have a common prefix.
In os_unix.h:
void unix_open(const char *path);
void unix_user_id(void);
If your function crashes upon an error, you should append or_die to the function name. This only applies to functions which could be used by production code and to errors that are reasonably likely to occur during normal operation.
Enumerator Names
Enumerators should be named like constants: kEnumName.
enum url_table_errors {
  kOK = 0,
Macro Names
#define ROUND(x) ...
#define PI_ROUNDED 5.0

Comments dev-style-comments

Comments are vital to keeping our code readable. The following rules describe what you should comment and where. But remember: while comments are very important, the best code is self-documenting.
When writing your comments, write for your audience: the next contributor who will need to understand your code. Be generous — the next one may be you!
Nvim uses Doxygen comments.
Comment Style
Use the //-style syntax only.
// This is a comment spanning
// multiple lines
File Comments
Start each file with a description of its contents.
Legal Notice
We have no such thing. These things are in LICENSE and only there.
File Contents
Every file should have a comment at the top describing its contents.
Generally a .h file will describe the variables and functions that are declared in the file with an overview of what they are for and how they are used. A .c file should contain more information about implementation details or discussions of tricky algorithms. If you feel the implementation details or a discussion of the algorithms would be useful for someone reading the .h, feel free to put it there instead, but mention in the .c that the documentation is in the .h file.
Do not duplicate comments in both the .h and the .c. Duplicated comments diverge.
/// A brief description of this file.
/// A longer description of this file.
/// Be very generous here.
Struct Comments
Every struct definition should have accompanying comments that describes what it is for and how it should be used.
/// Window info stored with a buffer.
/// Two types of info are kept for a buffer which are associated with a
/// specific window:
/// 1. Each window can have a different line number associated with a
/// buffer.
/// 2. The window-local options for a buffer work in a similar way.
/// The window-info is kept in a list at g_wininfo.  It is kept in
/// most-recently-used order.
struct win_info {
  /// Next entry or NULL for last entry.
  WinInfo *wi_next;
  /// Previous entry or NULL for first entry.
  WinInfo *wi_prev;
  /// Pointer to window that did the wi_fpos.
  Win *wi_win;
If the field comments are short, you can also put them next to the field. But be consistent within one struct, and follow the necessary doxygen style.
struct wininfo_S {
  WinInfo *wi_next;  ///< Next entry or NULL for last entry.
  WinInfo *wi_prev;  ///< Previous entry or NULL for first entry.
  Win *wi_win;       ///< Pointer to window that did the wi_fpos.
If you have already described a struct in detail in the comments at the top of your file feel free to simply state "See comment at top of file for a complete description", but be sure to have some sort of comment.
Document the synchronization assumptions the struct makes, if any. If an instance of the struct can be accessed by multiple threads, take extra care to document the rules and invariants surrounding multithreaded use.
Function Comments
Declaration comments describe use of the function; comments at the definition of a function describe operation.
Function Declarations
Every function declaration should have comments immediately preceding it that describe what the function does and how to use it. These comments should be descriptive ("Opens the file") rather than imperative ("Open the file"); the comment describes the function, it does not tell the function what to do. In general, these comments do not describe how the function performs its task. Instead, that should be left to comments in the function definition.
Types of things to mention in comments at the function declaration:
If the function allocates memory that the caller must free.
Whether any of the arguments can be a null pointer.
If there are any performance implications of how a function is used.
If the function is re-entrant. What are its synchronization assumptions? > /// Brief description of the function. /// /// Detailed description. /// May span multiple paragraphs. /// /// @param arg1 Description of arg1 /// @param arg2 Description of arg2. May span /// multiple lines. /// /// @return Description of the return value.
Iterator *get_iterator(void *arg1, void *arg2);
Function Definitions
If there is anything tricky about how a function does its job, the function definition should have an explanatory comment. For example, in the definition comment you might describe any coding tricks you use, give an overview of the steps you go through, or explain why you chose to implement the function in the way you did rather than using a viable alternative. For instance, you might mention why it must acquire a lock for the first half of the function but why it is not needed for the second half.
Note you should not just repeat the comments given with the function declaration, in the .h file or wherever. It's okay to recapitulate briefly what the function does, but the focus of the comments should be on how it does it.
// Note that we don't use Doxygen comments here.
Iterator *get_iterator(void *arg1, void *arg2)
Variable Comments
In general the actual name of the variable should be descriptive enough to give a good idea of what the variable is used for. In certain cases, more comments are required.
Global Variables
All global variables should have a comment describing what they are and what they are used for. For example:
/// The total number of tests cases that we run
/// through in this regression test.
const int kNumTestCases = 6;
Implementation Comments
In your implementation you should have comments in tricky, non-obvious, interesting, or important parts of your code.
Line Comments
Also, lines that are non-obvious should get a comment at the end of the line. These end-of-line comments should be separated from the code by 2 spaces. Example:
// If we have enough memory, mmap the data portion too.
mmap_budget = max<int64>(0, mmap_budget - index_->length());
if (mmap_budget >= data_size_ && !MmapData(mmap_chunk_bytes, mlock)) {
  return;  // Error already logged.
Note that there are both comments that describe what the code is doing, and comments that mention that an error has already been logged when the function returns.
If you have several comments on subsequent lines, it can often be more readable to line them up:
do_something();                      // Comment here so the comments line up.
do_something_else_that_is_longer();  // Comment here so there are two spaces between
                                     // the code and the comment.
{ // One space before comment when opening a new scope is allowed,
  // thus the comment lines up with the following comments and code.
  do_something_else();  // Two spaces before line comments normally.
NULL, true/false, 1, 2, 3...
When you pass in a null pointer, boolean, or literal integer values to functions, you should consider adding a comment about what they are, or make your code self-documenting by using constants. For example, compare:
bool success = calculate_something(interesting_value,
                                   NULL);  // What are these arguments??
bool success = calculate_something(interesting_value,
                                   10,     // Default base value.
                                   false,  // Not the first time we're calling this.
                                   NULL);  // No callback.
Or alternatively, constants or self-describing variables:
const int kDefaultBaseValue = 10;
const bool kFirstTimeCalling = false;
Callback *null_callback = NULL;
bool success = calculate_something(interesting_value,
Note that you should never describe the code itself. Assume that the person reading the code knows C better than you do, even though he or she does not know what you are trying to do:
// Now go through the b array and make sure that if i occurs,
// the next element is i+1.
...        // Geez.  What a useless comment.
Punctuation, Spelling and Grammar
Pay attention to punctuation, spelling, and grammar; it is easier to read well-written comments than badly written ones.
Comments should be as readable as narrative text, with proper capitalization and punctuation. In many cases, complete sentences are more readable than sentence fragments. Shorter comments, such as comments at the end of a line of code, can sometimes be less formal, but you should be consistent with your style.
Although it can be frustrating to have a code reviewer point out that you are using a comma when you should be using a semicolon, it is very important that source code maintain a high level of clarity and readability. Proper punctuation, spelling, and grammar help with that goal.
TODO Comments
Use TODO comments for code that is temporary, a short-term solution, or good-enough but not perfect.
TODOs should include the string TODO in all caps, followed by the name, email address, or other identifier of the person who can best provide context about the problem referenced by the TODO. The main purpose is to have a consistent TODO format that can be searched to find the person who can provide more details upon request. A TODO is not a commitment that the person referenced will fix the problem. Thus when you create a TODO, it is almost always your name that is given.
// TODO([email protected]): Use a "*" here for concatenation operator.
// TODO(Zeke): change this to use relations.
If your TODO is of the form "At a future date do something" make sure that you either include a very specific date ("Fix by November 2005") or a very specific event ("Remove this code when all clients can handle XML responses.").
Deprecation Comments
Mark deprecated interface points with @deprecated docstring token.
You can mark an interface as deprecated by writing a comment containing the word @deprecated in all caps. The comment goes either before the declaration of the interface or on the same line as the declaration.
After @deprecated, write your name, email, or other identifier in parentheses.
A deprecation comment must include simple, clear directions for people to fix their callsites. In C, you can implement a deprecated function as an inline function that calls the new interface point.
Marking an interface point DEPRECATED will not magically cause any callsites to change. If you want people to actually stop using the deprecated facility, you will have to fix the callsites yourself or recruit a crew to help you.
New code should not contain calls to deprecated interface points. Use the new interface point instead. If you cannot understand the directions, find the person who created the deprecation and ask them for help using the new interface point.

Formatting dev-style-format

Coding style and formatting are pretty arbitrary, but a project is much easier to follow if everyone uses the same style. Individuals may not agree with every aspect of the formatting rules, and some of the rules may take some getting used to, but it is important that all project contributors follow the style rules so that they can all read and understand everyone's code easily.
Non-ASCII Characters
Non-ASCII characters should be rare, and must use UTF-8 formatting.
You shouldn't hard-code user-facing text in source (OR SHOULD YOU?), even English, so use of non-ASCII characters should be rare. However, in certain cases it is appropriate to include such words in your code. For example, if your code parses data files from foreign sources, it may be appropriate to hard-code the non-ASCII string(s) used in those data files as delimiters. More commonly, unittest code (which does not need to be localized) might contain non-ASCII strings. In such cases, you should use UTF-8, since that is an encoding understood by most tools able to handle more than just ASCII.
Hex encoding is also OK, and encouraged where it enhances readability — for example, "\uFEFF", is the Unicode zero-width no-break space character, which would be invisible if included in the source as straight UTF-8.
Function Calls
On one line if it fits; otherwise, wrap arguments at the parenthesis.
Function calls have the following format:
bool retval = do_something(argument1, argument2, argument3);
If the arguments do not all fit on one line, they should be broken up onto multiple lines, with each subsequent line aligned with the first argument. Do not add spaces after the open paren or before the close paren:
bool retval = do_something(averyveryveryverylongargument1,
                           argument2, argument3);
If the function has many arguments, consider having one per line if this makes the code more readable:
bool retval = do_something(argument1,
Arguments may optionally all be placed on subsequent lines, with one line per argument:
if (...) {
  if (...) {
        argument1,  // 4 space indent
In particular, this should be done if the function signature is so long that it cannot fit within the maximum line length.
Braced Initializer Lists
Format a braced list exactly like you would format a function call in its place but with one space after the { and one space before the }
If the braced list follows a name (e.g. a type or variable name), format as if the {} were the parentheses of a function call with that name. If there is no name, assume a zero-length name.
struct my_struct m = {  // Here, you could also break before {.
    { short, interior, list },
    { interiorwrappinglist,
      interiorwrappinglist2 } };
Loops and Switch Statements
Annotate non-trivial fall-through between cases.
If not conditional on an enumerated value, switch statements should always have a default case (in the case of an enumerated value, the compiler will warn you if any values are not handled). If the default case should never execute, simply assert:
switch (var) {
  case 0:
  case 1:
Return Values
Do not needlessly surround the return expression with parentheses.
Use parentheses in return expr; only where you would use them inx = expr;`.
return result;
return (some_long_condition && another_condition);

return (value);  // You wouldn't write var = (value);
return(result);  // return is not a function!
Horizontal Whitespace
Use of horizontal whitespace depends on location.
int x[] = { 0 };  // Spaces inside braces for braced-init-list.
int long_variable = 0;  // Don't align assignments.
int i             = 1;

struct my_struct {  // Exception: struct arrays.
  const char *boy;
  const char *girl;
  int pos;
} my_variable[] = {
  { "Mia",       "Michael", 8  },
  { "Elizabeth", "Aiden",   10 },
  { "Emma",      "Mason",   2  },
x = 0;            // Assignment operators always have spaces around
                  // them.
x = -5;           // No spaces separating unary operators and their
x++;              // arguments.
if (x && !y)
Vertical Whitespace
Minimize use of vertical whitespace.
The basic principle is: The more code that fits on one screen, the easier it is to follow and understand the control flow of the program. Of course, readability can suffer from code being too dense as well as too spread out, so use your judgment. But in general, minimize use of vertical whitespace.

Parting Words

The style guide is intended to make the code more readable. If you think you must violate its rules for the sake of clarity, do it! But please add a note to your pull request explaining your reasoning.
Commands index
Quick reference