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sign - Vim Documentation

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sign.txt      For Vim version 8.1.  Last change: 2019 Jan 17

                  VIM REFERENCE MANUAL    by Gordon Prieur
                                          and Bram Moolenaar

Sign Support Features                           sign-support

1. Introduction                         sign-intro
2. Commands                             sign-commands

{Vi does not have any of these features}
{only available when compiled with the +signs feature}

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.  Sun's Visual
WorkShop uses signs and highlights to mark build errors and SourceBrowser
hits.  Additionally, the debugger supports 8 to 10 different signs and
highlight colors, see NetBeans.

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.

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 group hl-SignColumn.
Example to set the color:

        :highlight SignColumn guibg=darkgrey

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.

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.

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
independent of the sign group. The default priority for a sign is 10. The
priority is assigned at the time of placing a sign.

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:

                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.  Only GTK 2 can scale the bitmap
                to fit the space available.
                        toolkit         supports
                        GTK 1           pixmap (.xpm)
                        GTK 2           many
                        Motif           pixmap (.xpm)
                        Win32           .bmp, .ico, .cur
                                        pixmap (.xpm) +xpm_w32

                Highlighting group used for the whole line the sign is placed
                in.  Most useful is defining a background color.

        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.

                Highlighting group used for the text item.

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.

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}.
                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

                The following optional sign attributes can be specified before
                        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
                highlight group used when multiple signs are placed on the
                same line.

                        :sign place 5 line=3 name=sign1
                        :sign place 6 group=g2 line=2 name=sign2
                        :sign place 9 group=g2 priority=50 line=5
                                                        \ name=sign1

: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.

: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.

:sign place {id} name={name} [buffer={nr}]
                Same, but use buffer {nr}.  If the buffer argument is not
                given, use the current buffer.

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

: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     List placed signs in the global group in all files.

:sign place group={group}
                List placed signs with sign group {group} in all 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}