Language Definition v2.0 Reference

Language Definition v2.0 Reference — Reference to the GtkSourceView language definition file format

Overview

The version 2 here refers to the language definition file format, not to the version of GtkSourceView. So this reference is suitable for GtkSourceView 2 and 3.

This is an overview of the Language Definition XML format, describing the meaning and usage of every element and attribute. The formal definition is stored in the RelaxNG schema file language2.rng which should be installed on your system in the directory ${PREFIX}/share/gtksourceview-3.0/ (where ${PREFIX} can be /usr/ or /usr/local/ if you have installed from source.

The preinstalled language files are located in ${PREFIX}/share/gtksourceview-3.0/language-specs/. Custom user languages are usually placed in ~/.local/share/gtksourceview-3.0/language-specs/. Note: replace 3 with 2 in the path for GtkSourceView version 2.

Some advices

The easiest way to start a new language definition is to copy a preinstalled language definition from a language that has similar constructs as the one you want to write a specification for. You can copy and rename a file from the systems directory to the local user one (create the directory if it doesn't exist yet) and edit the file accordingly.

The important thing you need to change are the id and name of the language and the metadata properties mimetypes and globs in the language spec. These should resemble your new language. It might be that your files do not have an appropriate mimetype associated yet. You can either in that case leave it empty, or add a new mimetype (see below).

If for some reason your language spec doesn't show up in an application like gedit, it might be a good idea to start the application from a terminal window and see if any errors/warnings appear for your language file. This usually gives good clues what's wrong with the specification. Note that you need to restart the application to take into account changes in a language definition file.

Conventions

It is better to follow the following conventions, especially if you want to contribute upstream, and get your language definition file included in GtkSourceView.

  • Indentation: 2 spaces.

  • Have the main context at the bottom.

  • Use references to def.lang.

  • Add an example in tests/syntax-highlighting/.

  • LGPL v2.1+ license (copy/paste the license header from c.lang, for example).

  • Add the e-mail address of the language definition file author(s).

  • Refer to the HACKING file for submitting your language definition file upstream. If the file is not included upstream, you can also add the language definition file to the GtkSourceView wiki, so users can easily find it.

Tag <language>

The root element for Language Definition files.

Contained elements: <metadata> (optional), <styles> (optional), <default-regex-options> (optional), <keyword-char-class> (optional), <definitions> (mandatory).

Attributes:

id (mandatory)

Identifier for the description. This is used for external references and must be unique among language descriptions. It can contain a string of letters, digits, hyphens ("-") and underscores ("_").

name (mandatory)

The translatable name of the language presented to the user. It can be marked for translation putting an underscore before the attribute name (see the gettext documentation).

version (mandatory)

The version of the XML format (currently "2.0").

section (optional)

The translatable category in which the language has to be grouped when presented to the user. It can be marked for translation putting an underscore before the attribute name. Currently used categories in GtkSourceView are "Source", "Script", "Markup" and "Other", but it is possible to use arbitrary categories (while usually discouraged).

hidden (optional)

It's a hint that the language should be "hidden" from user. For instance, def.lang has this flag, and a text editor should not present "default" as a syntax highlighting choice.

Tag <metadata>

Contains optional metadata about the language definition.

Recognized elements are (all optional):

mimetypes

The semicolon-separated list of mimetypes associated to the language. See the shared-mime-info freedesktop.org specification. A language definition file shipped by GtkSourceView needs to have a mimetype defined in the shared-mime-info database. If the language definition file is not shipped by GtkSourceView, you can also create the mimetype locally, usually in ~/.local/share/mime/packages/.

globs

The semicolon-separated list of globs associated to the language.

line-comment-start

String used to create single-line comment in files of this type, e.g. "#" in shell scripts. It may be used in an editor to implement Comment/Uncomment functionality.

block-comment-start

String used to start block comment in files of this type, e.g. "/*" in C files.

block-comment-end

String used to end block comment in files of this type, e.g. "*/" in C files.

Tag <styles>

Contains the definitions of every style used in the current language and their association with predefined styles in GtkSourceView.

Contained elements: <style> (one or more).

Tag <style>

Defines a style, associating its id with a user visible translatable name and a default style.

Contained elements: none.

Attributes:

id (mandatory)

Identifier for the style. This is used in the current language to refer to this style and must be unique for the current document. It can contain a string of letters, digits, hyphens ("-") and underscores ("_").

name (mandatory)

The user visible translatable name for the style. It has to be preceded with a underscore ("_") to be marked for translation.

map-to (optional)

Used to map the style with a default style, to use colors and font properties defined for those default styles. The id of the default style has to be preceded with the id of the language where it is defined, separated with a semicolon ":". When omitted the style is not considered derived from any style and will not be highlighted until the user specifies a color scheme for this style.

Tag <keyword-char-class>

Contains a regex character class used to redefine the customizable word boundary delimiters "\%[" and "\%]". This class is the set of character that can be commonly found in a keyword. If the element is omitted the two delimiters default to "\b".

Contained elements: none.

Tag <default-regex-options>

Used to set global options for how regular expressions are processed.

Contained elements: none.

Attributes

case-sensitive (optional)

Set to false to make regular expressions ignore case. Defaults to true.

extended (optional)

Setting this to true makes the regular expression engine ignore spaces and comments. These comments start with "#" and continue to the end of the line. Defaults to false.

dupnames (optional)

Setting this to true allows one to repeat an identifier for capturing parentheses. This is useful for some patterns that you know only one instance of a named subpattern can ever be matched. Defaults to false.

Tag <definitions>

The element containing the real description of the syntax to be highlighted. It contains one or more <context> element and an arbitrary number of <define-regex> elements, interleaved. It has no attributes. Every contained element must have its id attribute set to an identifier unique for the document. Exactly one of the contained <context> element must have the id attribute set to the id of the <language> root element, representing the initial context for the highlighting, the one the engine enters at the beginning of the highlighted file.

Contained elements: <context> (one or more), <define-regex> (zero or more).

Tag <define-regex>

Defines a regular expression that can be reused inside other regular expression, to avoid replicating common portions. Those regular expressions are PCRE regular expressions in the form /regex/options (see the documentation of PCRE for details). If there are no options to be specified and you don't need to match the spaces at the start and at the end of the regular expression, you can omit the slashes, putting here only regex. The possible options are those specified above in the description of the <default-regex-options> element. To disable a group of options, instead, you have to prepend an hyphen - to them. In GtkSourceView are also available some extensions to the standard Perl style regular expressions:

  • \%[ and \%] are custom word boundaries, which can be redefined with the <keyword-char-class> (in contrast with \b);

  • \%{id} will include the regular expression defined in another <define-regex> element with the specified id.

It is allowed to use any of the attributes from <default-regex-opts> as attributes of this tag.

Contained elements: none.

Attributes:

id (mandatory)

Identifier for the regular expression. This is used for the inclusion of the defined regular expression and must be unique for the current document. It can contain a string of letters, digits, hyphens ("-") and underscores ("_").

Tag <context>

This is the most important element when describing the syntax: the file to be highlighted is partitioned in contexts representing the portions to be colored differently. Contexts can also contain other contexts. There are different kind of context elements: simple contexts, container contexts, sub-pattern contexts, reference contexts and keyword contexts.

Context classes can be enabled or disabled for some contexts, with the class and class-disabled attributes. You can create your own context classes in custom language definition files. Here are the default context classes:

  • comment: the context delimits a comment;

  • no-spell-check: the context's content should not be spell checked;

  • path: the context delimits a path to a file;

  • string: the context delimits a string.

Simple contexts

They contain a mandatory <match> element and an optional <include> element. The context will span over the strings matched by the regular expression contained in the <match> element. In the <include> element you can only put sub-pattern contexts.

Contained elements: <match> (mandatory), <include> (optional).

Attributes:

id (optional)

A unique identifier for the context, used in references to the context. It can contain a string of letters, digits, hyphens ("-") and underscores ("_").

style-ref (optional)

Highlighting style for this context. Value of this attribute may be id of a style defined in current lang file, or id of a style defined in other files prefixed with corresponding language id, e.g. "def:comment".

extend-parent (optional)

A boolean value telling the engine whether the context has higher priority than the end of its parent. If not specified it defaults to true.

end-parent (optional)

A boolean value telling the engine whether the context terminates parent context. If not specified it defaults to false.

first-line-only (optional)

A boolean value telling the engine whether the context can occur only on the first line of buffer. If not specified it defaults to false.

once-only (optional)

A boolean value telling the engine whether the context can occur only once in its parent. If not specified it defaults to false.

class (optional)

A space-separated list of context classes to enable.

class-disabled (optional)

A space-separated list of context classes to disable.


Container contexts

They contain a <start> element and an optional <end>. They respectively contain the regular expression that makes the engine enter in the context and the terminating one. In the optional <include> element you can put contained contexts of every type (simple, container, sub-pattern or reference). If the <start> element is omitted, then the id attribute and the <include> become mandatory (the context can only be used as a container to include its children).

Contained elements: <start> (optional), <end> (optional), <include> (optional).

Attributes:

id (mandatory only if <start> not present)

A unique identifier for the context, used in references to the context. It can contain a string of letters, digits, hyphens ("-") and underscores ("_").

style-ref (optional)

Highlighting style for this context. Value of this attribute may be id of a style defined in current lang file, or id of a style defined in other files prefixed with corresponding language id, e.g. "def:comment".

style-inside (optional)

If this attribute is "true", then the highlighting style will be applied to the area between start and end matches; otherwise whole context will be highlighted.

extend-parent (optional)

A boolean value telling the engine whether the context has a higher priority than the end of its parent. If not specified it defaults to true.

end-at-line-end (optional)

A boolean value telling the engine whether the context must be forced to end at the end of the line. If not specified it defaults to false.

end-parent (optional)

A boolean value telling the engine whether the context terminates parent context when it ends. If not specified it defaults to false.

first-line-only (optional)

A boolean value telling the engine whether the context can start only on the first line of buffer. If not specified it defaults to false.

once-only (optional)

A boolean value telling the engine whether the context can occur only once in its parent. For a container context, it means that each included context can occur once. If not specified it defaults to false.

class (optional)

A space-separated list of context classes to enable.

class-disabled (optional)

A space-separated list of context classes to disable.


Sub-pattern contexts

They refer to a group in a regular expression of the parent context, so it is possible to highlight differently only a portion of the matched regular expression.

Contained elements: none.

Attributes:

id (optional)

A unique identifier for the context. It can contain a string of letters, digits, hyphens ("-") and underscores ("_").

sub-pattern (mandatory)

The sub-pattern to which we refer. "0" means the whole expression, "1" the first group, "2" the second one, etc. If named sub-patterns are used you can also use the name.

where (mandatory only in container contexts)

Can be "start" or "end". It has to be used only if the parent is a container context to specify whether the sub-pattern is in the regular expression of the <start> or the <end> element. In simple contexts it must be omitted.

class (optional)

A space-separated list of context classes to enable.

class-disabled (optional)

A space-separated list of context classes to disable.


Reference contexts

Used to include a previously defined context.

Contained elements: none.

Attributes:

ref (mandatory)

The id of the context to be included. A colon followed by an asterisk (":*") at the end of the id means that the parent should include every children of the specified context, instead of the context itself. Prepending the id of another language to the id of the context (separated with a semicolon ":") is possible to include contexts defined inside such external language.

style-ref (optional)

Style in included context may be overridden by using this attribute. Its value is id of the style to be used instead of style specified in the referenced context.

ignore-style (optional)

If this attribute is "true" then the referenced context will not be highlighted. It does not affect child contexts and their styles.

original (optional)

If this attribute is "true", it references the original context, if it has been replaced with the <replace> tag.


Keyword contexts

They contain a list of <keyword> and matches every keyword listed. You can also put a <prefix> and/or a <suffix> common to every keyword.

Note that keywords are matched in the order they are listed, so if you have both a keyword "foo" and a keyword "foobar", you should always list foobar before foo, or it will never be matched.

Contained elements: <prefix> (optional), <suffix> (optional), <keyword> (one or more).

The attributes are the same used in simple contexts. If the once-only attribute is true, it means that each keyword can occur once.

Tag <include>

Contains the list of context contained in the current <context>.

Contained elements: <context> (one or more), <define-regex> (zero or more).

Tag <match>

Contains the regular expression for the current simple context. The expression is in the same form used in <define-regex> elements. It is allowed to use any of the attributes from <default-regex-opts> as attributes of this tag.

Contained elements: none.

Tag <start>

Contains the starting regular expression for the current container context. The expression is in the same form used in <define-regex> elements. It is allowed to use any of the attributes from <default-regex-opts> as attributes of this tag.

Contained elements: none.

Tag <end>

Contains the terminating regular expression for the current container context. The expression is in the same form used in <define-regex> elements, with an extension: \%{sub-pattern@start} will be substituted with the string matched in the corresponding sub-pattern (can be a number or a name if named sub-patterns are used) in the preceding <start> element. For instance you could implement shell-style here-documents with this code:

<context id="here-doc">
    <start>&lt;&lt;\s*(\S+)$</start>
    <end>^\%{1@start}$</end>
</context>

It is also possible to use any of the attributes from <default-regex-opts> as attributes of this tag.

Contained elements: none.

Tag <keyword>

Contains a keyword to be matched by the current context. The keyword is a regular expression in the form used in <define-regex>.

Contained elements: none.

Tag <prefix>

Contains a prefix common to all of the following keywords in the current context. The prefix is a regular expression in the form used in <define-regex>. If not specified it defaults to \%[

Contained elements: none.

Tag <suffix>

Contains a suffix common to all of the following keywords in the current context. The suffix is a regular expression in the form used in <define-regex>. If not specified it defaults to \%]

Contained elements: none.

Tag <replace>

The replace tag allows you to change one context so it functions as another context. For example, in the html.lang definition, there are a few references to a null context with id "embedded-lang-hook". In php.lang, that context is replaced like this: <replace id="html:embedded-lang-hook" ref="php-block">, so that php blocks are recognized within the html:html context at the points where the embedded-lang-hook context appears.

Contained elements: none.

Attributes:

id (mandatory)

The id of the context to replace. Ex: id="html:embedded-lang-hook"

ref (mandatory)

The id of the context to put in place of the context being replaced. Ex: ref="php-block"