Following on from a conversation at the Pisa-London.pm Social last night about vim syntax highlighting useful words in perl files like TODO and how it might also be useful to highlight other useful words, like HACK and BODGE, I decided to have a go.

I knew the initial solution would be fairly simple - hack /usr/share/vim/vim72/syntax/perl.vim.

That seemed to easy, so I investigated a $HOME/.vim/ solution.

Initially I copied the existing perl.vim into my local directory:

cp /usr/share/vim/vim72/syntax/perl.vim $HOME/.vim/syntax/

edited the perlTodo line to include the new tokens.

I opened my test file and it worked!

Going Further

I’ve had a long-standing urge to handle tokens followed by an evil colon. I prefer:

# TODO: something shiny


# TODO something shiny

To me it looks nicer when it isn’t highlighted.

I further modified the perlTodo line, from keyword to match and included my friend, the colon.

One “:e!” later and … it worked!

Cleaning Up

I really didn’t want a copy of the entire perl.vim syntax file.

I took a risk and edited my local copy down to one single line, reloaded my test file and … it did the right thing!

The Solution

To go from:




create $HOME/.vim/syntax/perl.vim and add the following line:

syn match perlTodo    "\<\(TODO\|TBD\|FIXME\|XXX\|HACK\|BODGE\)\:\?\>" contained




I need to start digging around in the syntax files myself. This is good inspiration :)

I've gone a step further and added BUG tag.

Right below the "syn match perlTodo", I have added this:

syn match perlBug "\<\(BUG\)\:\?\>" contained

Then I have modified the "syn match perlComment" line as follows:

syn match perlComment "#.*" contains=perlTodo,perlBug

Finally, I have added a new HiLink at the bottom of the list:

HiLink perlBug Error

Then if I put BUG (or BUG:) in a comment, it gets highlighted with a red background and white text which really stands out.

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About Chisel

user-pic I blog about Perl.