Setting Vim whitespace preferences by filetype

At my work, I am required to follow the house style for indentation, which goes as follows:

  • 2 spaces when coding html and ruby
  • tabs when coding javascript, with tabwidth=4 recommended

What is the best way to specify different whitespace preferences per filetype?

13.10.2009 20:06:21
acgtyrant 12.07.2015 12:54:42
All these answers just made me more confused. The problem is that the options are up to preference. The accepted answer has a nice syntax though. This was an excellent guide:
Mikael Lindlöf 2.02.2016 07:03:12

there are many ways, but here's a simple, easy to understand way. add these lines to your ~/.vimrc:

autocmd FileType html setlocal ts=2 sts=2 sw=2
autocmd FileType ruby setlocal ts=2 sts=2 sw=2
autocmd FileType javascript setlocal ts=4 sts=4 sw=4
22.07.2018 19:08:28
ts = 'number of spaces that <Tab> in file uses' sts = 'number of spaces that <Tab> uses while editing' sw = 'number of spaces to use for (auto)indent step' for details see:
zdsbs 3.01.2014 04:18:46
I needed to append expandtab at least for ruby, see answer by 'too much php' here
Michael Durrant 21.05.2019 13:56:32

+1 to Peter's answer, but Vim provides another solution as well. If you want to do something more complicated than a single setlocal, like setting up a whole bunch of options, commands, and mappings at once, then vim's filetype plugin feature comes to the rescue.

You need to have filetype plugin on or filetype plugin indent on in your .vimrc, and then to create a plugin for e.g. ruby you can create ~/.vim/ftplugin/ruby.vim. Technically you can use any commands you like in here, to be run when a Ruby file is loaded, but the recommended ones include setlocal, map <buffer>, command -buffer, and defining functions. Lots more information is in the User Guide; if you're pretty familiar with scripting vim then jump to :help 41.11, otherwise read :help usr_40 and :help usr_41.

13.10.2009 20:23:47

Peter's answer is straightforward enough, but unfortunately the options aren't right. You need to use the following options instead:

autocmd Filetype html setlocal ts=2 sw=2 expandtab
autocmd Filetype ruby setlocal ts=2 sw=2 expandtab
autocmd Filetype javascript setlocal ts=4 sw=4 sts=0 noexpandtab

Also note:

  • You can make vim show tab characters by using :set list.
  • Once you have the tab/space options set correctly, you can make vim repair the file (replace spaces with tabs or vice versa) using the :retab! command.
13.10.2009 23:43:57
What's the benefit of expandtab over sts=2
James McMahon 14.10.2013 02:58:48
@JamesMcMahon expandtab expands all tabs to spaces. sts (softtabstop) inserts spaces and tabs for indents: as many tabs as will fit in the indent based on the size of tabstop, and then spaces after that. Of course, if expandtab is on, all the tabs that get inserted are converted to spaces.… might help further. Without expand tab, Peter's answer would insert tabs that are 2 chars wide, not spaces.
ajmccluskey 28.04.2014 11:02:17

There's also a nice vim script: DetectIndent which tries to detect the indentation of a file that you open. It's very handy if you work with many files with different coding style.

I use an autocommand in my .vimrc:

:autocmd BufReadPost * :DetectIndent 
10.01.2013 09:04:49

To insert space characters whenever the tab key is pressed, set the 'expandtab' option:

:set expandtab

Next step is to control the number of space characters that will be inserted when the tab key is pressed, set the 'tabstop' option. For example, to insert 2 space for a tab, use:

:set tabstop=2


9.06.2015 13:54:55