Okay, this'll be my last vim post for a while. I just couldn't leave it alone, though.

My Cobalt theme was good but it wasn't quite enough. You'll see from the screenshots that the entire HTML page had the same background colour in Vim while the TextMate version changed the background colour inside <style> and <script> blocks. I was surprised how much that bugged me so I figured there must be a way to highlight an entire line. It turns out this isn't a trivial thing to do. Syntax matches will only match to the final character in the line ($), not the width of the screen. No amount of tweaking a colorscheme would allow highlighting all the way across.

After a lot of digging around, I found out about signs. This is a built-in feature which allows you to add a marker to a line for whatever purpose you want. It can point out debugging information or provide visual checkpoints to mark out things in your document. It's probably very handy but as I've only just started using vim, I don't really know what it's best for. However, as a side-effect, it can also apply a style to the entire screen-width of a line.

Some googling, hacking and probable violation of Vim plugin best-practice, I knocked together this plugin:


When this is installed, it will highlight any embedded CSS or JS blocks in a HTML, PHP, Velocity templates or Ruby files. Well, it will apply the syntax class 'HighlightedBlock' to the line. If your theme has a style for that, it will highlight it. Incidentally, I updated the Cobalt port to include that style.

It runs on initial load then refreshes every time you exit insert mode.

I might update it later to highlight PHP blocks in HTML or some other things like that but for my current purposes, it's finished.


  • It pays no attention to existing signs. If you use them, you probably shouldn't use this. If you know of a simple way to group signs together to stop me messing with them, let me know.
  • When signs are added to a file, an extra two-character column appears to the left of the line numbers. This plugin shrinks the line-numbers column by two characters if signs exist and increases it again when they are removed. This stops everything from jumping around but if you're working on a 10,000 line file, you might see some confusion down the bottom.


As with the Cobalt theme, if you're using Janus, add this to ~/.janus.rake, I still have no idea if this works. It might. :

vim_plugin_task "HighlightBlock.vim", "git://github.com/thingsinjars/HighlightBlock.vim.git"