Scintillua Manual

Scintillua can be used in the following ways:

These usages are discussed in the following sections.

Drop-in External Lexer

Scintillua can be dropped into any existing installation of a Scintilla-based application as long as that application supports Lexilla 5.1.0 or greater.

Scintillua releases come with two external lexers in the lexers/ directory:, which is a 64-bit Linux shared library; and Scintillua.dll, which is a 64-bit Windows DLL.

Using Scintillua with SciTE

SciTE is the SCIntilla based Text Editor. Scintillua can be dropped into any SciTE installation version 5.3.0 or higher with or without administrator privileges.

In order to install Scintillua for all users (likely requiring administrator privileges):

  1. Unpack Scintillua to the root of your SciTE installation, typically C:\Program Files\SciTE\ on Windows and /usr/share/scite/ on Linux, and rename the directory to simply scintillua.
  2. Add the following to the end of your

    import scintillua/scintillua

In order to install Scintillua for one user (e.g. yourself) without administrator privileges:

  1. Unpack Scintillua to a location of your choosing.
  2. Add the following to the end of your on Windows or on Linux:

    import /path/to/scintillua/scintillua

    where /path/to/scintillua/lexers is the full path of Scintillua’s lexers/ directory from step 1.

With Scintillua installed, SciTE will use Scintillua’s Lua lexers whenever possible (as indicated in If a Lua lexer is loaded but you prefer to use a different one, add to your (Windows) or (Linux) file:


where name is the name of the Scintillua lexer you prefer. (Note that Scintillua lexers have a “scintillua.” prefix when used with SciTE.) If you prefer to use SciTE’s lexer instead of Scintillua’s, simply remove from the lines:

(You could manually override Scintillua’s, lexer, and keywords settings from your SciTE user properties file, but it’s easier to just change

Scintillua’s Lua lexers also have their own keyword sets, which are distinct from SciTE lexer keyword sets. If you would like to change the set of keywords that a Scintillua lexer uses, add to your (Windows) or (Linux) file:

keywords.$( of keywords
keywords2.$( set of keywords

with the desired set(s) of keywords in the same order as the Scintillua lexers/name.lua lexer’s calls to lex:set_word_list(). For example, the Lua lexer’s first set of keywords is for reserved words, the second is for built-in global functions, the third is for library functions, the fourth is for built-in global constants, and the fifth is for library constants.

Scintillua comes with a set of universal color themes in its themes/ directory. By default, the ‘scite’ theme is used, which is similar to SciTE’s default color theme. You can use a different theme by importing it in a properties file. For example:

import /path/to/scintillua/themes/light

Scintillua’s lexers support the following properties which can also be set from a properties file:

If you get incorrect or no syntax highlighting, check the following:

  1. Does the language in question have a Lua lexer in Scintillua’s lexers/ directory? If not, you will have to write one.
  2. Does Scintillua’s have your language’s file extension defined? If not, add it to the property.
  3. Does the file extension recognized in Scintillua’s correspond to the language in question? If not, add or re-assign it to the appropriate Lua lexer. Do not forget the “scintillua.” prefix for lexers.

Feel free to contribute new lexers, as well as submit corrections, updates, or additions to file types.

Note: any Scintilla lexer-specific features in SciTE will not work in Scintillua’s lexers. These include, but are not limited to:

Using Scintillua with Other Apps

In order to drop Scintillua into any other existing installation of a Scintilla-based application that supports the Lexilla protocol, that application must allow you to:

The Scintillua lexer largely behaves like a normal Scintilla lexer. However, unlike most other lexers Scintillua does not have static style numbers, which makes styling a bit more complicated. Your application must call the lexer’s NamedStyles() function (defined by the ILexer5 interface), which returns the number of currently defined styles. (Note that the returned number includes Scintilla’s 8 predefined styles.) It must then iterate over those style numbers, calling NameOfStyle(), in order to obtain a map of style names to numbers. With that information, your application can then specify style settings for style numbers. Here’s an example of how SciTE does it:

// Scintillua's style numbers are not constant, so ask it for names of styles and create a
// mapping of style numbers to more constant style definitions.
// For example, if Scintillua reports for the cpp lexer that style number 2 is a 'comment',
// create the property:
//   style.scintillua.cpp.2=$(scintillua.styles.comment)
// That way the user can define 'scintillua.styles.comment' once and it will be used for whatever
// the style number for comments is in any given lexer.
// Similarly, if Scintillua reports for the lua lexer that style number 20 is 'string.longstring',
// create the property:
//   style.scintillua.lua.20=$(scintillua.styles.string),$(scintillua.styles.string.longstring)
void SetScintilluaStyles(GUI::ScintillaWindow &wEditor, PropSetFile& props, const char *languageName) {
  const auto setStyle = [&wEditor, &props, &languageName](int style) {
    std::string finalPropStr;
    const std::string &name = wEditor.NameOfStyle(style);
    size_t end = std::string::npos;
    do {
      end = name.find('.', ++end);
      char propStr[128] = "";
      sprintf(propStr, "$(scintillua.styles.%s),", end == std::string::npos ?
        name.c_str() : name.substr(0, end).c_str());
      finalPropStr += propStr;
    } while (end != std::string::npos);
    char key[256] = "";
    sprintf(key, "style.%s.%0d", languageName, style);
    props.Set(key, finalPropStr.c_str());
  const int namedStyles = wEditor.NamedStyles(); // this count includes predefined styles
  constexpr int LastPredefined = static_cast<int>(Scintilla::StylesCommon::LastPredefined);
  constexpr int numPredefined = LastPredefined - StyleDefault + 1;
  for (int i = 0; i < std::min(namedStyles - numPredefined, StyleDefault); i++) {
  for (int i = StyleDefault; i <= LastPredefined; i++) {
  for (int i = LastPredefined + 1; i < namedStyles; i++) {

In addition to not having static style numbers, Scintillua does not have static keyword lists should you wish to override the a given lexer’s built-in list(s). Your application can call the lexer’s DescribeWordListSets() function (defined by the ILexer5 interface), which returns a list of keyword set identifier names. For the first set, call the lexer’s WordListSet() function with an index of 0 and a list of overriding words. For the second, use 1, and so on.

Scintillua’s lexers support the following properties:

Lexer Detection

Applications can leverage Scintillua’s internal database of lexer names associated with filenames and extensions, and lexer names associated with content lines like shebang lines. In order to do this:

  1. Initially call CreateLexer("text") and then set it using Scintilla’s SCI_SETILEXER message.
  2. Set the lexer.scintillua.filename and/or lexer.scintillua.line properties to set the filename and/or content line, respectively, used for detecting a lexer. You may wish to truncate the content line in order to avoid the overhead of dealing with a very long line, such as minified JavaScript. The first 128 bytes seems reasonable.
  3. Use Scintilla’s SCI_PRIVATELEXERCALL message along with the operation SCLUA_DETECT (1) to store the detected lexer’s name in the given pointer argument. This operation behaves like other Scintilla string API functions: when passing a null pointer argument, the length of the string that should be allocated is returned.
  4. If the result is a non-empty string, call CreateLexer() with that result and set the newly created lexer using SCI_SETILEXER.

Error Handling

Scintillua reports errors in one of two ways:

  1. If the CreateLexer() call fails and returns a null pointer, you can retrieve the error message using Scintillua’s GetCreateLexerError(). This can happen when the “scintillua.lexers” property is not correctly set or when there is an error loading a particular Lua lexer.
  2. If there is an error during a lex or fold operation, the error message is stored in the “lexer.scintillua.error” property. This property only contains the most recent error (if any).

Critical errors are also printed to stderr.

Compiling Scintillua Directly into an App

You can compile Scintillua directly (statically) into your Scintilla-based application by:

  1. Adding Scintillua.h and Scintillua.cxx to your project’s sources.
  2. Downloading and adding Lua and LPeg to your project’s sources. Scintillua supports Lua 5.3+.
  3. Adding infrastructure to build Lua, LPeg, Scintillua.cxx, and linking them all into your application.

Here is a sample portion of a Makefile with Lua 5.3 as an example:

# ...

sci_flags = [flags used to compile Scintilla and Lexilla]
scintillua_obj = Scintillua.o
lua_flags = -Iscintillua/lua/src
lua_objs = lapi.o lcode.o lctype.o ldebug.o ldo.o ldump.o lfunc.o lgc.o llex.o lmem.o \
  lobject.o lopcodes.o lparser.o lstate.o lstring.o ltable.o ltm.o lundump.o lvm.o lzio.o \
  lauxlib.o lbaselib.o lmathlib.o lstrlib.o ltablib.o lutf8lib.o \
  lpcap.o lpcode.o lpprint.o lptree.o lpvm.o
$(scintillua_obj): scintillua/Scintillua.cxx
	g++ $(sci_flags) $(lua_flags) -c $< -o $@
$(lua_objs): scintillua/lua/src/*.c scintillua/lua/src/lib/*.c
	gcc $(lua_flags) -c $^

# ...

[your app]: [your dependencies] $(scintillua_obj) $(lua_objs)

Windows note: when cross-compiling for Windows statically, you will need to pass -DNO_DLL to the compiler when compiling Scintillua.cxx.

In order to use Scintillua’s lexers in your application:

  1. Call Scintillua’s SetLibraryProperty() with “scintillua.lexers” as the key and the path to Scintillua’s lexers/ directory as the value.
  2. Call Scintillua’s CreateLexer() with the name of a Lua lexer (without the .lua extension) to load.
  3. Call Scintilla’s SCI_SETILEXER message, passing the lexer returned in step 2.
  4. Optionally handle errors when the returned pointer is null by calling Scintillua’s GetCreateLexerError() to see what went wrong.

For example, using the GTK platform:

GtkWidget *sci = scintilla_new();
SetLibraryProperty("scintillua.lexers", "/path/to/lexers/");
ILEXER5* lua_lexer = CreateLexer("lua");
if (lua_lexer)
  send_scintilla_message(SCINTILLA(sci), SCI_SETILEXER, 0, (sptr_t)lua_lexer);
  fprintf("error creating lexer: %s\n", GetCreateLexerError());

Your application will then have to query Scintillua for how many styles are currently defined and what the names of those styles are in order to create a map of style names to style numbers for specifying style settings. The previous section has an example of this process.

Error Handling

Scintillua reports errors in one of two ways:

  1. If the CreateLexer() call fails and returns a null pointer, you can retrieve the error message using Scintillua’s GetCreateLexerError(). This can happen when the “scintillua.lexers” property is not correctly set or when there is an error loading a particular Lua lexer.
  2. If there is an error during a lex or fold operation, the error message is stored in the “lexer.scintillua.error” property. This property only contains the most recent error (if any).

Critical errors are also printed to stderr.

Using Scintillua as a Lua Library

In order to use Scintillua as a Lua library, simply place the lexers/ directory in your Lua path (or modify Lua’s package.path accordingly), require() the lexer library, load() a lexer, and call that lexer’s lex() function. Here is an example interactive Lua session doing this:

$> lua
Lua 5.1.4  Copyright (C) 1994-2008, PUC-Rio
> lexer_path = '/home/mitchell/code/scintillua/lexers/?.lua'
> package.path = package.path .. ';' .. lexer_path
> c = require('lexer').load('ansi_c')
> tokens = c:lex('int main() { return 0; }')
> for i = 1, #tokens, 2 do print(tokens[i], tokens[i+1]) end
type	4
whitespace.ansi_c	5
function	9
operator	10
operator	11
whitespace.ansi_c	12
operator	13
whitespace.ansi_c	14
keyword	20
whitespace.ansi_c	21
number	22
operator	23
whitespace.ansi_c	24
operator	25

If you are unsure of which lexer to use for a given filename and/or content line (e.g. shebang line), you can call detect() and pass the result to load() if it is non-nil.