Dance, Computer, Dance

by Ray Grasso

Using ctags on modern Javascript

18 April, 2015

I use Vim as my text editor and ctags for source code navigation.

I’ve found ctag’s default javascript tagging to be lacking so I’ve added the following to my ctags config file to handle some of the newer ES6 ES2015 syntax such as classes1.

Note that the listing below contains comments which ctags config files don’t support. You can find the actual file on Github.


// Constants

// A constant: AAA0_123 = { or AAA0_123: {
--regex-js=/[ \t.]([A-Z][A-Z0-9._$]+)[ \t]*[=:][ \t]*([0-9"'\[\{]|null)/\1/n,constant/

// Properties

// .name = {
--regex-js=/\.([A-Za-z0-9._$]+)[ \t]*=[ \t]*\{/\1/o,object/

// "name": {
--regex-js=/['"]*([A-Za-z0-9_$]+)['"]*[ \t]*:[ \t]*\{/\1/o,object/

// parent["name"] = {
--regex-js=/([A-Za-z0-9._$]+)\[["']([A-Za-z0-9_$]+)["']\][ \t]*=[ \t]*\{/\1\.\2/o,object/

// Classes

// name = (function()
--regex-js=/([A-Za-z0-9._$]+)[ \t]*=[ \t]*\(function\(\)/\1/c,class/

// "name": (function()
--regex-js=/['"]*([A-Za-z0-9_$]+)['"]*:[ \t]*\(function\(\)/\1/c,class/

// class ClassName
--regex-js=/class[ \t]+([A-Za-z0-9._$]+)[ \t]*/\1/c,class/

// ClassName = React.createClass
--regex-js=/([A-Za-z$][A-Za-z0-9_$()]+)[ \t]*=[ \t]*[Rr]eact.createClass[ \t]*\(/\1/c,class/

// Capitalised object: Name = whatever({
--regex-js=/([A-Z][A-Za-z0-9_$]+)[ \t]*=[ \t]*[A-Za-z0-9_$]*[ \t]*[{(]/\1/c,class/

// Capitalised object: Name: whatever({
--regex-js=/([A-Z][A-Za-z0-9_$]+)[ \t]*:[ \t]*[A-Za-z0-9_$]*[ \t]*[{(]/\1/c,class/

// Functions

// name = function(
--regex-js=/([A-Za-z$][A-Za-z0-9_$]+)[ \t]*=[ \t]*function[ \t]*\(/\1/f,function/

// Methods

// Class method or function (this matches too many things which I filter out separtely)
// name() {
--regex-js=/(function)*[ \t]*([A-Za-z$_][A-Za-z0-9_$]+)[ \t]*\([^)]*\)[ \t]*\{/\2/f,function/

// "name": function(
--regex-js=/['"]*([A-Za-z$][A-Za-z0-9_$]+)['"]*:[ \t]*function[ \t]*\(/\1/m,method/

// parent["name"] = function(
--regex-js=/([A-Za-z0-9_$]+)\[["']([A-Za-z0-9_$]+)["']\][ \t]*=[ \t]*function[ \t]*\(/\2/m,method/

Some of these matchers are too eager but a lack of negative look behinds in the regex engine ctags uses makes that a pain to avoid. Instead I have a script which executes ctags and then filters obviously useless tags from the tag file afterwards.

#!/usr/bin/env bash

set -e

# ctags doesn't handle negative look behinds so instead this script
# strips false positives out of a tags file.

ctags "$@"


while [[ $# > 1 ]]

case $key in

# Filter out false matches from class method regex
sed -i '' -E '/^(if|switch|function|module\.exports|it|describe)	.+language:js$/d' $FILE

# Filter out false matches from object definition regex
sed -i '' -E '/var[ 	]+[a-zA-Z0-9_$]+[ 	]+=[ 	]+require\(.+language:js$/d' $FILE

I trigger the script from within Vim automatically using a plugin I wrote called tagman.vim.

  1. I found tools such as jsctags didn’t do the job and, as always, I’d prefer a more minimal approach.