Adding Indent Queries

Helix uses tree-sitter to correctly indent new lines. This requires a tree-sitter grammar and an indent.scm query file placed in runtime/queries/{language}/indents.scm. The indentation for a line is calculated by traversing the syntax tree from the lowest node at the beginning of the new line. Each of these nodes contributes to the total indent when it is captured by the query (in what way depends on the name of the capture).

Note that it matters where these added indents begin. For example, multiple indent level increases that start on the same line only increase the total indent level by 1.


Added indents don't always apply to the whole node. For example, in most cases when a node should be indented, we actually only want everything except for its first line to be indented. For this, there are several scopes (more scopes may be added in the future if required):

  • all: This scope applies to the whole captured node. This is only different from tail when the captured node is the first node on its line.

  • tail: This scope applies to everything except for the first line of the captured node.

Every capture type has a default scope which should do the right thing in most situations. When a different scope is required, this can be changed by using a #set! declaration anywhere in the pattern:

  right: (_) @indent
  (#set! "scope" "all"))

Capture Types

  • @indent (default scope tail): Increase the indent level by 1. Multiple occurrences in the same line don't stack. If there is at least one @indent and one @outdent capture on the same line, the indent level isn't changed at all.

  • @outdent (default scope all): Decrease the indent level by 1. The same rules as for @indent apply.


In some cases, an S-expression cannot express exactly what pattern should be matched. For that, tree-sitter allows for predicates to appear anywhere within a pattern, similar to how #set! declarations work:

  (child_kind) @indent
  (#predicate? arg1 arg2 ...)

The number of arguments depends on the predicate that's used. Each argument is either a capture (@name) or a string ("some string"). The following predicates are supported by tree-sitter:

  • #eq?/#not-eq?: The first argument (a capture) must/must not be equal to the second argument (a capture or a string).

  • #match?/#not-match?: The first argument (a capture) must/must not match the regex given in the second argument (a string).

Additionally, we support some custom predicates for indent queries:

  • #not-kind-eq?: The kind of the first argument (a capture) must not be equal to the second argument (a string).

  • #same-line?/#not-same-line?: The captures given by the 2 arguments must/must not start on the same line.