This guide describes how to customize aretext for your workflows.

Aretext uses a rule-based system for configuration. This allows you to easily customize the editor for different programming languages and projects.

In addition, you can define custom menu commands that invoke arbitrary programs. This provides a simple yet powerful way to extend the editor. For example, you can create custom menu commands to:

... and much more!

Configuration rules

Aretext stores its configuration in a single YAML file. By default, the config file is located at ~/.config/aretext/config.yaml, but you can change the location by setting the XDG_CONFIG_HOME env var (following the XDG Base Directory Specification). If you open the config file, you should see something like:

- name: default
  pattern: "**"
    autoIndent: false
    hideDirectories: [".git"]
    syntaxLanguage: plaintext
    tabExpand: false
    tabSize: 4
    showLineNumbers: false

- name: json
  pattern: "**/*.json"
    autoIndent: true
    syntaxLanguage: json
    tabExpand: true
    tabSize: 2
    showLineNumbers: true

Each item in the configuration file describes a rule. For example, in the snippet above, the first rule is named "default" and the second rule is named "json".

Each rule has a pattern. The "**" is a wildcard that matches any subdirectory, and "*" is a wildcard that matches zero or more characters in a file or directory name.

When aretext loads a file, it checks each rule in order. If the rule's pattern matches the file's absolute path, it applies the rule to update the configuration.

For example, if aretext loaded the file "foo/bar.json" using the above configuration, both rules would match the filename. The resulting configuration would be:

    autoIndent: true           # from the "json" rule
    hideDirectories: [".git"]  # from the "default" rule
    syntaxLanguage: json       # from the "json" rule
    tabExpand: true            # from the "json" rule
    tabSize: 2                 # from the "json" rule
    showLineNumbers: true      # from the "json" rule

When merging configurations from different rules:

This is a powerful mechanism for customizing configuration based on filename extension and/or project location. For example, suppose that one project you work on uses four spaces to indent JSON files. You could add a new rule to your config that overwrites the tabSize for JSON files in that specific project:

# ... other rules above ...
- name: myproject-json
  pattern: "**/myproject/**/*.json"
    tabSize: 4

Configuration Reference

For a complete list of available configuration options, see Configuration Reference.

Fixing configuration errors

If your YAML config file has errors, aretext will exit with an error message. You can force aretext to ignore the config file by passing the "-noconfig" flag:

aretext -noconfig ~/.config/aretext/config.yaml

This allows you to start the editor so you can fix the configuration.

Custom menu commands

Aretext allows you to define custom menu items to run shell commands. This provides a simple, yet powerful, way to extend aretext.

You can add new menu commands by editing the YAML config file at ~/.config/aretext/config.yaml:

- name: custom-menu-rule
  pattern: "**/myproject/**"
      - name: my custom menu command
        shellCmd: echo 'hello world!' | less
        mode: terminal  # or "silent" or "insert" or "fileLocations"

After restarting the editor, the new command will be available in the command menu. Selecting the new command will launch a shell (configured by the $SHELL environment variable) and execute the shell command (in this case, echoing "hello world").

The "mode" parameter controls how aretext handles the command's input and output. There are four modes:

Mode Input Output Use Cases
terminal tty tty make, git commit, go test, man, ...
silent none none go fmt, tmux commands, copy to system clipboard, ...
insert none insert into document paste from system clipboard, insert snippet, comment/uncomment selection, ...
fileLocations none file location menu grep for word under cursor, ...

In addition, the following environment variables are provided to the shell command:

Example: Make

Add a menu command to build a project using make. Piping to less allows us to page through the output.

- name: custom-make-cmd
  pattern: "**/myproject/**"
      - name: build
        shellCmd: make | less
        # default mode is "terminal"

Example: Copy and paste using the system clipboard

Most systems provide command-line utilities for interacting with the system clipboard.

System Commands
Linux using XWindows xclip
Linux using Wayland wl-copy, wl-paste
macOS pbcopy, pbpaste
WSL on Windows clip.exe, powershell Get-Clipboard
tmux tmux set-buffer, tmux show-buffer

We can add custom menu commands to copy the current selection to the system clipboard and paste from the system clipboard into the document. For example, on Wayland:

- name: custom-clipboard-commands
  pattern: "**"
      - name: copy to clipboard
        shellCmd: wl-copy "$SELECTION"
        mode: silent
      - name: paste from clipboard
        shellCmd: wl-paste
        mode: insert

Example: Format current file

Many programming languages provide command line tools to automatically format code. You can add a custom menu command to run these tools on the current file.

For example, this command uses go fmt to format a Go file:

- name: custom-fmt-command
  pattern: "**/*.go"
      - name: go fmt current file
        shellCmd: go fmt -w $FILEPATH | less

If there are no unsaved changes, aretext will automatically reload the file after it has been formatted.

Example: Insert snippet

You can add a custom menu command to insert a snippet of code.

For example, suppose you have written a template for a Go test. You can then create a menu command to cat the contents of the file into the document:

- name: custom-snippet-command
  pattern: "**/*.go"
    - name: insert test snippet
      shellCmd: cat ~/snippets/go-test.go
      mode: insert

Example: Grep

You can add a custom menu command to grep for the word under the cursor. The following example uses ripgrep to perform the search:

- name: custom-grep-command
  pattern: "**"
    - name: rg word
      shellCmd: rg $WORD --vimgrep  # or `grep $WORD -n -R .`
      mode: fileLocations

Once the search has completed, aretext loads the locations into a searchable menu. This allows you to easily navigate to a particular result.

The "fileLocations" mode works with any command that outputs file locations as lines with the format: <file>:<line>:<snippet> or <file>:<line>:<col>:<snippet>. You can use grep, ripgrep, or a script you write yourself!

Example: Split tmux window

If you use tmux, you can add a custom menu command to open the current document in a new window.

- name: split window horizontal
  shellCmd: tmux split-window -h "aretext $FILEPATH"
  mode: silent
- name: split window vertical
  shellCmd: tmux split-window -v "aretext $FILEPATH"
  mode: silent