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by SQbQxeKd3JHD8 ST3

A Sublime Text 3 package providing features for writing and building ConTeXt documents.



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Simple ConTeXt



This Sublime Text 3 package provides some support for working with the ConTeXt program.

I started this project for my personal use, because I wanted some quality of life features for writing ConTeXt documents in Sublime Text. Since there were no packages that fit the bill, I started to write my own. Over time I felt that the result was looking pretty good, so I put it out into the world for the hopeful benefit of other ConTeXt users.

That said, I can only test that things work on my machine, so some bugs are to be expected. Furthermore I only have so much spare time to work on it, and it's a hobby project. Don't expect a robust, polished experience!

Currently the features are:

  • Syntax file(s);
  • Builder(s);
  • Command auto-completions;
  • Command pop-ups;
  • Handling of references;
  • Handling of citations;
  • Various snippets;
  • Other miscellany.

(I should say that I use ConTeXt MkIV exclusively, and so the package is designed and tested with MkIV only. In other words, if MkII stuff works then it is a happy accident. That said, the syntax file should work perfectly well for MkII, and I would guess that most of the other parts are relatively simple to adapt as needed.

Also, the multilingual interface in ConTeXt is not something I have considered. I only know the English interface, and have worked with it in mind; the task of supporting all of the different interfaces simultaneously seems rather daunting to me!)


Install via package control, under the name simple_ConTeXt. (Alternatively, you can just git clone the repository into your Sublime Text (ST) packages directory.) Afterwards, there are some optional things to set up.


As an aside, to install/update ConTeXt itself, I would recommend looking on the ConTeXt wiki here for general instructions. In particular, to set up a so-called Standalone/Minimals installation there is also this invaluable page.


To get the builder working, it needs to be able to find the context program (or mtxrun) on your machine. If you have only one version of context installed and it's on your environment PATH variable, then you don't need to do anything.

Otherwise, you should tell simple ConTeXt where context is located at. To do so, open the simple ConTeXt settings file via Preferences: simple_ConTeXt Settings in the command palette or Preferences ▶ Package Settings ▶ simple_ConTeXt ▶ Settings from the menu bar. Under the program_locations.ConTeXt_paths key, put in a key-value entry for the ConTeXt installation on your machine: the key is just a convenient name for that installation, and the value should be the path to the context binaries. For example: if you have the context program located at C:/Users/Foo/context/tex/texmf-win64/bin (so the ConTeXt installation tree's root is at C:/Users/Foo/context/), then you should write something like

  "program_locations.ConTeXt_paths": {
    "example": "C:/Users/Foo/context/tex/texmf-win64/bin"

If you have multiple versions of ConTeXt installed (e.g. a couple different TeX Live versions and the ConTeXt Standalone) then you can put a name-path entry for each one, and they can happily coexist.

Now when you go to build a ConTeXt file, the builder looks up what version of ConTeXt you want by consulting the current value of the setting current.path, which should be the name of a key in the program_locations.ConTeXt_paths dictionary (so example as above). To quickly change between different versions of ConTeXt, you can use the Quick Settings command.

There are also some options (you can check out the settings) to control how the builder functions and what output to report.


For opening PDFs after building a ConTeXt file the current.PDF/viewer entry is consulted. It should be the name of one of the keys in program_locations.PDF_viewers.

Similarly to the previous, the keys in program_locations.PDF_viewers can be any string, but each value should be the name of a PDF viewer program. (In the example case of the Sumatra PDF viewer, this could be simply sumatraPDF if it's on your environment path, or else an explicit path like C:/Program Files/SumatraPDF/SumatraPDF.)


Add the following entry to your general ST settings, in order to get automatic completions for ConTeXt commands on typing the initial backslash \.

  "auto_complete_triggers": [
      "characters": "\\",
      "selector": "text.tex.context"

Spell Checking

Consider adding the following to your ConTeXt syntax specific settings. (You can access these via Preferences: Settings - Syntax Specific in the command palette or Preferences ▶ Settings - Syntax Specific from the menu bar, as long as the currently active view has the ConTeXt syntax.)

  "spell_check": true,
    "text.tex.context - (meta.control-word.context, meta.environment.math.context, meta.brackets.context, source, markup.raw, comment)"

This should do a pretty decent job at limiting spell check to the appropriate places only (e.g. not in maths or code blocks).

Bracket Highlighter

If you use the excellent BracketHighlighter (BH) package, then adding the following to the BH settings will provide some support for ConTeXt start/stop commands.

  "user_brackets": [
      "name": "context_env",
      "open": "(\\\\start[a-zA-Z]*)",
      "close": "(\\\\stop[a-zA-Z]*)",
      "style": "alt_tag",
      "scope_exclude": ["- meta.structure"],
      "language_filter": "whitelist",
      "language_list": ["ConTeXt"],
      "enabled": true
  "user_bracket_styles": {
    "alt_tag": {
      "icon": "tag",
      "color": "keyword.control"

The file context_environments.py pointed to here under the plugin_library key simply checks that the start and stop tags match.

Included in this package is a file bracket_highlighter/metapost_settings.json which I omit here for brevity, but it shows a basic setup to get BH to highlight some MetaPost/MetaFun 'brackets' too.

Interface Files

TODO: talk some about them.


We support references, as powered by the ConTeXt syntax file. (So we know what things are references because the syntax file has rules that tell us so. Although some common cases are taken care of, there are others that are not. For example \placefigure is not working (it has a tricky syntax), but \startplacefigure does work as expected.) To illustrate the idea, suppose you had the document

      a^2 + b^2 = c^2

  Lorem ipsum ...

If you were to type \in{equation}[, say, then a quick-panel would pop up showing every reference in the file (just the one in this case, eq:pythag). Selecting an entry will type it in automatically.

You can turn this functionality on or off completely with the setting current.references/on. To add new reference commands (in addition to the built-ins \in and friends) into the system (e.g. \eqref) there is the option current.references/command_regex.


We provide some support for citations, in the new MkIV style. (For reference, see the manual 'Bibliographies: The ConTeXt Way' (a.k.a. mkiv-publications.pdf)). We can parse bibliographic databases in the traditional BibTeX format: a must given its ubiquity. It can be challenging to do so 'in the wild'; we try to be tolerant.

Additionally, the ability of ConTeXt to use Lua and XML as alternative data formats is very interesting to me, so I make sure to support them too. (Of course, Lua is too powerful really as a configuration language, something like dhall strikes a better compromise between power and safety. Still, using Lua can be nice.)


On the topic of working with BibTeX databases, I would recommend reading the aforementioned manual on bibliographies in ConTeXt when coming from LaTeX: there are some differences to be aware of. For example, Unicode in .bib files works out-of-the-box so ASCII-style escaping is discouraged in favour of writing Unicode characters literally. Also, there is no need for special care with upper/lower case: simply write what you mean.


As a quick intro/example, suppose the file example.bib looks like

  title  = {Foo Bar},
  author = {A. U. Thor},
  year   = {2000},

and in the same directory we have a ConTeXt file as follows.

  Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, ...

If we type \cite[ somewhere in this file, then a quick-panel will pop up listing every entry in example.bib (in this case just the single book 'Foo Bar'). Selecting an entry from the list will then input the tag associated to that entry.

This functionality can be turned on or off with the setting current.citations/on. To control what information we show in the quick-panel, there is the setting current.citations/format. It's default value is the string

{title}<>{author}<>{category}, {year}, {tag}

The braces {...} indicate a bibliographic field name, and the sequence <> indicates the start of a new row.

To demonstrate the other formats, here is what the equivalent example.lua could look like:

return {
  whatever = {
    category = "book",
    title    = "Foo Bar",
    author   = "A. U. Thor",
    year     = "2000",

Lastly, here is what the same data looks like as example.xml.

  <entry tag="whatever" category="book">
    <field name="title">Foo Bar</field>
    <field name="author">A. U. Thor</field>
    <field name="year">2000</field>

File Links

Certain commands involve another file (e.g. \input), and for some of these we can generate a hyperlink to that file. For example, consider the document

\environment example-style
  \input knuth

Hovering over any of example-style, samples.bib, and knuth will produce a link to the respective files.

Regarding exactly what the link points to: we try to find the file in and around the ConTeXt document's location in the file tree (more precisely: we look in the directory it's located at, as well as all sub-directories and it's parent directory), and if that fails we ask context (well, mtxrun) if it can find the file on the TeX tree. While doing this we consider typical extensions, so for example when looking for knuth we also look for a knuth.tex.

You can turn this feature on or off with the setting current.file_links/on.



Provided you tell ST to do so as in this section, when typing a backslash \ there will appear a list of all known command names, as well as an indicator of how many arguments each command takes.

Completions should play well with others, e.g. the completions provided by the UnicodeCompletion package. (UnicodeCompletion uses LaTeX command names, but nonetheless I find it useful for ConTeXt, as most of the included command names are compatible.)


When you type in a full command name, e.g. \setupfittingpage, or if you hover over a full command name, a pop-up will appear. They look something like this:

1           2
\setupfittingpage [...,...] [..,..=..,..]

1   NAME

2   command   = \...#1
    margin    = page
    pagestate = start stop
    paper     = auto default NAME
    scale     = NUMBER
    inherits: \setupframed


The formatting should be fairly self-explanatory. A couple of notes:

  • The OPT here is short for 'optional argument'.
  • Default values are indicated by underlines (not shown here).
  • Upper-case values (e.g. NUMBER) indicate you can pass a value of that type (a 'number').
  • Values like \...#1 indicate you can pass a command which expects some number of arguments. (So \...#1 means a command with one argument, \...#1#2 means a command with two arguments, and so on). For example, you could write \overstrike to pass a command of one argument. (This is a command which ConTeXt defines out-of-the-box, that strikes things though ~like this~).
  • Sometimes there is a value inherits: \..., which indicates that this option inherits the options of that command.
  • Some arguments accept any 'string' as a value; we indicate this with {...} (not shown here, as \setupfittingpage doesn't happen to have any such arguments).
  • At the end there can be a hyperlink to a file name (page-app.mkiv here) where the command is defined.

There are a few options in the settings to tweak their appearance, and you can toggle whether they are shown at all by typing/hovering with the settings current.pop_ups/methods/on_modified and current.pop_ups/methods/on_hover respectively.


Normal Builders

The main builder is of course the ConTeXt one, that is a wrapper around the context binary. In order to find context it consults the path specified in the settings.

As it's relatively easy to do so, there are a couple other builders:

  • Lua (using LuaTeX as a Lua interpreter);
  • MetaPost. There are two variants: firstly, just use the version of mpost that ships with the ConTeXt installation. Alternatively, use context itself: when called on a MetaPost file, it will compile it (using the MetaFun format) into a PDF.

Both of these rely on the setting current.path to find the relevant programs.

Build on Save

There is an auto-build functionality: I'm not sure how useful it is, you can try it out if you like. You can turn it on by setting current.builder/auto/on to true. Then, any time you save a ConTeXt file (i.e. a view in ST that has the 'ConTeXt' syntax) we run the ConTeXt builder.

There a couple of options related to this, all starting with the string current.builder/auto/. Of particular interest is current.builder/auto/extra_opts_for_ConTeXt, which you can use to pass along different options to the context process from the manual builder. The use-case I imagine is: suppose you have some slow-to-build graphics that you would like to skip while drafting a document. Then you can set

  "current.builder/auto/extra_opts_for_ConTeXt": {
    "mode": {
      "draft": true

and in the document use commands like \doifmodeelse to conditionally execute certain code:

\doifmodeelse {draft}
  {quick branch ...}
  {slow branch ...}

(Currently we just pass along any extra options on top of the default options; maybe we should look at merging them instead.)

Key/Value Auto-Complete

We added an auto-completion feature, can be turned on or off with the option current.option_completions/on. For an example, suppose you typed \setuphead[c. Then (provided you had this option turned on) you would see a list of suggested options pop up: at time of writing I am suggested the options catcodes, color, command, commandafter, commandbefore, continue, conversion, and coupling.

These are provided by a simple algorithm: given a command \foo, suggest any keys from key-value options that \foo has itself, in addition to (in a recursive manner) any keys from key-value commands that \foo inherits.

We don't try to keep track of which arguments take key-value options, and which do not: instead, we just always suggest keys. This is not ideal, but doing better than this would be a lot more complicated. So currently we have a kind of compromise between usefulness and false positives: even so, I find it to be a good trade-off where it is at the moment.


Quick Settings

In the command palette there is a command called simple_ConTeXt: Quick change the settings. It brings up an interactive menu for browsing and modifying the current settings. Some things (e.g. adding new settings) need to be done by opening up the settings the traditional ST way, but especially for modifying existing options this command can be a nice time saver.


If you do need to manually edit the settings, then you can do so via Preferences: simple_ConTeXt Settings in the command palette or Preferences ▶ Package Settings ▶ simple_ConTeXt ▶ Settings from the menu bar. All the options have some documentation in the default settings file.

Care has been taken to play nice with the autocomplete/pop-up functionality from the great Package Dev package.


We provide a command simple_ConTeXt: Run a ConTeXt script in the ST palette. It is a straightforward wrapper around a command line, with the environment path modified to include the path to the ConTeXt binaries currently chosen in the settings (the one named current.path). It also expands the default ST variables (e.g. $file). (Note that it is very basic at the moment, it simply waits for the script to finish and only then reports the result. Also, if the script has an error of some kind then this command can get stuck; in this way it is quite fragile currently.)

This can be a convenience if you have multiple installations of ConTeXt on one machine, as it takes care of setting up your PATH for you. Then you can do things like

mtxrun --generate --force

to (re)generate the file database for the version of ConTeXt currently active in simple ConTeXt (typically takes a few seconds), and

mtxrun --script font --list --pattern=*latinmodern* --all

to look up all the Latin Modern fonts that ConTeXt is aware of.


There are various snippets for ConTeXt (and a couple for MetaPost as well). You can find these by typing snippet in the command palette in a ConTeXt file, but here is a quick summary.

  • Samples, analogous to the built-in snippet lorem. These are: bryson, carey, carrol, darwin, davis, dawkins, douglas, greenfield, hawking, jojomayer, khatt, klein, knuth, linden, montgomery, reich, sapolsky, thuan, tufte, waltham, ward, weisman, and zapf.
  • Headings, for part/chapter/section and so on: chap, part, title, sec, sub, sec2, sub2, sec3 and sub3.
  • For item groups: items and item
  • For mark-up: bf, em, emph, it, and sl.
  • For tables: tabn, tabln, tabu, and tabx.
  • For math: align, form, forma, pform, pforma, and math.
  • For Lua: lua, ctx, and lmx.
  • For projects/modules: mod, comp, env, and prod.
  • For placing things: place, pfig, and ptab.
  • Others: start, text, doc, and page.

Designing good, general purpose snippets is tricky. These are a bit of a mixed bag, about which I will say (in my opinion):

  • form (and its variations) are quite convenient;
  • start is frequently useful;
  • the samples are nice for quickly mocking up some fake words;
  • the table snippets include a reminder of the different syntaxes, which can be useful given the numerous table mechanisms that ConTeXt has;
  • the mark-up snippets leave something to be desired.

Future Features

Some things that would be nice to have. Of course, we can go and on imagining things to add/improve.

  • Handle $ in the same way as quotes & brackets by ST, i.e. as a delimiter. (I think it's the only such thing for us.)
  • Make the quick setting thing smarter/more functional (i.e. add more functionality to it).
  • Set up file links to work for modules.
  • Allow for current.citations/format to be a list of strings instead of just a string, and document the option.
  • On the bibliographical side, add in a command something along the lines of 'force re-parse bibliographic database'. Also add in some kind of way to browse the current bibliographic entries (other than typing \cite[), and consider what to do about multi-citing (by which I mean things like \cite[foo,bar] where you cite multiple entries at one time).
  • Maybe we can abstract out the process of building the bib. database into it's own ST command. I think that would be a reasonable design and allow us to accomplish everything we want. Now that I think about it, this design pattern gives us a sensible way to share data between different parts of the ST API—something we've wanted for a while, I'm sure we could refactor some bits with this approach. Having said that, how do we get the data out, as run(<command>) doesn't return anything… set some Settings of the current view or whatnot?
  • Work on the interface generator, I think there is some simplifying we can do. (Thinking about optional arguments). In addition, we could pull out common arguments into, say, a 'where' clause. This would be very nice when there are big arguments duplicated twice or more, although it would also be a significant change to the inner workings. On this note, we could tidy some things up here e.g. with default values in the JSON files.
  • Extend the key=val auto-completion stuff to include value suggestions.
  • Add support for multi file documents. This is not something I do very much, so I'm not sure what it should look like. Have the builder figure out the master file? What other things would be useful?
  • Add support for the syntax \start[foo] ... \stop as a valid alternative to \startfoo ... \stopfoo. Again, not something I use, is this a sensible idea?
  • Implement option for return focus to ST after opening PDF on build.
  • SyncTeX support. (Forward and backward jump to PDF.) What's the situation with SyncTeX in ConTeXt?
  • Code formatter. (The ST syntax engine already does the hard work of parsing ConTeXt files, in quite some detail. This should make it relatively easy to do some basic auto-formatting. I'd want to be as non-invasive as possible, only formatting what we are certain it makes sense to do so.)
  • Extend the command auto-complete/pop-up system to allow for user-defined commands. Easiest would probably be to define them in the .xml style that the ConTeXt interface files use.
  • Fix up the documentation browser. I saw some discussion on the mailing list about using commands like mtxrun --launch cld-mkiv.pdf to open the docs, which would be nice for this.
  • Checker/linter. (The checks provided by mtxrun --script check are quite basic, last I 'checked'. I don't know that chktex has much ConTeXt support, seems to be targeted at LaTeX.)
  • Put phantom error functionality back in.
  • Word count. (Can be nice to have, but rather tricky in full generality.)
  • Handle \unprotect ... \protect in a nice way.