Bottom Line: Basic configuration to use Neovim for OpenSCAD development.

I recent made my first not-entirely-trivial OpenSCAD model: It’s an adapter for the hard drive tray of the Lenovo M93P that converts it to accept 2 x 2.5” drives (SSDs in a ZFS mirror in my case) instead of the 3.5” HDD with which it originally came.

I enjoyed exploring OpenSCAD, but for me, coding in its built-in editor was not as pleasant as neovim. I wanted to see what options were available to improve the situation.

In the process, I discovered a few things:

  1. neovim doesn’t yet recognize .scad files as a valid filetype
  2. the most promising linter I came across is SCA2D
  3. I use ALE for linting, and ALE does not yet have any linters for openscad files.
  4. there doesn’t seem to be a great formatter for openscad files, either; the one I found relies on clang-format under the hood for the heavy lifting
  5. one can close the code editor in OpenSCAD and enable automatic reloading (under Design in the menu bar), so with every write done by neovim the preview window updates automatically

1: Getting neovim to recognize OpenSCAD files

Future readers: this part may soon be unnecessary, as it looks like there’s a commit that should accomplish the same thing in an upcoming release:

Recent versions of neovim allow one to configure filetype settings in lua by enabling vim.g.do_filetype_lua = 1. It didn’t work for me until I put this at the very top of my init.lua, likely some conflict with a plugin that I couldn’t sort out. Relevant discussion at reddit:

With this setting enabled, one now needs to create filetype.lua, in the same directory as their init.lua, with contents similar to the following:

  extension = {
    scad = "openscad",

Instead of enabling do_filetype_lua, one can accomplish the same thing with the following (or in vim by only using the part in quotes):

vim.cmd("au BufRead,BufNewFile *.scad set filetype=scad")

Once this is figured, one should be able to nvim foo.scad and run :set filetype? and see filetype=openscad at the bottom.

2 and 3: Linting

Future readers: this part may soon be unnecessary, as I’ve made a pull request to get this into ALE; hopefully it can be merged soon!

Next, I wanted to figure out how to hook up ALE with SCA2d so that I could see warnings and errors as usual. This ended up being a litte bigger task than I realized at the time. I found a very helpful post that walked me through the basics. Between that and the in-neovim help for ALE, I floundered my way through the process.

The short version is that one needs to:

  1. place the code below into ale_linters/openscad/sca2d.vim, where ale_linters/ is in the same directory as one’s init.lua / init.vim
  2. make sure to set vim.b.ale_linters = { "SCA2D" } somewhere (~/.vim/after/ftplugin/openscad.lua in my case)
  3. nvim foo.scad to open a test file
  4. make sure you’ve enabled ALE (however you’ve configured that)
call ale#linter#Define('openscad', {
            \   'name': 'SCA2D',
            \   'alias': ['sca2d'],
            \   'executable': 'sca2d',
            \   'command': '%e %t',
            \   'callback': 'SCA2D_callback',
            \   'lint_file': 1,
            \ })

function! SCA2D_callback(bufnr, lines) abort
    let filename_re = '^\([^:]*\):'
    let linenum_re = '\([0-9]*\):'
    let colnum_re = '\([0-9]*\):'
    let err_id = '\([IWEFU][0-9]\+\):'
    let err_msg = '\(.*\)'
    let pattern =  filename_re .
                \ linenum_re .
                \ colnum_re .
                \ ' ' .
                \ err_id .
                \ ' ' .
                \ err_msg

    let result = []
    let idx = 0
    for line in a:lines

        let matches = matchlist(line, pattern)
        if len(matches) > 0

            " option: Info, Warning, Error, Fatal, Unknown
            if index(["I", "W"], matches[4][0]) >= 0
                let type = 'W'
                let type = 'E'

            let lnum = matches[2]
            let col = matches[3]

            " Better locations for some syntax errors
            if matches[4][0] == "F"
                let syntax_error_re = ', at line \([0-9]\+\) col \([0-9]\+\)$'
                let next_line = a:lines[idx+1]
                let syn_err_matches = matchlist(next_line, syntax_error_re)

                if len(syn_err_matches) > 0
                    let lnum = syn_err_matches[1]
                    let col = syn_err_matches[2]

            let element = {
                        \ 'lnum': lnum,
                        \ 'col': col,
                        \ 'end_lnum': lnum,
                        \ 'end_col': col,
                        \ 'text': matches[5],
                        \ 'detail': matches[4] . " " . matches[5],
                        \ 'filename': fnamemodify(matches[1], ':p'),
                        \ 'type': type
                        \ }
            call add(result, element)
        let l:idx += 1
    return result

Hopefully, if you write cube(10) in your test file and :w, you should see a syntax error (due to the missing ;). Add the ; at the end, and the syntax error should go away. If you don’t see this, the default ALE behavior is to ignore everything if there was an error, which unfortunately can make it hard to debug problems. You might try sprinkling some echom 'foo!' around and checking :messages for some print debugging.

It’s still early days for SCA2D, but I think the codebase looks well organized and readible. It’s written in Python, which should make it relatively easy to make contributions, and the maintainer seems friendly. I think it has a promising future.

4: Formatting

As I mentioned, OpenSCAD is a little light on auto-formatters, which is a bummer. As the other tool I found seems to be relying on clang-format, for now I’m just using clang-format directly. It looks like there is probably some incompatibility with importing modules, but I haven’t gotten that far yet ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

I was able to get it functional with the following in ~/.vim/after/ftplugin/openscad.lua:

vim.b.ale_c_clangformat_executable = "/opt/homebrew/opt/llvm/bin/clang-format"
vim.b.ale_c_clangformat_style_option = [[{
  IndentWidth: 4,
vim.b.ale_fixers = { "clang-format", unpack(vim.g.ale_fixers or {}) }


  • MacOS doesn’t link LLVM stuff like clang-format into PATH by default, so I used the full path above, yours may differ (especially if you’re on an x86_84 machine)
  • clang-format accepts a whole host of formatting / configuration options; check them out with clang-format --dump-config

5: Leveraging autoreload

The last step I took was to give myself a keyboard shortcut (F10) that launches OpenSCAD in the background, open to the current file:

Again, in ~/.vim/after/ftplugin/openscad.lua:

  ":w<cr> :call system('/Applications/ ' . expand('%:p') . ' 2> /dev/null &')<cr>",
    noremap = true,
    silent = true,

Once F10 opens OpenSCAD, you can place its window to the side of your editor and watch the preview update with every write to disk.


With all of this out of the way, I’m pretty pleased with my upgraded situation for coding with OpenSCAD. I open example.scad file in neovim, and the filetype is properly detected, enabling my configuration preferences from above. I enable ALE, and with each write to disk I get lint suggestions from SCA2D, generally taking me to the line to (and in some cases the column) of the problem. Additionally, the code is automatically reformatted to maintain consistency (though I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of clang-format’s style so far, especially regarding one-op OpenSCAD modifiers that don’t require curly braces). I hit F10 and get a live preview that I can put alongside my neovim window to see how my project is progressing. I get to use all my usual neovim macros and shortcuts, which really makes my day.