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Two types of engines

The C++ code completion in CodeLite, is powered by two open source tools:

  • clangd a local daemon installed either by CodeLite (for macOS or Windows) or by the package manager (Linux). This daemon is clang's compiler implementation for the Language Server Protocol
  • ctags a rough but efficient indexer tool

The clangd (the default completion engine) is discussed in details in the Language Server Plugin section.

In this page we will cover the ctags code completion engine

Ctags code completion

The code completion feature in CodeLite covers the followings:

  • Auto completion of variables, classes, functions etc
  • Go to definition / declaration
  • Open resource of any type
  • Hover tooltips
  • File Outline

Setting Up ctags Code Completion

When you first create a workspace that contains C++ files, CodeLite will automatically scan for the following files:

  • Any C/C++ files included in the workspace
  • Any header files in the workspace
  • Any file included by an include directive from a workspace file

The above file list is then parsed and the parsed information is then stored in the workspace directory under the folder .codelite/<WORKSPACE-NAME>.db for later retrieval

Each time a file is saved, the database is updated automatically (only for the saved file)

Code Completing

If possible, CodeLite will offers a completion list where it makes sense.

For example, given the below class:

class MyClass {
    std::string m_name;
    std::string m_last_name;

And your code looks like this:

MyClass cls;
cls. // <-- code completion appears here

We can expect CodeLite to show the completion box with 2 options: m_name and m_last_name

Configuring ctags

From the main menu bar, select SettingsCode completion... this brings the code completion dialog.

Select the CTags tab, which contains 3 child tabs:

  • Search paths: this contains a list of global search paths to be added to the workspace folders. Usually, CodeLite will use this list to find any compiler header files e.g. stdlib.h
  • Exclude paths: CodeLite will ignore any file found in these paths
  • AdvancedTokens: Contains list of tokens to be processed by ctags, usually, you want to add here macros which confuses ctags
  • AdvancedTypes: Contains list of types that ctags should consider them as another type


There are 3 types of tokens that can be used here:

Type 1: simple tokens

This type takes the form of x=y syntax.

Lets say that you have the following code snippet:

CLASS myClass {
    void foo(){};

The example above uses CLASS as a preprocessor macro which expands to something different for each platform. For instance, CLASS may be defined as class __declspec(dllexport) on Windows platforms while on macOS and Linux, it expands to class Normally, the absence of the C++ keyword class would cause the source file to be incorrectly parsed by ctags

You can add the following entry to the Tokens list to resolve this:


Type 2: Ignore entry

Many APIs are using functions / class decorators which confuses ctags parser, consider the following forward declaration line:


By parsing the above line, ctags will mistakenly count wxRichTextCtrl as a variable of type WXDLLIMPEXP_FWD_RICHTEXT rather than forward declaration of the class. To fix this, one need to add the following entry to the Token table:


By adding the above entry to the Tokens table ctags now knows to ignore this token, so the above code snippet is "seen" like this by ctags:

 class wxRichTextCtrl;

Type 3: Composite replacement entry

Some macros are too complex and can not be resolved by using the simple X=Y or the 'ignore' entries. These kind of macros require the third type of token syntax: composite replacement

For example: most of the Python C API methods looks like this:

PyAPI_FUNC(void*) PySomeFunctionName(PyObject*);

The syntax above is too complex for the ctags parser to understand that the above signature is actually:

void* PySomeFunctionName(PyObject*);

We could use the naive solution of adding the following entry:


However, there are many variations of the above:


For these case, we can use the following token entry:


Lets have a look at another example:

wxWidgets defines the macro wxConstCast like this: #define wxConstCast(t, x) const_cast<t>(x) Using the composite replacement syntax, we can add an entry with the following form:

wxConstCast(%0, %1)=const_cast<%0>(%1)


Adding new patterns to the Tokens tab requires a parsing of the workspace from: WorkspaceParse workspace


Some C++ is too complex for ctags to handle. This is where you can help ctags to understand the code a little better For example:

std::queue::reference definition is too complex for ctags to understand. However, by looking at the code, we know that std::queue::reference is actually _Tp (the template parameter)

To help the parser, we can add the following entry:



The Types table already comes populated entries We recommend that you don't change this unless you really know what you are doing