In my last post I talked about how you could use binary search to narrow down components in your .vimrc that are bogging you down. I just ran into a case where syntax on was the bottleneck. This is basically constantly running regex matchers on your text. If a match is found then the text is tagged with a group. That group can then be targetted by things like your color scheme. This provides a nice separation of concerns.

Given that, I obviously didn’t want to just disable the syntax feature. A quick stroll down Google lane brought me to this great question. One of the answers mentions using :syntime on, typing your slow bits, then :syntime report. This will record the time it takes to run each of your syntax commands and reports the slowest one.

  0.793146   560    0       0.008129    0.001416  rubyPredefinedConstant \%(\%(\.\@<!\.\)\@<!\|::\)\_s*\zs\%(STDERR\|STDIN\|STDOUT\|TOPLEVEL_BINDING\|TRUE\)\>\%(\s*(\)\@!
  0.667850   560    0       0.006749    0.001193  rubyPredefinedConstant \%(\%(\.\@<!\.\)\@<!\|::\)\_s*\zs\%(MatchingData\|ARGF\|ARGV\|ENV\)\>\%(\s*(\)\@!
  0.502142   560    0       0.005166    0.000897  rubyPredefinedConstant \%(\%(\.\@<!\.\)\@<!\|::\)\_s*\zs\%(DATA\|FALSE\|NIL\)\>\%(\s*(\)\@!
  0.321655   560    0       0.003583    0.000574  rubyPredefinedConstant \%(\%(\.\@<!\.\)\@<!\|::\)\_s*\zs\%(RUBY_\%(VERSION\|RELEASE_DATE\|PLATFORM\|PATCHLEVEL\|REVISION\|DESCRI
  0.075974   560    0       0.000646    0.000136  rubySymbol         []})\"':]\@<!\%(\h\|[^\x00-\x7F]\)\%(\w\|[^\x00-\x7F]\)*[!?]\=:\s\@=
  0.034503   560    0       0.000256    0.000062  rubySymbol         \%([{(,]\_s*\)\@<=\l\w*[!?]\=::\@!
  0.009783   740    180     0.000056    0.000013  rubyConstant       \%(\%([.@$]\@<!\.\)\@<!\<\|::\)\_s*\zs\u\w*\%(\>\|::\)\@=\%(\s*(\)\@!
  0.007708   560    0       0.000040    0.000014  rubyKeywordAsMethod \%(\%(\.\@<!\.\)\|::\)\_s*\%(public\|require\|require_relative\|raise\|throw\|trap\)\>

Low and behold rubyPredefinedConstant is also the problematic matcher in my case. We can disable it in /share/vim directory or, if you’re using Vim 7.4+, you can just enable to old regex engine set re=1. Alternatively, vim-ruby is also said to have syntax that works better.