If you’re like me and have (1) been using Vim for a while and (2) have been programming in C++, you’ve likely heard about YouCompleteMe.

YCM is an awesome auto-completion engine for Vim. For C++ and other C-based languages it uses the libclang under the hood, but it integrates with other engines as well to support C#, Python and Go to name a few. If you’re not yet convinced, check out the author’s website and this blog post.

To have semantic completion for C-family languages, you need tell the compiler how to process your files. Out of the box, YCM requires a per-project configuration file .ycm_extra_conf.py in the root of our project. Personally, I don’t like to have yet another configuration file clutter my project and I’m pretty sure my colleagues would agree. Fortunately however, YCM supports you to define a global configuration file.

let g:ycm_global_ycm_extra_conf = '~/.vim/.ycm_extra_conf.py'

Global YCM Config

I started from the default configuration file which sets a few compiler flags and uses the file’s location to make include paths absolute. This was the first significant change: looking at the path of the file currently open in the editor rather than the one from the configuration file.

The second change involves support for clang_complete files (.clang_complete) which are automatically generates by our custom build system at Amadeus. They contain the include paths to internal and external dependencies, omitting the current component’s include paths. Our components are structured with header files in the include directory and source files in the src directory. The configuration file will recursively search for include folder and add them to the include path.

How it works

  • Either obtain compilation flags from the nearest JSON compilation database (compile_commands.json), which is generated by CMake by adding set(CMAKE_EXPORT_COMPILE_COMMANDS 1) in the CMakeLists.txt file.
  • If no compilation database can be found, fall back to a set of default compilation flags.
    • Add the include paths from the nearest .clang_complete file if present.
    • Find the nearest include directory and add include flags for that folder and all of its subfolders. This is useful when your source files are in the src directory and the header files in the include directory.

The nearest here means either in the current working directory (the directory in which the file you’re editing is located) or in one of its enclosing directories.


The original file can be found in my dotfiles repository.

import os
import os.path
import fnmatch
import logging
import ycm_core
import re






def IsHeaderFile(filename):
    extension = os.path.splitext(filename)[1]
    return extension in HEADER_EXTENSIONS

def GetCompilationInfoForFile(database, filename):
    if IsHeaderFile(filename):
        basename = os.path.splitext(filename)[0]
        for extension in SOURCE_EXTENSIONS:
            # Get info from the source files by replacing the extension.
            replacement_file = basename + extension
            if os.path.exists(replacement_file):
                compilation_info = database.GetCompilationInfoForFile(replacement_file)
                if compilation_info.compiler_flags_:
                    return compilation_info
            # If that wasn't successful, try replacing possible header directory with possible source directories.
            for header_dir in HEADER_DIRECTORIES:
                for source_dir in SOURCE_DIRECTORIES:
                    src_file = replacement_file.replace(header_dir, source_dir)
                    if os.path.exists(src_file):
                        compilation_info = database.GetCompilationInfoForFile(src_file)
                        if compilation_info.compiler_flags_:
                            return compilation_info
        return None
    return database.GetCompilationInfoForFile(filename)

def FindNearest(path, target, build_folder):
    candidate = os.path.join(path, target)
    if(os.path.isfile(candidate) or os.path.isdir(candidate)):
        logging.info("Found nearest " + target + " at " + candidate)
        return candidate;

    parent = os.path.dirname(os.path.abspath(path));
    if(parent == path):
        raise RuntimeError("Could not find " + target);

        candidate = os.path.join(parent, build_folder, target)
        if(os.path.isfile(candidate) or os.path.isdir(candidate)):
            logging.info("Found nearest " + target + " in build folder at " + candidate)
            return candidate;

    return FindNearest(parent, target, build_folder)

def MakeRelativePathsInFlagsAbsolute(flags, working_directory):
    if not working_directory:
        return list(flags)
    new_flags = []
    make_next_absolute = False
    path_flags = [ '-isystem', '-I', '-iquote', '--sysroot=' ]
    for flag in flags:
        new_flag = flag

        if make_next_absolute:
            make_next_absolute = False
            if not flag.startswith('/'):
                new_flag = os.path.join(working_directory, flag)

        for path_flag in path_flags:
            if flag == path_flag:
                make_next_absolute = True

            if flag.startswith(path_flag):
                path = flag[ len(path_flag): ]
                new_flag = path_flag + os.path.join(working_directory, path)

        if new_flag:
    return new_flags

def FlagsForClangComplete(root):
        clang_complete_path = FindNearest(root, '.clang_complete')
        clang_complete_flags = open(clang_complete_path, 'r').read().splitlines()
        return clang_complete_flags
        return None

def FlagsForInclude(root):
        include_path = FindNearest(root, 'include')
        flags = []
        for dirroot, dirnames, filenames in os.walk(include_path):
            for dir_path in dirnames:
                real_path = os.path.join(dirroot, dir_path)
                flags = flags + ["-I" + real_path]
        return flags
        return None

def FlagsForCompilationDatabase(root, filename):
        # Last argument of next function is the name of the build folder for
        # out of source projects
        compilation_db_path = FindNearest(root, 'compile_commands.json', 'build')
        compilation_db_dir = os.path.dirname(compilation_db_path)
        logging.info("Set compilation database directory to " + compilation_db_dir)
        compilation_db =  ycm_core.CompilationDatabase(compilation_db_dir)
        if not compilation_db:
            logging.info("Compilation database file found but unable to load")
            return None
        compilation_info = GetCompilationInfoForFile(compilation_db, filename)
        if not compilation_info:
            logging.info("No compilation info for " + filename + " in compilation database")
            return None
        return MakeRelativePathsInFlagsAbsolute(
        return None

def FlagsForFile(filename):
    root = os.path.realpath(filename);
    compilation_db_flags = FlagsForCompilationDatabase(root, filename)
    if compilation_db_flags:
        final_flags = compilation_db_flags
        final_flags = BASE_FLAGS
        clang_flags = FlagsForClangComplete(root)
        if clang_flags:
            final_flags = final_flags + clang_flags
        include_flags = FlagsForInclude(root)
        if include_flags:
            final_flags = final_flags + include_flags
    return {
            'flags': final_flags,
            'do_cache': True