font-lock-keyword-face is used by AUCTeX for all keywords, and I have not been able to find a way to create a new keyword that is a different color.

I have defined the foreground of font-lock-keyword-face to be the color red (with a white background), which affects every defined keyword.

I would like to create my own keyword that stands out from all the rest -- e.g., :foreground "yellow" :background "black".


It looks like there are only three (3) major groups available:

  1. keywords (controlled by font-lock-keyword-face);

  2. warnings (controlled by font-latex-warning-face); and

  3. undefined-keywords (controlled by font-latex-sedate-face).

All the examples on the internet appear to focus on changing the color inside square / wavy brackets using the variable font-latex-user-keyword-classes. I have not found any working examples where a new keyword group (with different colors) is created.

NONE of the following examples create a fourth (4th) major group:

;; \EFFECT{[font-lock-type-face]}
(setq font-latex-match-textual-keywords
        ("parentext" "{")
        ("hybridblockquote" "[{")

;; \EFFECT{[font-lock-variable-name-face]}
(setq font-latex-match-variable-keywords
        ("setlist" "[{")
        ("setlist*" "[{")

;; \EFFECT{[font-lock-constant-face]}
(setq font-latex-match-reference-keywords
        ("citet" "[{")
        ("degrees" "")
        ("units" "{")

;; \font-latex-warning-face
(setq font-latex-match-warning-keywords
        ("fixme" "{") 
        ("INSERT" "")

;; only affects inside wavy square brackets
(setq font-latex-user-keyword-classes
                (("fixme" "{"))
                (:foreground "purple")
  • I've found getting font-lock to change the way you want to be riddled with frustration. I've had successes, but I wouldn't really know what to tell you. However, there is hi-lock-mode you might consider looking at that. It's not as robust as font-lock and can occasionally get confused. But overall, it works fairly easily. – A.Ellett May 13 '13 at 0:51

Here is an example of setting somethings up for hi-lock mode.

First define a face:

(defface af-bold-yellow-box '((t  (:background  "yellow" 
                                   :foreground  "black"               
                                   :bold t
                                  )))  "yellow-box-face")

Then you can define a macro to apply your faces to specified regular expressions.

(defun z-hi-lock-quizzes ()
  ;; this next line is necessary to correct sloppy hi-locking
  (if (not hi-lock-mode) 
      (progn (hi-lock-mode -1) 
             (hi-lock-mode  1)) 
  (highlight-regexp "^%-\\*-mode:LaTeX.*$" (quote hi-conceal-content));
  (highlight-regexp "^%-@-(.+$"            (quote hi-lock-page-break));

I define various macros to address highlighting different features. And then I write an interactive macro which assembles and applies these.

(defun ae-hi-lock-features ()
   ... call other functions ...

FYI I believe all the various faces I use here are faces I've defined. Even in the examples below. But faces are defined as I've illustrated above.

adding to font-lock features

Here's some code that I've used to add elements to font-lock features. But, it's been so long since I wrote this, I don't really know if the following is sufficient to get all the desired results

(setq ae-keywords:tex-mode:list 
      (list  '( comment          "^\\s *\\(%.+$\\)"                       'hi-pink                            )
             '( newpara          "\\(^%-=-.+$\\)"                         'hi-skyblue-boldred-border          )
             '( newsect          "\\(^%-\\#-.+$\\)"                       'hi-goldback-boldbluefront-border   )
             '( newpage          "\\(^%-@-(.+$\\)"                        'hi-lock-page-break                 )
             '( tab              "\\(\t\\)"                               'hi-lightblue-red-text-border       )
             '( begin.doc        "\\(\\\\\\(begin\\|end\\\){document}\\)" 'hi-goldback-boldbluefront-border)
             '( comment.b        "\\(%\\.\\.%.*$\\)"                      'hi-darkblue-lightblue-text)
             '( multiplechoice.a "\\(^\\[o\\] .+$\\)"                     'hi-light-multiple-choices)
             '( multiplechoice.b "\\(^\\[[\\?\\.\\ ]\\] .+$\\)"                   'hi-goldback-boldbluefront-border)
             '( multiplechoice.c "\\(^\\[x\\] .+$\\)"                     'hi-light-multiple-choice-answer)
(dolist (elt ae-keywords:tex-mode:list)
  (font-lock-add-keywords nil (list (list (nth 1 elt) 1 (nth 2 elt) 'append)))

If the above seem too elaborate, you can do something a bit more direct as in

  (font-lock-add-keywords nil '(("\\(hello\\) \\(World\\)" 


I think what you probably want to do is something more like

  (font-lock-add-keywords 'latex-mode '(("<regex>" 

You probably want to set <level-of-subexpression> to 0, but using subexpressions you can get nice effects as in my hello World example.

  • Thank you so very much for the detailed answer -- I'll try it out later this evening when I return home and I'll report back with the results . . . – lawlist May 13 '13 at 1:27
  • 2
    Your first solution worked perfectly straight out of the box. The second solution needs a little something extra to work, perhaps similar to this link: tex.stackexchange.com/questions/81680/… , which I found based upon your usage of font-lock-add-keywords. I hadn't seen either solution prior to your post. I will work on adapting your second solution (with a cup of coffee) in the next day or so -- the link I found based on your usage does work also. Thank you so very much -- I spent all day working on this and you resolved the issue !!!! :) – lawlist May 13 '13 at 5:29
  • I am using the hello world example, but I haven't been able to figure out a way to define a whole-word that will not be treated as a sub-word. If we type the word helloo, the goal would be for the entire word to not be highlighted at all -- instead of helloo. Here is a new thread I opened on that specific issue if by any chance you have a suggestion: tex.stackexchange.com/questions/114133/… – lawlist May 14 '13 at 15:43

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