Text Editor Integration

This section assumes you already have a working binary of boxes. Binaries for some platforms can be obtained through the download page. Should your platform be missing from the list, you can still download the source distribution and compile your own binary. This sounds harder than it is.

Although boxes can be useful when used on the command line, the more frequent use case will be as a filter tied to your editor. So, how can boxes be tied to your editor?

Example config file entries are featured so far for Vim, Jed, Emacs, Sublime Text, and NotePad++. If you know how to to this in other editors, please feel free to add that information to this page via GitHub or just let me know in the GitHub issues.

Integration with Vim

To call filters from vim, you need to press ! in visual mode or !! in normal mode. So the easiest way to tie in boxes with vim is by adding the following four lines to your .vimrc:

vmap ,mc !boxes -d c-cmt<CR>
nmap ,mc !!boxes -d c-cmt<CR>
vmap ,xc !boxes -d c-cmt -r<CR>
nmap ,xc !!boxes -d c-cmt -r<CR>

<CR> should be there literally; just paste the lines directly from your browser window. This would comment out the current line or the lines you have marked when you press ,mc (for make comment). Comments can be removed in the same way by pressing ,xc. Should you feel that ,mc is too long a combination to type, feel free to choose a shorter one. The above example assumes you are using the standard boxes config file, which features the c-cmt design. Of course, the same technique works for any other designs.

While the above example is nice, it does not offer much convenience when you are editing different languages a lot, because you need to remember the hotkey for each different box design. Fortunately, vim has a feature called autocommands. They can be used to automatically change the meaning of a key combination depending on what file you edit (any many other things too, of course). Autocommand syntax is

au[tocmd] [group] {event} {pat} [nested] {cmd}

We can leave out the group. For {event}, we choose BufEnter, which is generated every time you enter a new buffer, e.g. when starting vim or when switching between open files. {pat} is a file glob, and {cmd} is our call to boxes.

The lines below are from the author’s .vimrc. They can be pasted directly from your browser window. Their effect is that ,mc and ,xc always generate the correct comments for many languages, including C, C++, HTML, Java, lex, yacc, shell scripts, Perl, etc. The default key binding is to generate shell comments using a pound sign (file glob of * at the start).

autocmd BufEnter * nmap ,mc !!boxes -d pound-cmt<CR>
autocmd BufEnter * vmap ,mc !boxes -d pound-cmt<CR>
autocmd BufEnter * nmap ,xc !!boxes -d pound-cmt -r<CR>
autocmd BufEnter * vmap ,xc !boxes -d pound-cmt -r<CR>
autocmd BufEnter *.html nmap ,mc !!boxes -d html-cmt<CR>
autocmd BufEnter *.html vmap ,mc !boxes -d html-cmt<CR>
autocmd BufEnter *.html nmap ,xc !!boxes -d html-cmt -r<CR>
autocmd BufEnter *.html vmap ,xc !boxes -d html-cmt -r<CR>
autocmd BufEnter *.[chly],*.[pc]c nmap ,mc !!boxes -d c-cmt<CR>
autocmd BufEnter *.[chly],*.[pc]c vmap ,mc !boxes -d c-cmt<CR>
autocmd BufEnter *.[chly],*.[pc]c nmap ,xc !!boxes -d c-cmt -r<CR>
autocmd BufEnter *.[chly],*.[pc]c vmap ,xc !boxes -d c-cmt -r<CR>
autocmd BufEnter *.C,*.cpp,*.java nmap ,mc !!boxes -d java-cmt<CR>
autocmd BufEnter *.C,*.cpp,*.java vmap ,mc !boxes -d java-cmt<CR>
autocmd BufEnter *.C,*.cpp,*.java nmap ,xc !!boxes -d java-cmt -r<CR>
autocmd BufEnter *.C,*.cpp,*.java vmap ,xc !boxes -d java-cmt -r<CR>
autocmd BufEnter .vimrc*,.exrc nmap ,mc !!boxes -d vim-cmt<CR>
autocmd BufEnter .vimrc*,.exrc vmap ,mc !boxes -d vim-cmt<CR>
autocmd BufEnter .vimrc*,.exrc nmap ,xc !!boxes -d vim-cmt -r<CR>
autocmd BufEnter .vimrc*,.exrc vmap ,xc !boxes -d vim-cmt -r<CR>

Syntax Highlighting in Vim

There is a Vim syntax file for boxes configuration files, which you can install to have the boxes config colorized. On Windows, the file must be placed in the directory VIM_INSTALL_DIR\vimfiles\syntax.
Activate by set syn=boxes.


Integration with Jed

Andreas Heiduk kindly provided the following excerpt from his .jedrc:

%!% Ripped from "pipe.sl"

variable Last_Process_Command = Null_String;

define do_process_region(cmd) {
   variable tmp;
   tmp = make_tmp_file ("/tmp/jedpipe");
   cmd = strncat (cmd, " > ", tmp, " 2>&1", 4);

   !if (dupmark ()) error ("Mark not set.");

   if (pipe_region (cmd))
      error ("Process returned a non-zero exit status.");
   del_region ();
   () = insert_file (tmp);
   () = delete_file (tmp);

define process_region ()
   variable cmd;
   cmd = read_mini ("Pipe to command:", Last_Process_Command, "");
   !if (strlen (cmd)) return;

   Last_Process_Command = cmd;


if( BATCH == 0 ){

   setkey("process_region",	"\e|");		% ESC-Pipe :-)
   % define some often used filters
   setkey("do_process_region(\"tal\")",	"\et")	% tal on esc-t

I think it calls tal when you press ESC-t (second but last line). Thus, you would have to add a similar line to call boxes.  

Integration with Emacs

Jason L. Shiffer kindly submitted the following information on integrating boxes with Emacs:

The simple interface (only a single box style, but easy):

(defun boxes-create ()
    (shell-command-on-region (region-beginning) (region-end) "boxes -d c-cmt2" nil 1 nil))

(defun boxes-remove ()
    (shell-command-on-region (region-beginning) (region-end) "boxes -r -d c-cmt2" nil 1 nil))

Jason also wrote a boxes mode for Emacs. Remember to update its design list when you add new designs to your config file.  

Integration with Sublime

Marco Andreolli found a way to integrate boxes with Sublime Text 3 (from #47):

  1. Open Sublime Text 3
  2. Install Package Control and restart Sublime.
  3. Choose Tools → Command Palette… from the main menu and select Package Control: Install Package, then choose FilterPipes.
  4. Choose Tools → Command Palette… from the main menu and select FilterPipes: My Custom Filters Plugin
  5. In the following file open dialog, open %APPDATA%\Sublime Text 3\​Packages\​MyCustomFilterPipes\​Default.sublime-commands. This is the default on Windows, but if you are on other operating systems, the dialog should already be open in the correct folder.
  6. Before the closing ], add the following:
    {   /* Boxes stone */
        "caption": "FilterPipes: Boxes stone",
        "command": "filter_pipes_process",
        "args": {
            "command": ["boxes", "-d", "stone", "-a", "c", "-s", "80"]

    Be sure to add a comma after the previous entry, so that the list is continued properly.

  7. Now you have a new command Boxes stone which will create a stone styled box of 80 characters in width around the selected text. In may be accessed via the command palette like above, or you might want to define a hotkey or a macro to do it.
  8. Add more FilterPipes commands for other designs, or for removing and repairing your ASCII art boxes.


Integration with Notepad++

In order to integrate boxes with Notepad++, first make sure that boxes is on your PATH. On Windows, this usually means boxes.exe and boxes.cfg must be located in a directory which is on the PATH environment variable. This method of boxes integration works only on Windows, because afaik, Notepad++ is available only on Windows.

We use the NppExec plugin. Install NppExec via PluginManager:

  1. Display PluginManager via the main menu: Plugin → Plugin Manager → Show Plugin Manager
  2. If NppExec is not on the Installed tab already, go to the Available tab and select NppExec from the list.
  3. Press Install.
  4. Restart Notepad++

    Plugin Manager

Once the NppExec plugin is available, proceed with boxes integration:

  1. Go to Plugins → NppExec → Execute …
  2. Paste the following script into the text area:

    cmd.exe /c exit %RANDOM%
    set tempfile = $(SYS.TEMP)\NppBoxes_$(EXITCODE).out.txt
    set ascfile = $(SYS.TEMP)\NppBoxes_$(EXITCODE).in.txt
    sel_saveto $(ascfile) :a
    cmd.exe /c boxes -d nuke -s 80 -pt1 -ac "$(ascfile)" > "$(tempfile)"
    sel_loadfrom $(tempfile)
    cmd.exe /c del /f /q "$(tempfile)" "$(ascfile)"

    This script is inspired by a post by Peter Jones on the Notepad++ forum. It works via temp files in ANSI format. (That’s the :a argument to the sel_saveto command.) This is compatible with boxes, and also helps avoiding byte order marks at the beginning of the temp file.
    The green part marks the place where you configure the box. In this case, we’ll get a nuke box 80 characters wide, with the text centered in it and an extra blank line at the top.

  3. Press Save… and give it a meaningful name, for example boxes nuke 80.
  4. Press Save on the Script name input box.

    NppExec Script
  5. Go to Plugins → NppExec → Advanced Options …
  6. In the Associated Script dropdown, select the boxes nuke 80 script entry created previously, then press Add/Modify to add it to the list of Menu items.
  7. Optionally select Place to the Macros submenu, if you want an entry for this in the Macros menu.
  8. Press OK, and if asked, restart Notepad++.

    NppExec Advanced Options
  9. Go to Macro → Modify Shortcut/Delete Macro… to call up the Shortcut mapper.
  10. Select the Plugin commands tab, and type boxes into the filter line at the bottom of the dialog window.
  11. Choose our boxes nuke 80 entry and press Modify:

    Shortcut mapper
  12. Assign a shortcut key, for example Ctrl+Shift+B.
  13. Make sure that the Shortcut mapper reports No shortcut conflicts for this item in the status area.

That’s it, finally! Now you can select any piece of text in the Notepad++ editor and draw the nuke 80 box around it by pressing your assigned shortcut:

                                  _ ._  _ , _ ._
                                (_ ' ( `  )_  .__)
                              ( (  (    )   `)  ) _)
                             (__ (_   (_ . _) _) ,__)
                                 `~~`\ ' . /`~~`
                                 ,::: ;   ; :::,
 ___________________________jgs______/_ __ \___________________________________
|                                                                              |
|                                LOOK AT THAT!                                 |