Text processing with NSLinguisticTagger: implementing Writer Pro's syntax control

Here’s how to implement Writer Pro’s syntax highlighting feature using attributed strings and NSLinguisticTagger.

Project on GitHub.

demo gif

- (void)highlightLinguisticTag:(NSString *)tag {
    self.textView.attributedText = [self attributedStringHighlightedForTag:tag];

- (NSAttributedString *)attributedStringHighlightedForTag:(NSString *)tag {
    NSString *string = @"Some string..."
    NSRange stringRange = NSMakeRange(0, string.length);

    NSMutableAttributedString *text = [[NSMutableAttributedString alloc] initWithString:string attributes:nil];
    [text addAttribute:NSForegroundColorAttributeName value:[UIColor lightGrayColor] range:stringRange];

    NSLinguisticTagger *tagger = [[NSLinguisticTagger alloc] initWithTagSchemes:@[NSLinguisticTagSchemeLexicalClass] options:0];
    tagger.string = string;
    [tagger enumerateTagsInRange:stringRange scheme:NSLinguisticTagSchemeLexicalClass options:0 usingBlock:^(NSString *tokenTag, NSRange tokenRange, NSRange sentenceRange, BOOL *stop) {
        if ([tokenTag isEqualToString:tag]) {
            [text addAttribute:NSForegroundColorAttributeName value:[UIColor blackColor] range:tokenRange];

    return text;

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Written: December 25th, 2013
Categories: NSLinguisticTagger, text-processing