Vim Tips Wiki
Tip 635 Printable Monobook Previous Next

created January 14, 2004 · complexity basic · author Brad Lhotsky · version 5.7

You need to get the latest ncurses package available at and then configure with this option:


This will link to ncurses which fully supports the color codes. Then make sure your display is exported as a color capable terminal.

Furthermore you should add

export TERM=dtterm

to your .profile if you're a bash-user.


I tried this in sun solaris 2.8, but didn't work out.

I tried type in the line as Vim command, it return error: "E492: Not an editor command: --with-tlib=ncuerses."

This tip didn't work for me either, but i found another solution: setting the TERM environment variable to "sun-color" did the trick. What's more, it worked only when i did NOT compile with --with-tlib=ncurses (letting it to the default automatic detection) because with it vim said my TERM was unknown

You also need to setup ld to search /usr/local/lib. To do this see man crle. Add that in, make distclean, reconfigure, and build.. Note: This is NOT a runtime (command line/ vimrc) tip, its a compilation tip.

Maybe you should "export TERM=xterm-color" in addition to "configure with this option: --with-tlib=ncurses ". It works well on my box.

Here's what works on my Solaris 8/9 boxes:

if &term =~ "xterm"
  if has("terminfo")
    set t_Co=8
    set t_Sf=ESC[3%p1%dm
    set t_Sb=ESC[4%p1%dm
    set t_Co=8
    set t_Sf=ESC[3%dm
    set t_Sb=ESC[4%dm

With Solaris 9 Intel x86 edition, after a normal installation, plus the package ncurses and vim for Solaris 9 x86 installed

You just need to create a $HOME/.vimrc with:

syntax on

In this case you will get colorised syntax in vim, called from a dtterm

On a native xterm you will not get color, because this is a black and white xterm.

If you install the binaries and lib of XfreeOrg_XFREE86-4.1.0, (package for Solaris Intel from you will get an xterm with color like under linux.

Don't try to install all the packages in particular the XFree Driver must be the one from Sun, like SUN_XFREE86-4.0.3 or SUN_XFREE86-4.2.0 which include package to install with pgdadd, and found in xf86_drv_port_bin_403_2.tar.gz or xf86_drv_port_bin_420_1.tar.gz from: --> Download Porting Kit (you will have to register , but its free, before download). Any way these packages are not required if the native Solaris X driver is fine for your card.

From the archive, just extract the tarball: Xbin.tgz Xdoc.tgz Xlib.tgz Xman.tgz for example, under a new created directory /usr/X11R6 if it doesn't exist (created by SUN_XFREE86 when installed), and put /usr/X11R6/bin in the PATH , and /usr/X11R6/lib in LD_LIBRARY_PATH, added in /etc/profile for example.

Then if you use vim in a /usr/X11R6/bin/xterm, you have also to set TERM=xterm-color, then vim works also as fine as in dtterm; unfortunately, other command like less will complain about bad implementation because xterm-color doesn't exist in /usr/share/lib/terminfo/x; correct the problem by copying in this directory the xterm-color f from linux machine (in /usr/share/terminfo/x)

export TERM=xtermc

that is what worked for me. Many of the systems at this place are still solaris 2.6 though, so I don't know whether this makes a difference, I have got to the 9 systems yet.

'xtermc' worked for me as well, connecting using putty to a solaris 5.7 system. In my case, it seems clear that vim had already been installed using ncurses, but the terminfo was outdated, and the xterm entry doesnt include color information or something. The net result for me was bold and underlined text, but no real colors.

There is no 'xtermc' in the termcap, which could conceivably cause problems for other (less important) shell applications.

With Putty, set the "Terminal-type string" setting in the "Connection" category to "xtermc".

Save your settings, log in, and enjoy the view.

I tried this:

PuTTY with Terminal-type string to xtermc
TERM to xtermc

and Vim is now working with colours. But, arrows don't work anymore with Midnight Commander.

In Application keypad settings section in the Keyboard-Config in PuTTY:

  • do not check Application cursor keys totally disabled
  • check Initial state of cursor keys: Application
  • do bot chech Application keypad keys totally disabled
  • check Initial state of numeric keypad to Application

The effects of terminal type strings in ncurses (and more) are defined by a very dense configuration that is part of the "terminfo" system, and "termcap" system in some other programs. I think it's probably too far outside the scope of this forum, but researching that should serve you well (also i dont know enough about it to say anything useful). Be sure not to miss - could be a valuable resource if you do give it a go.

solaris 9 - try "TERM=dtterm; export TERM" in an xterm window ... seems to work also

I confirm, 'export TERM=xtermc' enables colors on solaris 2.8 (without --with-tlib=ncurses compile option), but does not work on 2.6 system

'xtermc' worked for me on Solaris 10 (as did 'sun-color', but that one limited my view to 60 rows).

export TERM=xtermc worked for me in Solaris 5.8

I am on a SUN machine as well and have tried everything in this list, but finally I saw a post that said set my TERM to sun-color so I went to my .vimrc and places a nice litte

set term=sun-color
syntax on

and it works like a charm! thanks

set term=xtermc
syntax on

worked like a charm on x86 Solaris 10.

You can also set in your ~/.profile in Solaris 8 the following

export TERM=ansi

then within your ~/.vimrc

syntax on
set nocp incsearch
set cinoptions=:0,p0,t0
set cinwords=if,else,while,do,for,switch,case,def
set formatoptions=tcqr
set cindent
set ruler

that should work for most installs with the SunFreeware packages.

I just built vim 7.0 with no special options or libs and set "export TERM=xterm-color" to get color.

TERM=xterm-color works better for me than TERM=xtermc. Both give color but xtermc produces some artifacts when exiting vim.

Another possible hack is to set an alias for vim in your .bashrc or alike:

alias vim='/usr/bin/env TERM=xterm-color vim'

This worked for me and did not produce artifacts when exiting vim.

I'm using OpenIndiana 10 (forked OpenSolaris 10), and this:

env TERM=xterm-color vim

gives me no artifacts but a black-and-white color scheme. xtermc gives color but artifacts. The sun-color terminal type works perfectly (color without artifacts), but is not recognized on my linux systems, and I'm not able to have multiple versions of my .vimrc file. I'm going to have to write some conditional code in .vimrc for this.  :-(

On OpenSXCE (sparc version of OpenIndiana) this works perfectly when added to the top of my .vimrc:

set term=sun-color

Works fine via KDE Konsole SSH session on Fedora 16. No artifacts.