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created 2002 · complexity intermediate · version 7.0

You can easily change your color scheme, but it can be hard to compare several schemes to decide what's best for you. It may help to view a one-page summary of many color schemes. Alternatively, the script presented below allows you to quickly change colors by pressing a key. If you like variety, you can start Vim with a different scheme depending upon the time of day.

One page summary of color schemes[]

Nate Kane has created a overview and search page showing sample Ruby code in many different color schemes.

Some of the color schemes are provided with Vim. For example, the following command should show the elflord scheme:

:colorscheme elflord 

Note that if you are using Vim over SSH or in certain color-limited terminals you may need to tell Vim to use 256 color mode in order to have the color schemes display with greater accuracy by using the command :set t_Co=256 .

Switching colors[]

The script shown below defines these key mappings:

  • Press F8 to use the next color scheme.
  • Press Shift-F8 to use the previous color scheme.
  • Press Alt-F8 to use a random color scheme.

The next/previous/random color scheme selection uses a list of scheme names maintained by the script. The list can be controlled with these commands (the default is all):

:SetColors all
To use all installed color schemes ($VIMRUNTIME/colors/*.vim).
:SetColors my
To use names built into the script (define these names by editing the script to change the variables c1, c2 and c3).
:SetColors blue slate ron
To use the schemes specified (scheme names, separated with a space, for example, blue slate ron).
To display the current list of scheme names.

After using :SetColors to list the scheme names (and while the list is still displayed), you could type :colors d then press Tab to expand 'd' to a color scheme name starting with 'd'. Then press Enter to invoke the color scheme (:colors is an abbreviation for :colorscheme).

Enter :SetColors now to set the current color scheme based on the time of day. Change the colors used by editing the nowcolors variable in the script, for example:

let nowcolors = 'breeze earth less aqua gothic'


  • Create and save file setcolors.vim containing the script below.
  • In Vim, use the command :source setcolors.vim to execute the script so you can experiment with its features.
  • Alternatively, if you save the script in file ~/.vim/plugin/setcolors.vim (Unix) or $HOME/vimfiles/plugin/setcolors.vim (Windows), it will be available whenever you start Vim.
" Change the color scheme from a list of color scheme names.
" Version 2010-09-12 from
" Press key:
"   F8                next scheme
"   Shift-F8          previous scheme
"   Alt-F8            random scheme
" Set the list of color schemes used by the above (default is 'all'):
"   :SetColors all              (all $VIMRUNTIME/colors/*.vim)
"   :SetColors my               (names built into script)
"   :SetColors blue slate ron   (these schemes)
"   :SetColors                  (display current scheme names)
" Set the current color scheme based on time of day:
"   :SetColors now
if v:version < 700 || exists('loaded_setcolors') || &cp

let loaded_setcolors = 1
let s:mycolors = ['slate', 'torte', 'darkblue', 'delek', 'murphy', 'elflord', 'pablo', 'koehler']  " colorscheme names that we use to set color

" Set list of color scheme names that we will use, except
" argument 'now' actually changes the current color scheme.
function! s:SetColors(args)
  if len(a:args) == 0
    echo 'Current color scheme names:'
    let i = 0
    while i < len(s:mycolors)
      echo '  '.join(map(s:mycolors[i : i+4], 'printf("%-14s", v:val)'))
      let i += 5
  elseif a:args == 'all'
    let paths = split(globpath(&runtimepath, 'colors/*.vim'), "\n")
    let s:mycolors = uniq(sort(map(paths, 'fnamemodify(v:val, ":t:r")')))
    echo 'List of colors set from all installed color schemes'
  elseif a:args == 'my'
    let c1 = 'default elflord peachpuff desert256 breeze morning'
    let c2 = 'darkblue gothic aqua earth black_angus relaxedgreen'
    let c3 = 'darkblack freya motus impact less chocolateliquor'
    let s:mycolors = split(c1.' '.c2.' '.c3)
    echo 'List of colors set from built-in names'
  elseif a:args == 'now'
    call s:HourColor()
    let s:mycolors = split(a:args)
    echo 'List of colors set from argument (space-separated names)'

command! -nargs=* SetColors call s:SetColors('<args>')

" Set next/previous/random (how = 1/-1/0) color from our list of colors.
" The 'random' index is actually set from the current time in seconds.
" Global (no 's:') so can easily call from command line.
function! NextColor(how)
  call s:NextColor(a:how, 1)

" Helper function for NextColor(), allows echoing of the color name to be
" disabled.
function! s:NextColor(how, echo_color)
  if len(s:mycolors) == 0
    call s:SetColors('all')
  if exists('g:colors_name')
    let current = index(s:mycolors, g:colors_name)
    let current = -1
  let missing = []
  let how = a:how
  for i in range(len(s:mycolors))
    if how == 0
      let current = localtime() % len(s:mycolors)
      let how = 1  " in case random color does not exist
      let current += how
      if !(0 <= current && current < len(s:mycolors))
        let current = (how>0 ? 0 : len(s:mycolors)-1)
      execute 'colorscheme '.s:mycolors[current]
    catch /E185:/
      call add(missing, s:mycolors[current])
  if len(missing) > 0
    echo 'Error: colorscheme not found:' join(missing)
  if (a:echo_color)
    echo g:colors_name

nnoremap <F8> :call NextColor(1)<CR>
nnoremap <S-F8> :call NextColor(-1)<CR>
nnoremap <A-F8> :call NextColor(0)<CR>

" Set color scheme according to current time of day.
function! s:HourColor()
  let hr = str2nr(strftime('%H'))
  if hr <= 3
    let i = 0
  elseif hr <= 7
    let i = 1
  elseif hr <= 14
    let i = 2
  elseif hr <= 18
    let i = 3
    let i = 4
  let nowcolors = 'elflord morning desert evening pablo'
  execute 'colorscheme '.split(nowcolors)[i]
  echo g:colors_name

Scrolling the color schemes[]

You may want to impress your colleagues by having Vim change the color scheme periodically. The following might be your first attempt:

:autocmd CursorHold * call NextColor(1)

However, this fails because there is no timer event in Vim. The CursorHold event will fire only once when the user has been idle for the time specified with the 'updatetime' option (so if you stop typing, the color scheme will change once only).

If you want the color scheme to change every 10 seconds, execute the following command (press Ctrl-C to finish).

:while 1|sleep 10|call NextColor(1)|endwhile



It's kind of weird that s:mycolors is set initially to something different than "my" or "all". You can't get that list back after using the script.

Wouldn't it be cool if you could edit the "my" list on the fly with some commands? Wouldn't it be even cooler if the "my" list was taken from a global variable, which could even be stored in the .viminfo file by including ! in the 'viminfo' option?

--Fritzophrenic (talk) 17:38, January 18, 2013 (UTC)

will iterate backgrounds squm

if v:version < 700 || exists('loaded_switchcolor') || &cp

let loaded_switchcolor = 1

let paths = split(globpath(&runtimepath, 'colors/*.vim'), "\n")
let s:swcolors = map(paths, 'fnamemodify(v:val, ":t:r")')
let s:swskip = [ '256-jungle', '3dglasses', 'calmar256-light', 'coots-beauty-256', 'grb256' ]
let s:swback = 0    " background variants light/dark was not yet switched
let s:swindex = 0

function! SwitchColor(swinc)

	" if have switched background: dark/light
	if (s:swback == 1)
		let s:swback = 0
		let s:swindex += a:swinc
		let i = s:swindex % len(s:swcolors)

		" in skip list
		if (index(s:swskip, s:swcolors[i]) == -1)
			execute "colorscheme " . s:swcolors[i]
			return SwitchColor(a:swinc)

		let s:swback = 1
		if (&background == "light")
			execute "set background=dark"
			execute "set background=light"

		" roll back if background is not supported
		if (!exists('g:colors_name'))
			return SwitchColor(a:swinc)

	" show current name on screen. :h :echo-redraw
	execute "colorscheme"

 map <F8>        :call SwitchColor(1)<CR>
imap <F8>   <Esc>:call SwitchColor(1)<CR>

 map <S-F8>      :call SwitchColor(-1)<CR>
imap <S-F8> <Esc>:call SwitchColor(-1)<CR>