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Vim (Vi IMproved) for Mac OS X
What is Vim?
Vim is a highly configurable text editor, freely available for many different
platforms. For general information, advocacy, and the latest news on Vim in
general, visit the
Vim Home Page.
This site is specifically devoted to Vim on the Macintosh. This page is
mainly devoted to binary distributions for Mac OS X.
- (30 March 2007)
The binaries for Panther and Tiger now include patches up to 7.0.224. The
one for Jaguar is still at 7.0.218. Next time, I will try out the
- (16 March 2007)
I posted updated binaries for OS X 10.3 and 10.4, featuring updated
guitab and ATSUI patches. (The previous version of the guitab patch caused
problems with menus. Thanks to all who reported this problem.)
If I boot up from the copy of 10.2
on my external drive, I should be able to post another version soon.
- (10 March 2007)
In the past two or three days, I have made a few changes:
- I corrected the links on this page to the Mac Vim
- I gave up on maintaining the list of current patches on this page in
favor of the list on the wiki, where programmers can upload patches
- I compiled new binaries for OS X 10.3 and 10.4: see below.
These include official patches through 7.0.214 and unofficial patches for
ATSUI font rendering and a GUI tab line. Please test both, and give
feedback! To test font rendering, experiment with turning the
options on and off. To see the "tab line," open at least two tabs (for
and make sure the
option includes the e flag.
- (1 February 2007, updated 30 March 2007)
Panos Laganakos has set up a
for vim on the Mac. We have set up the
subdomain wiki.macvim.org to point to it. Depending on user
feedback, we may move content (News, FAQ, Bug list, other) to the wiki.
Downloading and Installing
The archives are compressed with bzip2 (slightly better compression
than gzip). If you have any trouble unpacking the archive, it is
safest to use command-line tools. For example, if you have downloaded
vim7.0.tar.bz2 and want to install under /Applications
$ bunzip2 vim7.0.tar.bz2
$ tar xf vim7.0.tar
$ cd vim70
$ mv Vim.app /Applications/Vim.app
The utility bunzip2 may already be on your system; if
not, you can get it from
The archive also contains a gvim shell script, for
starting Vim.app from a command line, and gvim.app, for
starting multiple copies of Vim.app from the Finder. You may have
to edit these scripts to give the correct path. See the README
file for details.
By default, Vim runs in "compatible" mode. That is, it acts a lot like
traditional vi, without the improvements. Unless you want a
maximally vi-compatible version of vim, I
recommend that you copy the standard startup files to your home directory,
and name them .vimrc and .gvimrc . From inside vim, you
You can do the same with Finder if you prefer, but it may not let you use
.vimrc and .gvimrc; you can use _vimrc and _gvimrc instead.
If you want vim-standard menus, edit the file
(the system gvimrc file) and uncomment the line
so that it looks like
You should also do this (or perhaps edit the file as appropriate) if you use
menu translations or else ou will get
error messages on startup.
On the subject of running in "improved" rather than "compatible" mode, I
suggest that you use the matchit plugin for improved %
matching. I call this plug "shameless" because I maintain this plugin. You
can either copy
to your personal plugin directory,
or add the line
to your vimrc file. (The second method will use the updated version if I ever get around to writing it.)
There is also documentation in
The following files are included in the archives below and should work on any
version of Mac OS X:
a system vimrc file. Install in
Included with most
binaries on this site. If you compiled yourself, or got a binary here
before May 20, 2005, you may want this.
It attempts to set the $PATH
environment variable reasonably.
a system gvimrc file. Install in
If you compiled yourself, or got a binary here
before May 20, 2005, you may want this.
This creates mostly Mac-standard menus. (Earlier versions also created
keyboard shortcuts. As of vim 7.0, that is done in the standard
TODO: get this to work with menu traslations!
This is a shell script bundled as an application. It allows you to open
multiple instances of Vim.app from the Dock or Finder.
(If you have Vim.app in an unusual place, see the comments in
Originally written by Peter Cucka, using
script hacked and icons updated by Benji Fisher.
This is an executable shell script. It allows you to open
Vim.app from the command line.
(If you have Vim.app in an unusual place, see the comments in the
Save it somewhere in your PATH. If you make links to it as vim,
view, gvimdiff, etc., then it should behave correctly.
Based on a script by Wout Mertens and suggestions from Laurent Bihanic.
This version is the fault of Benji Fisher, 16 May 2005.
There are several versions with the Aqua interface
(Carbon libraries) on this site:
Warning: include(/home/tiger/binaries/test.php) [function.include]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/bbeennjjii/macvim.muskokamug.org/OSX/files/binaries/OSX10.3/comments.php on line 35
Warning: include() [function.include]: Failed opening '/home/tiger/binaries/test.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/local/lib/php:/usr/local/php5/lib/pear') in /home/bbeennjjii/macvim.muskokamug.org/OSX/files/binaries/OSX10.3/comments.php on line 35
OS X 10.3 (Panther)
- vim7.0.224.tar.bz2 (5835637 bytes, last modified 2007/03/30)
vim 7.0.224 needs testing
+cscope +perl +python +ruby +tcl
+atsui and guitab experimental patches
Compiled by Benji Fisher
- vim7.0.188.tar.bz2 (5825930 bytes, last modified 2007/01/29)
vim 7.0.188 stable
+cscope +perl +python +ruby +tcl
Compiled by Benji Fisher
- vim6.4.000.tar.bz2 (2872348 bytes, last modified 2005/10/29)
For other versions of Vim, see
vim 6.4 stable
Comments: +cscope +perl +python +ruby +tcl no unofficial patches
- Bram Moolenaar is the primary author of Vim.
- Dany St-Amant started the Macintosh port,
including the port to Mac OS X.
- Axel Kielhorn contributed to the Macintosh ports (Classic and
- Muraoka Taro, Peter Cucka, Ben Fowler, Eckehard Berns, and others
have worked on the Mac OS X version.
- This site, including some of the binaries here, is maintained by Benji
Fisher. am not competent to program for the Mac, and I
cannot implement new features nor fix bugs in vim.
- For general information on Vim, see
- To join the Vim users' mailing list or the vim-mac mailing list, see
- You can see the documentation on-line at
- If there is a problem with this site or the binaries here,
- Why do I get error messages about menus every time I start
The binaries distributed from this site include a system gvimrc file that
redefines the menus. Unfortunately, this does not work if you use menu
Either delete the file
(the system gvimrc file) or edit it and uncomment the line
so that it looks like
- What can I do if vim renders fonts badly, or antialiasing does
With vim 7.0, there is a new binary option,
(the default) you will get better rendering of some Unicode characters, but
there are still some problems with the code. With
vim will render fonts mostly the same as in version 6.4. It may also help
to choose a different font (see below). Other options that may make a
Several users report that
:set nomacatsui anti enc=utf-8 termencoding=macroman gfn=Monaco:h13
works well; others find that
:set macatsui enc=utf-8 gfn=Monaco:h13
works better (but loses antialiased fonts).
If you set 'nomacatsui', then you should probably also set
'termencoding' to "macroman".
If you run vim in a terminal as well as in the GUI, you should probably set
these options in your gvimrc file, and use the defaults when running in a
- How can I use multiple top-level windows?
If you just want separate copies of Vim.app running, without
communicating with each other, either use the gvim.app
application bundled with the binary distributions or else see the question
How do I start vim from Terminal? below. If you want one instance of
Vim.app running with multiple top-level windows, this cannot be
done. There are serious design issues to be considered, and implementation
would probably be very difficult. This feature has been requested often,
and not just for the Mac version of Vim. See the
for vim features. The appropriate place to discuss this is the
- I changed Info.plist so that Vim.app
could be the default for my favorite file type, but it still does not
work! What do I do next?
This should work properly with recent binaries from this site,
or any version compiled with patch 6.2.290.
Michael Johnston reports that the shareware
works with vim and a scroll wheel.
The following instructions from Peter Cucka are written for the
gvim.app helper application, but they may also apply
to Vim.app itself.
It might take some work to get the Finder to recognize the new
Info.plist. If my reading of
is correct, there are two ways to do this. One is to replace your old
/Applications/gvim.app with the new version and then reboot your Mac.
The other is to create a new directory somewhere, untar the attached
archive into it, and then navigate to the new directory from the
Finder (you might also need to restart the Finder, or log out and
back in again).
If the new gvim.app has been registered correctly, it should appear in
the Open With list for all files with a .txt extension. To associate
gvim.app with .c (or other) files, you will need to Get Info on a .c
file, search for gvim in the Open With list and Add it, and then
Change All to make gvim the default app. All .c files will then open
with gvim (but, oddly, gvim still won't show up in the Open With list;
if you want it to, you'll have to edit the Info.plist file to register
a new .c document type.)
- How do I map the Apple key?
You can map the Apple (Command) key with the prefix
For example, in the gvimrc file that I supply, I use
for the Save command and
for the Save As ... command. Note that, in the current version,
will work. (Thanks to Axel Kielhorn for working on this!)
- How can I keep file creators and other meta data when I save a
file with vim?
then you can edit files with Vim without changing their creator codes, so
that opening them from the Finder will still launch the application that
created them. New files that you write with Vim will still get Vim's
For details, read
- How do I change the font?
(Thanks to Gregory Seidman.)
If you use a font-selection dialogue, make sure to choose a monospaced font.
For me, the dialogue does not close when I double-click a font, and there is
no "OK" button, but if I close the dialogue then the currently selected font
Either at the command line or in your vimrc file (or
gvimrc file or ...) you can use this command:
(Trivium: the h stands for "height.")
Of course you can choose
values other than Courier and 12, such as
:set guifont=Bitstream\ Vera\ Sans\ Mono:h14
(Note how to escape spaces.)
You can get a list of monospaced fonts on your system from
Mail.app: in the Preferences, choose the
Fonts & Colors pane. On my system, the available fonts are
(Thanks to John Ingram for this tip.)
- How do I start vim from Terminal?
Warning: case matters! If you use vim when you
are supposed to use Vim (or vice-versa?) it may fail in odd ways.
You can start the GUI version from a shell using the open
command. (man open: fans of the NeXT will remember this one!)
$ open -a Vim
$ open -a Vim foo.txt
You can also use this binary in a Terminal window. Change the path to
Vim.app as appropriate:
$ /Applications/Vim.app/Contents/MacOS/Vim foo.txt
Finally, you can start the GUI version the same way, adding the
-g flag (and others if you like). Run it in the background if
you want the shell to accept further input before quitting Vim.
$ /Applications/Vim.app/Contents/MacOS/Vim -g +17 foo.txt &
To make this simpler, I supply the gvim shell script in my
distribution. If you put it in your path, then
$ gvim +17 foo.txt
does the same thing. Do not use this shell script if you want the shell to
wait for vim to finish (for example, when using vim from an e-mail program).
- How can I use national characters when running vim in a
Terminal window? I get funny characters or extra white space!
(Thanks to Peter Vohmann for this Q&A.)
In Terminal.app go the the Terminal (main) menu and
choose Window Settings.
Select Emulation from the popup menu, un-check the item
"Escape non-ASCII characters". Then select Display
from the popup menu, set Character Set Encoding to Unicode
(UTF-8), if desired. Click on "Use settings as Default."
And last, vim defaults 'encoding' to latin1. To use Unicode
instead, add set enc=utf-8 to your vimrc file or else add the
following line to your .bashrc, then open a new shell:
- How do I get colors in Terminal vim?
Update: I think this is only a problem for Mac OS X
versions 10.0 and 10.1.
According to Rajesh Duggal, the termcap database that comes with Mac OS X is
incorrect. There are two solutions: you can edit the termcap database
(which requires superuser privileges) or you can add some extra lines to
your vimrc (or other startup) file. Another theory is that the right
terminal type for Terminal.app is Beos-Ansi.
- (Rob Griffiths)
This requires that your version of vim was compiled with support for this
terminal type. If it works, add a line like this (with or without the
leading : character) to your vimrc file.
For further details, see
Mac OS X Hints.
On Mac OS X 10.2 (Jaguar), :set term=ansi
may work better. I have some reports that builtin_beos-ansi
works and some reports that it does not.
Both work for me, but with different colors.
- (Rajesh Duggal) Edit the termcap database:
- % sudo vim /usr/share/misc/termcap
- Add the second of these lines between the other two, which should
already be there:
- Reconstruct the database with
$ sudo cap_mkdb /usr/share/misc/termcap
- Quit and restart Terminal, and you'll pick up the new termcap entry.
- (Jens Vagelpohl) Add lines something like the following to your vimrc
if !has("gui") && has("terminfo")
Note that "^[" should be replaced by a raw Escape character.
- How can I edit old-style Mac files?
Add a line like
to your personal vimrc file. For more information,
- Why does vi act like vim on Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther)?
Starting with this version, Apple includes a terminal-only (that is,
non-GUI) version of vim in their system. Apple makes
a link to
and includes a system vimrc file
(last I checked, it was /usr/share/vim/vimrc)
that sets 'nocompatible'. If you remove this file, and do not
have your own vimrc file, then vi and vim will run in
There are some known problems with the Carbon version of Vim. If you can
help with these, or if you want to report other Mac-specific bugs, please
join the vim-mac mailing list or e-mail me directly (see
above). If you
find other bugs in Vim, please report them to the Vim users' list or to
Here are the problems that bug ME the most:
Several users report that certain options are mysteriously set to
non-default values: usually the 'wrap', 'diff', and related options. (If
your Vim.app starts up in diff mode, with a gray fold column at the left of
the window, you are probably affected by this bug.)
There is a workaround: add "set
wrap" to your personal gvimrc file; if that fails, add
autocmd VimEnter * set wrap
to either your vimrc file or your gvimrc file. (Replace wrap with
whatever option is misbehaving.)
- Forking is non-standard. When starting Vim from Terminal.app
with the -g flag, the -f flag is ignored. IIUC, the
default behavior is not to fork: the shell waits for Vim to finish before
it can do anything else. You can simulate forking by running Vim in the
background. This is what the gvim shell script does, so if you
do not want vim to fork (for example, to use it from a mail client)
you should use the full path to the binary.
I have received one report of two new bugs when running Vim on Tiger
(Mac OS X 10.4):
When the lazyredraw and showcmd options are both
set, screen updates are very slow.
With some fonts (Monaco:h10 for example) bold text renders badly. This
may be a problem only for fonts that do not have bold variants, so that
QuickDraw has to generate the bold variants.
- Modifier keys are not handled properly. For example,
CTRL-6 seems to behave exactly the same as 6.
- The Vim menu cannot be changed with :menu
commands, and the "About Vim" item does nothing.
- Scroll bars (reported by Jay Lawrence and others):
- not updated when resizing windows: That is (I think) if you
resize the GUI window, then immediately fiddle with the "thumb"
or with the scroll arrows, nothing happens. If you click in the
text area first, then it is OK.
the scroll bar does not appear unless the window is resized.
the columns used by the scroll bars are not reclaimed.
there is space for the scroll bar but nothing visible unless the window
- Encoding is not always recognized
(e.g. :set fileencoding=latin1),
resulting in MacRoman output instead of the specified encoding.
Update:Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther) comes with iconv, so
versions compiled with "big" features should deal with encoding correctly.
There are still some display problems, but there is already a patch
available (experimental as of Feb. 23 2004).
- It seems that we need separate binaries for Mac OS X 10.1.x and 10.2.
I think this has to do with different versions of gcc.
Versions of vim that are linked to external libraries (such as the libraries
for perl and python) will only run on one of 10.2 or 10.3.
- There is no support for a font-selection dialogue. (See the
FAQ list above for a work-around.)
Update: Peter Cucka has made a patch to support file-selection
dialogues. The problem is that it does not restrict you to fixed-width
fonts, and you can get into real trouble with a proportional font. I have
decided not to make it easy to get into trouble, so I do not use this patch
in the versions I distribute.
Some wish-list items: live resize (i.e. the whole window redraws while
the user resizes it); printer dialogue; draf-and-drop editing.
- Keyboard shortcuts in menu items get lost. Thanks to the patch from
Peter Cucka, the following works:
:nmenu 20.360 &Edit.&Paste<Tab><D-v>
That is, not only does Command-v get executed by this menu item, but a
pretty Command-v symbol appears in the menu, right justified. However, if I
put regular text, like "\t", after the "<Tab>" then it gets lost. Can
we at least translate "<Tab>\t" into " \t"? That is, I
will be satisfied with a little white space, I do not insist that it be
- For other operating systems, see
- For Classic Mac OS, see
- For a Terminal or XDarwin version, see Marc Liyanage's
Mac OS X Software
page. IIRC, I used the Terminal version from this page with no problems. I
did not test the XDarwin version.
Compiling for Yourself
On Mac OS X, make install will, by default, create
You can also compile a Terminal version of Vim pretty much the same as for any
other version of UNIX. See the FAQ section above for
information on getting colors.
I have not tried using gvim with XDarwin, but have
seen reports that it works. (See the links above.)
The following subsections describe how to
get the sources,
They also describe the differences between the standard distribution
and the binaries above.
Note that these instructions only apply to vim version 6.2.128 (that is, vim
6.2 with the first 128 patches) and later.
Getting and patching the source
I recommend using CVS to get the source with all the latest patches. (Well,
sometimes the CVS version lags by a few days.) See
Here are the results when I try it:
% cvs -z3 -d:pserver:firstname.lastname@example.org:80/cvsroot/vim checkout vim
cvs server: Updating vim
[many lines deleted]
cvs server: Updating vim/src/xxd
Once you have used CVS, you can update to the latest patch level easily:
% cvs -z3 update -d
cvs server: Updating .
cvs server: Updating farsi
cvs server: Updating farsi/fonts
[several lines deleted]
cvs server: Updating src
cvs server: Updating src/GvimExt
cvs server: Updating src/VisVim
cvs server: Updating src/VisVim/Res
cvs server: Updating src/auto
cvs server: Updating src/os_mac.pbproj
cvs server: Updating src/po
cvs server: Updating src/proto
cvs server: Updating src/tee
cvs server: Updating src/testdir
cvs server: Updating src/xxd
(This update was after only one additional patch, so the only modified files
were those marked by "P". The "M" shows that I have modified one file. The
"?" shows files that were generated during a previous compilation and are not
in the distribution.)
You can get the vim sources from
or your favorite mirror. (Mine is
You should get the main archive,
(StuffIt understands bzip archives!)
and the "extra" archive,
I also get the "lang" archive,
just to make sure that the patches apply cleanly, and all the latest patches.
Here is how I get the sources and all patches for vim 6.2:
% mkdir patches
% mkdir patches/old
% ftp ftp.vim.org
ftp> cd pub/vim/unix
ftp> get vim-6.2.tar.bz2
ftp> cd ../extra
ftp> get vim-6.2-extra.tar.gz
ftp> get vim-6.2-lang.tar.gz
ftp> cd ../patches
ftp> lcd patches
ftp> mget 6.2.???
% bzcat vim-6.2.tar.bz2 | tar xf -
% tar xzf vim-6.2-extra.tar.gz
% tar xzf vim-6.2-lang.tar.gz
% cd vim62
% cat ../patches/6.2.* | patch -p0
Note: If you use a mirror instead of ftp.vim.org,
then the patches may be compressed. If so, add
to the above procedure.
To update the patches, I make a note of my most recent patch and then
% cd patches
% mv 6.2* old
% ftp ftp.vim.org
ftp> cd pub/vim/patches
ftp> mget 6.2.12?
ftp> mget 6.2.13?
and repeat the procedure for applying the patches.
Applying unofficial patches and configuring
There are several experimental and otherwise unofficial patches available on
the Mac Vim
The binaries available here may incorporate some of these; see the notes for
After suitable testing, these patches may be added to the official vim
If you want, apply unofficial patches with
% cd vim62
% patch -p0 < path/to/patch
You configure vim by editing vim62/src/Makefile. I choose "huge"
features and enable as many as I can of perl, python, tcl, and ruby.
(As of October, 2003, there are still linking problems with these.)
Note that these options are passed to configure: if you have
already built vim, then change one of these, you will have to
Compiling and packaging.
The Makefile for vim takes care of running configure for
you, so all you have to do is
% cd vim62/src
% make test
% make install
On Mac OS X, the last step builds Vim.app. You can then move this where
you want to keep it, such as /Applications.
- I distribute these
with the Carbon binary: a custom vimrc and gvimrc file, a
README, a gvim shell script, and (why not?) updated copies of
the distribution files that I maintain. After un-bzip'ing and
un-tar'ing these, the two rc files should be put in
Vim.app/, the shell script (if you want to use it) should go
somewhere in your path, and the other files under
- I use the
designed by Douglas Stebila. See
his web page
for this and some related icons.
If you want to use this, install it as
- For more details, see
- Remember to run configure or make reconfig if you
change any of the configure options in the Makefile.
- You can also supply options to the configure command before
running make to enable/disable features or to use something
other than the Carbon GUI. Try
You can also compile using ProjectBuilder (or pbxbuild from a
command line). Try
I do not use this method myself, so I cannot give further advice.
2009/04/18 03:55:39 PDT