Vim Syntax-Highlighting Works In a Shell (I Didn’t Know That!)

I’ve been using the great Vim editor for many years (and vi even longer), but I just learned something about it this morning. Usually when I use Vim, I’m using gvim, which means it opens in its own GUI window. I had a stanza inside my .vimrc that would set some things only if Vim was running in GUI mode, and one of those things was syntax-highlighting. The bummer was that whenever I’d have to use Vim inside a shell (typically via ssh) I didn’t get the pretty pretty colors.

This morning I was looking at the FAQ for iTerm and noticed a screenshot section. I clicked on it, and one of the shots was of Vim, running inside iTerm, with full syntax-highlighting. I was surprised. I had never even tried to enable syntax-highlighting inside a shell. For some reason it never occurred to me that it would work, or even to try it. So I Cmd-Tabbed over to a shell, opened Vim on an XML file and typed :syntax on and BLAMMO! full-color XML. Very nice! I then edited my .vimrc to move the syntax on directive out of the GUI-only section and into the common area on all the machines I work on. It works perfectly. I can’t believe I’ve lived so many years without this feature turned on, but I’m quite happy now.

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