Build Vim in Windows with Visual Studio
From Vim Tips Wiki
created July 28, 2011 · complexity basic · author JohnBeckett · version 7.0
This tip explains how to download the source for Vim, then build a Vim executable, and install it on a Windows system. Optionally, Vim can be compiled with a Python 2.x or 3.x interface. The build is performed using the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Express (free). See Building Vim for related information, including how to download Vim if you do not want to build it yourself.
Administrative privileges are not required for the steps in this tip, except when installing:
- Python (if Python is wanted).
- Mercurial (if using the "needs admin rights" installer to make Mercurial available for all users).
- Microsoft Visual Studio.
 Python interface
This tip shows how to build Vim with or without a Python interface. Python is optional, and not needed for normal Vim.
Vim can be compiled to provide an interface so that Vim scripts can be written in Python, and so that Vim commands like
:py print 2**1024 work. If an interface between Vim and Python is wanted, Python needs to be installed separately, and Vim needs to be compiled with support for the version of Python used. Vim can be configured to work with Python 2.x or 3.x or both (although the 3.x configuration is newer and less tested).
To determine whether a particular installation of Vim supports Python, enter the command
:version in Vim. If the output includes
+python/dyn (with "
+") then Python 2.x is supported, and the DLL file specified in the link command shown in the output will be dynamically loaded if needed. If the output includes
+python3/dyn then Python 3.x is supported, and the Python 3 DLL file shown in the output will be dynamically loaded if needed. On Windows, dynamic loading is standard with the result that although Python needs to be installed to build Vim, the resulting Vim executable can be run on a system with no Python (Vim would work, but attempting to use the Python interface would fail).
 Required tools
The following tools may be installed to download and build the Vim source.
- Python programming language (optional)
- For example, install using "Python 2.7.2 Windows Installer (Windows binary -- does not include source)" from here.
- This is not needed by Mercurial or Vim. Mercurial uses file
python26.dllthat is included in the standard Mercurial installer for Windows.
- Vim can be built to provide an interface so that Vim scripts can be written in Python, and so that Vim commands like
:py print 2**1024work. If that is wanted, Python needs to be installed before building Vim.
- Mercurial version control system (
- For example, install using "Mercurial-2.0 (32-bit msi) needs admin rights to install" from here.
- Mercurial recommends that the Windows indexing service and virus scanners be configured to exclude directories containing a repository or a working copy. This advice can probably be ignored, but a virus scanner may lock a file after it is written so any program (such as Mercurial) which writes many files then attempts to operate on them, could fail.
- Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 Express (part of Visual Studio)
- Free download here.
- The product can be downloaded, installed, and the Visual Studio GUI run for thirty days (or indefinitely if registered online with Microsoft). Registration is not required to build Vim because only the command line tools are used. Administrative privileges are required to install and to register.
To install Python or Mercurial, download the wanted setup program and run it.
It is not needed for Vim, but if you want to run Python in a command prompt window, you need to first adjust the PATH, for example:
set PATH=%PATH%;C:\Python27 python
To install Visual Studio, download the setup program (see link above). Setup is a small program which downloads components as required. As an administrator, run setup and perform these steps:
- Accept or clear "send information about my setup experiences to Microsoft".
- Agree to license.
- Accept or clear option to install Microsoft Silverlight.
- Accept default install location.
- Restart computer when prompted.
- After restarting, log on as an administrator; setup will automatically continue running.
- When finished, setup prompts that Windows Update should be used.
- Use Windows Update to install security updates; restart when prompted.
- Later, you can run the "Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 Express" GUI and use the Help menu, "Register Product" to register within 30 days.
 Required directories and files
The following directories will be used as examples:
- Will hold Vim source and runtime files as downloaded using Mercurial.
- Also used to build Vim.
- Replace "
current" with whatever you like, however if the path contains spaces, more care will be needed.
- Will hold some files used when building, as well as the Vim executable and runtime files used to run Vim. The intention is that
mynameholds programs or other files that are wanted on several different computers. Make a master copy on one computer, then copy the master to other computers. No installation will be required on the other computers, apart from adjusting the PATH. The
bindirectory can contain any simple tools that do not need installation, although for this tip it will only contain two batch files. The Vim files will be installed in a subdirectory.
- Replace "
myname" with whatever you like, however if the path contains spaces, more care will be needed.
In a command prompt window, enter the following to make the
build directories (the
vim subdirectory will be created later).
Enter the following to make the
\myname\bin\vimconfig.cmd with contents as follows, if a Python interface is not wanted:
:: Set environment for wanted options before building Vim. set GUI=yes
Alternatively, use the following contents if a Python interface is wanted (this text assumes a default install of Python 2.7):
:: Set environment for wanted options before building Vim. set GUI=yes set DYNAMIC_PYTHON=yes set PYTHON=C:/Python27 set PYTHON_VER=27
If installing with Python 3 and above, replace
:: Set environment for wanted options before building Vim. set GUI=yes set DYNAMIC_PYTHON3=yes set PYTHON3=C:/Python32 set PYTHON3_VER=32
Additional options could be:
set NETBEANS=no set FEATURES=HUGE set CPUNR=i686 set WINVER=0x500 set OLE=yes
More information on the build options is available here.
\myname\bin\vimcopy.cmd with contents as follows:
:: Copy any new Vim exe + runtime files to current install. @set SRC=C:\current\build\vim @set DST=C:\myname\bin\vim\vim73 xcopy %SRC%\runtime %DST% /D /E /H /I /Y %* xcopy %SRC%\src\xxd\xxd.exe %DST%\* /D /Y %* xcopy %SRC%\src\GvimExt\gvimext.dll %DST%\* /D /Y %* xcopy %SRC%\src\*.exe %DST%\* /D /Y %*
 Vim source and runtime files
The following sets
build as the current directory, then downloads the entire Vim source and runtime files to a tree under the
vim subdirectory (created by the
hg command). This is required once only, to get started, and will take a few minutes.
cd \current\build hg clone https://vim.googlecode.com/hg/ vim
In the future, changes to the Vim source and runtime files can be downloaded with the following.
cd \current\build\vim hg pull -u
If you accidentally change some Vim source files, you can clean the source to discard your changes.
cd \current\build\vim hg update -C
 Building Vim
After the initial clone (
hg clone) or update (
hg pull -u), the executable Vim programs can be built with the following.
cd \current\build\vim\src msvc2010.bat \myname\bin\vimconfig.cmd nmake -f Make_mvc.mak
These commands use:
\current\build\vim\src\msvc2010.batsupplied with Vim. This calls file
vsvars32.bat(installed with Visual Studio) to configure environment variables to allow building at the command prompt.
\myname\bin\vimconfig.cmd(created in an earlier step) to configure environment variables for the options wanted while building Vim.
nmake.exe(installed with Visual Studio) to compile and link Vim.
The above builds programs
gvim.exe (GUI Vim),
vimrun.exe (to run external commands from Vim), and
xxd.exe (to display binary files in hex). If wanted, you can also build
vim.exe (console Vim, to run in a command prompt window) with:
cd \current\build\vim\src nmake -f Make_mvc.mak gui=no
If wanted, you can change the options used to build Vim (see
Make_mvc.mak). However, the old build files must be "cleaned" (deleted, so the new build will not use a mixture of files from the old and new configurations). Clean with the following.
cd \current\build\vim\src msvc2010.bat \myname\bin\vimconfig.cmd nmake -f Make_mvc.mak clean
 Configuring Vim
Vim is usually configured with a vimrc file and with runtime files set by the user (in addition to the runtime files provided with Vim). Generally the user config files are under the $HOME directory. Vim sets its $HOME variable from the environment variable
HOME, if defined, or, more commonly on Windows systems, by joining variables
By default, a user logged on as Myname on a Windows XP system will have
C:\Documents and Settings\Myname as their $HOME directory. On some systems, that location can be changed by running
lusrmgr.msc: display the Properties of the user; on the Profile tab, set "Home folder, Local path" to be any wanted directory (for example
In Vim, you can display the value of $HOME by entering:
$HOME/_vimrc with your preferred settings, for example:
set nocompatible filetype indent plugin on syntax on set wildmenu wildmode=full set showcmd set ignorecase hlsearch incsearch set backspace=indent,eol,start set nostartofline set ruler set laststatus=2 set mouse=a set cmdheight=2 set shiftwidth=4 softtabstop=4 " tab column size command DiffOrig vert new | set bt=nofile | r # | 0d_ | diffthis \ | wincmd p | diffthis " Press Space to turn off search highlighting and clear any message. :nnoremap <silent> <Space> :nohlsearch<Bar>:echo<CR> " Silent. set visualbell t_vb= " Allow switching from an unsaved buffer without saving it first. set hidden if has('gui_running') set guioptions-=T " no toolbar colorscheme elflord " choose your own endif
As an example of a configuration file, create file
python.vim in the directory
$HOME\vimfiles\after\ftplugin (you will need to create the
ftplugin directories). The file should contain:
After creating the directories, you can enter this command in Vim to create the file (
~ is the same as
The effect of this example is that, when editing
*.py files, the
'expandtab' option will be set, so spaces will be inserted when the Tab key is pressed.
 Installing Vim
After building, copy the executables and runtime files to overwrite the current Vim installation (or to create it). This can be run from any directory. Any previous runtime files are overwritten. Make sure Vim is not running.
This uses file
vimcopy.cmd (created in an earlier step) to copy the Vim files from the build directory to directory
C:\myname\bin\vim\vim73 (and subdirectories).
Vim can now be run in a command prompt window, although it is necessary to adjust the PATH:
set PATH=%PATH%;C:\myname\bin\vim\vim73 gvim
To permanently update the PATH, run System Properties: on the Advanced tab, click Environment Variables. An administrator can edit "Path" under System variables (which will apply to all users). Append
;C:\myname\bin\vim\vim73 to the existing PATH.
If other tools are placed in the
bin directory, also append
;C:\myname\bin to the PATH. If that is done, the "build" step can use
vimconfig rather than
\myname\bin\vimconfig.cmd, and the "installing" step can use
vimcopy rather than
It is possible to add an "Edit with Vim" entry to the Windows Explorer context menu. If that is not wanted, installation is finished, and gvim can be run from a command prompt window. It is also possible to drag and drop one or more files from Windows Explorer to gvim and then to display each file in its own tab by entering
To add an "Edit with Vim" entry to the context menu, as an administrator open a command prompt window and enter:
cd \myname\bin\vim\vim73 install
install.exe program runs in a command prompt window and presents a series of options regarding the actions that it will take. Actions can be configured or disabled by responding to the prompts. One of the possible actions is to generate a sample vimrc file which is not recommended. The option to add an entry to the popup (context) menu only works when performed by an administrator.
 Diff program
Vim can display the differences between files, providing a diff program is available. Windows users should download the setup program for "Complete package, except sources" from GnuWin32 diff. Run setup and either accept the defaults, or install in a temporary directory that you will later delete (perhaps by running the uninstall program). If wanted, you can install without administrative privileges: select "Don't create a Start Menu folder" and click Ignore several times when setup fails to write to the registry. Copy files
*.dll from the resulting
GnuWin32\bin subdirectory to a directory that is in your PATH (you could use
C:\myname\bin\vim\vim73 although it would be better to use another directory for programs not distributed with Vim).
If you have run the Vim
install.exe program and used it to generate a sample vimrc file, it will include
set diffexpr=MyDiff() which is not wanted: remove that line (and the
MyDiff function) from vimrc.
- Show a HUGE or BIG build example to show how it's done.
- Check claims made about MyDiff and if valid, explain why it isn't wanted. Fritzophrenic has to use MyDiff to make diffs. Check when used with paths with embedded spaces.