created March 12, 2004 · complexity intermediate · author mdmiller · version 6.0
If you're like me, you don't want a colorful editor. I spent hours looking for a "turn off all those colors right now!!" command and I couldn't find any help. After some poking around for a while, I found the commands you need. Just put these at the end of your vimrc file.
syntax off set nohlsearch set t_Co=0
If you don't have a vimrc file, simply create one in your home directory.
If you want coloring sometimes but want an easy way to turn it off occasionally (while editing) type
What's wrong with
With "syntax off" alone Vim will still use colored highlighting when you search for things. For those who simply think colors are yucky, that's reason enough. For me, there's also the fact that I usually lose interest in a search term a few minutes after I find it. (i.e. find where a variable is used, examine the use of that variable, then move on to something unrelated.) I find it disconcerting to have something highlighted when it is no longer important to me. Yes, I know there is a way to turn off the highlight from the previous search, but it takes more keystrokes than I want to mess with. And I could simply search for something that isn't in the file I'm editing, but such a kluge of an answer disturbs me.
So the next thing I tried was "syntax off" + "set t_Co=0", and that made vim comepletely colorless, but search result highlighting was accomplished through alternate means - I believe bold or italics or some such thing. To clarify what I wrote in the previous paragraph, the emphasis of a currently uninteresting search result is the thing I dislike, not the means of the emphasis. So this option was not good enough for me.
I also tried "syntax off" + "set nohlsearch". This option is nice most of the time, but vim still used colors to emphasize some of its error messages. By the time I discovered this, I was so frustrated with vim that I wanted to beat it into submission. I wanted no colors, no emphasized text, nothing that looked at all different than traditional vi. (I know, this is a silly emotional reaction. But when you use technology all day, it needs to be comfortable. And "comfort" is a word that can only be completely defined in an emotional context.)
For my purposes, "syntax off" + "set nohlsearch" + "set t_Co=0" is the only satisfying option. Leaving out any ingredient gives me something that is not good enough. Given that "syntax off" + "set t_Co=0" will produce a colorless vim, perhaps I did not choose the best title for my tip, but people seem to be enjoying it, so I have no regrets.
Now you know what is wrong (from my personal point of view) with just typing "syntax off".