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Turn on syntax coloring in Mac OS X

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created July 11, 2002 · complexity basic · author Mario Martinez · version 6.0

Some versions of Mac OS X don't have syntax highlighting support in terminal Vim with default settings.

If you don't have syntax highlighting in any Vim, first make sure something like this is in your .vimrc:

filetype plugin indent on
syntax on

If you have that, and still don't get syntax highlighting in Vim running in a terminal (i.e. not a GUI like MacVim), you may need to inform Vim how to handle the terminal.

Something like this is needed, prior to the syntax on command in your .vimrc:

set term=builtin_beos-ansi

Others (on "Mountain Lion") reported success with this instead:

set term=builtin_ansi
When using iTerm 2, you can simply do:
set term=xterm-256color


The following worked great on OSX 10.10.3 Yoesmite. I tested it with .py, .html and .php. Thanks!

filetype plugin indent on
syntax on
set term=builtin_ansi Worked like a charm on OS X 10.9 Mavericks, Thanks.

set term=xterm also works on OS X 10.9 Mavericks

set term=builtin_beos-ansi worked like a charm in OS X 10.10.3 Yosemite. Thanks!

Disclaimer: Under 10.9 Mavericks with an external keyboard, term=builtin_ansi may make the delete key next to the end key change the character under the cursor rather than delete as expected. term=xterm has this key behave as expected.

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