Sep 26th, 2023

How to Enable Syntax Highlighting in Vim?

Author Picture

Dhairya Shah

Software Engineer

Vim is a highly customizable and powerful text editor that has been a favorite among developers, system administrators, and power users for decades. One of its standout features is syntax highlighting, which makes your code more readable and easier to work with. In this article, we will walk you through the process of enabling syntax highlighting in Vim, so you can make the most of this fantastic text editor.

What is Syntax Highlighting?

Syntax highlighting is a feature in text editors like Vim that colorizes different elements of your code to distinguish between keywords, variables, comments, and more. It enhances code readability by visually separating different parts of your code, making it easier to spot errors and understand the code’s structure.

Enabling Syntax Highlighting in Vim

To enable syntax highlighting in Vim, follow these steps:

  1. Open Vim: First, open your terminal and type vim followed by the name of the file you want to edit or create a new file by typing vim filename.

  2. Enter Command Mode: Press Esc if you are not in command mode already. Vim operates in different modes, and we need to be in command mode to execute commands.

  3. Enable Syntax Highlighting: Type the following command in command mode:

    :syntax on

    This command tells Vim to turn on syntax highlighting.

  4. Save Changes: If you’ve made changes to a file, save them by typing the following in command mode:

  5. Exit Vim: To exit Vim, type the following in command mode:


    If you have unsaved changes, you can force quit with :q!.

Now, when you open or create a file with a recognized programming language extension (e.g., .py for Python or .js for JavaScript), Vim will automatically apply syntax highlighting to that file.


By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’ve learned how to enable syntax highlighting in Vim for C and, in the process, gained insight into how to customize this feature for other programming languages as well. Whether you’re a seasoned developer or just starting with C programming, Vim’s syntax highlighting will undoubtedly prove to be a valuable tool in your coding arsenal.

So, go ahead and apply syntax highlighting to your C code in Vim, and experience the benefits of improved code readability and a more efficient coding workflow. Happy coding and have a great day!

DigitalOcean Referral Badge