The default syntax highlighting scheme is so-so, especially when it comes to the dark blue comments against a black background.

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Fortunately, we can easily install our own. I prefer a colour scheme called Monokai to the pre-installed set, and the steps to install it are the same as for any other schemes.

To set up a colour scheme that will cross over sessions for the current user, add a .vim/colors directory to your home directory if it doesn’t already exist.

mkdir -p ~/.vim/colors

Any colour schemes placed in ~/.vim/colors will be available from new Vim sessions.

As an example, I’ll install the Monokai colour scheme from

You can download monokai.vim from and place it in the directory ~/.vim/colors/.

vim ~/.vimrc

The .vimrc configuration file below enables syntax highlighting and sets the Monokai colour scheme as our default.

" Configuration settings for Vim
" Executed on Vim start for the current user

:syntax on
:colorscheme monokai

You might notice that Vim uses its own scripting language (Vimscript), because, why not? Variables, if-else loops, functions and other constructs are supported, double quotes are comments, and scripts are stored in text files with extension .vim.

Tip: To test different colour schemes, open a file in vim and set your colour scheme using the following command.

:color monokai

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You can similarly just type :color followed by a space, and press tab to browse through all currently installed colour schemes. :color m followed by a tab will autocomplete to allow you to browse all colour schemes starting with an “m”.

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If you want to be able to use custom colour schemes in sudo mode, you can add the colour scheme files to /etc/vim/colors/. Default Vim settings are stored in /etc/vim/vimrc.

sudo cp -r ~/.vim/colors/ /etc/vim/colors/
sudo vim /etc/vim/vimrc

Lines changed in vimrc (optional):

" Vim5 and later versions support syntax highlighting. Uncommenting the next
" line enables syntax highlighting by default.
:syntax on
:colorscheme monokai

Helpful resources: