Installing Vim and a Sane Environment in Windows

 17 Feb 2014


This first post will be about everything I had to install to get Vim working in windows. If you try this out and run into any issues please let me know so I can fix things. I never know what I’ve installed years ago that ends up helping something out. It should also go without saying that in linux I use the default package manager for all of this. On a mac I use homebrew. Both are much simpler since a sane terminal is already installed.

This post will go into installing git, a sane terminal, vim and some helper programs. I’m going to leave my .vimrc settings and the plugins I’m using for certain languages for future posts.

Some things I tried that didn’t work out…


I’ve tried Chocolatey twice now… it’s probably due to my lack of understanding of Powershell and windows command line but everytime I’ve run into problems. Packages can currently overwrite batch files for each other resulting in ctags not working. When I tried to install some programs it ended up failing. Many packages in Chocolately seem to just be wrappers allowing you to download and silently install using the normal windows installer. No thanks. I haven’t found any other package manager for windows that I like.

What I would like is something to install command line programs with an emphasis on using the bash that comes with git. Many of the issues that I end up with in windows is programs that expect the cmd.exe environment while I’m running them from bash.

256 Colors and Proper Ansi Colors

I’ve also given up on getting 256 colors working in windows. I’ve tried both Console2, ConsoleZ and ConEmu and can’t get 256 colors working in any of them (despite finding good docs that should help with ConEmu).

It would also appear that the ansi color id’s of numbers in all of these programs don’t match up with what vim thinks they should be. If I install a solarized color scheme to make the 16 terminal colors work properly in bash, command line vim’s solarized color scheme doesn’t look right. If I change the colors to make vim look correct then the terminal (hand coded ansi colors) don’t look right. Something is fishy here and I just don’t have the time or energy to solve it. My terminal vim (using 16 colors and the solarized pallette) works perfectly with my prompt on both mac and linux. I can also use a 256 color mode in both and it works flawlessly. I’m not going to bother getting it working in windows. I want to be using a single gvim instance most of the time anyway.


I’m currently using Deja Vu Sans Mono from this github repo. These fonts have some extra characters added to them that my vim config uses (will be further explained in a future blog post). I clone the repo and then just double click the four Deja Vu fonts and click the “Install” button to install them.


Luckily installing Vim was incredibly easy. You can download the install from the main vim download page. Once you run it it will install Vim in your Program Files directory and also gives you nice explorer context menus (that I’m hoping to not use in favor of bash).

I’m going to explain my .vimrc in a future post, but for now I want to point out that I do use .vim as my vim folder even in windows. This is hidden in bash (which I use) and it maintains consistency between my windows machine and my other systems. This requires setting the runtimepath at the top of my .vimrc file:

I like to be able to edit my .vimrc and reload it so I have to wrap this section in load protection so that we don’t reset the runtimepath after some other plugins get to edit it.

Git and Bash

The windows git installer from the main git home page includes a small selection of unix tools from MSys. It includes bash, openssh, and many others. This has proven to be a pretty reliable way to get a unix feel on windows. All of my config files are made to work in linux, on my mac and in the bash included with git. To install just download the installer and run it!

We will be running bash from a terminal program that we install next. As a side note, the normal ssh-keygen program is also included so creating ssh keys for github is incredibly easy. You can mostly follow github’s guide.


Right now I’m torn between Console2 and ConsoleZ. ConsoleZ is a fork from Console2 with it’s code up on github which I really like so I’m using it for now. I grabbed the latest amd64 release from the downloads page and put the downloaded folder in C:\Program Files\ConsoleZ. I then right clicked on the Console.exe program and pinned it to the start menu. Set the shortcut key to T (Ctrl-Alt-T) and ran it.

Once in Console you can get to the settings by right clicking anywhere in the terminal window and selecting Edit and then Settings. The main thing you want to do it setup Console to run git’s bash.

My config file is available in my github repo but to use it you have to rename it “console.xml” and put it in C:\Users\kelsin\AppData\Roaming\Console. I also have an icon linked that you’ll need to fix in the settings window after copying the file. I find it easiest to edit some settings in Console (making sure to check the “Save settings to user directory” box) and make sure I can find the file before replacing it. Make sure Console is closed before you replace the file so that it doesn’t get overwritten by the running process. Currently console vim doesn’t color perfectly (as I mentioned above) but since it works well on all other OS’s, I’m just going to live with it for now. My bash prompt does look good with my current color scheme and that’s what I’ll be seeing most of.


I grab the windows build of ctags right from their main website and I stick it in C:\home\kelsin\opt\ctags58 and I make sure to add this to my path (see below).

Environment Setup

I check out my configs git repo to C:\home\kelsin (which I created). In order to make sure git bash uses this as my home directory I set my HOME environment variables (in windows settings) to this directory. I do by this by hitting Windows Key + Pause/Break to pull up the control panel system pane. I think click “Advanced system settings” in the side menu. I then click on the “Environment Variables” button and either edit or create a user variable named HOME and set it to C:\home\kelsin.

I setup my PATH variable in bash by using a custom function. This function only adds an item to my path if the directory exists and if the item isn’t already in my path. This helps me keep the same bash config for many systems without worrying if I have everything installed the same on each system. Regardless of how you do it you want to make sure that the vim install location is in your bash path:

Once vim is in my path I can create an alias so that I can use “e” as a command to edit any file in the one gvim instance already running:\


Not everything is working perfectly… but gvim does look very pretty and handles unicode perfectly. Bash works and I can alias away! My set-title bash helpers do work with Console which is nice. I’d much rather be using Tmux to handle my terminals, but I can live with tabs while in windows (for now).

I’ll write some more posts over the next few days. The first few posts will be about generic .vimrc settings and what I prefer. Once I use vim for a few weeks for Java editing I’ll make some posts fully about that. I will also get a post up this week about my Java environment in general since (despite using an IDE) I’ve been pretty happy with it.