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Alter Vim's appearance to suit your task & environ
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Conveniently manage Vim’s appearance to suit your task and environment



  • Groups global settings (like colorscheme, ruler, etc.) into ‘themes’
  • Pure Vimscript with no dependencies
  • Stays out of your way, except where you want it
  • Integrates with airline
  • Support for GUI-based Vim includes: font, linespace, fullscreen, transparency, and screen columns/lines

Why thematic?

You may be among the many Vim users who keep things simple by sticking with a single theme that suits their needs, configuring it in their .vimrc by setting the color scheme, font and status line.

Or you might instead be among the users who instead configure the visual details of Vim to match the lighting conditions or task at hand, or even to suit their mood. For example, you might choose a theme that is less fatiguing to your eyes given the ambient lighting conditions, where you'll have a muted theme for a dark room and a high-contrast theme for use in a bright one.

Writing code, you want a status bar, ruler, a hint of transparency and a programming font. But if you're writing an essay or screenplay, you want the screen stripped of all extraneous detail, with a traditional font and generous left and right margins.

Managing such an multi-theme environment in Vim has traditionally been a hassle. The thematic plugin is intended to solve that problem, providing you flexibility and convenience.

GUI-based Vim users can complement a colorscheme with a particular typeface. For example, the lightweight anti-aliased typeface like Adobe's Source Code Pro ExtraLight may look great against a black background but be unreadable against a white one, so you’ll only pair it with an appropriate colorscheme.


May require a recent version of Vim.


Install using Pathogen, Vundle, Neobundle, or your favorite Vim package manager.



A few of Vim's standard colorschemes are configured by default, but you'll want to override them with your own, like this:

let g:thematic#themes = {
\ 'bubblegum'  : {
\                },
\ 'jellybeans' : { 'laststatus': 0,
\                  'ruler': 1,
\                },
\ 'pencil_dark' :{'colorscheme': 'pencil',
\                 'background': 'dark',
\                 'airline-theme': 'badwolf',
\                 'ruler': 1,
\                },
\ 'pencil_lite' :{'colorscheme': 'pencil',
\                 'background': 'light',
\                 'airline-theme': 'light',
\                 'ruler': 1,
\                },
\ }

Name your themes as you wish. Note that if you don't specify a colorscheme property, thematic will attempt to load one using your theme name. (See bubblegum and jellybeans example above.)

To curb redundancy among your themes, you can specify a dictionary of default values, to be shared by all of your themes:

let g:thematic#defaults = {
\ 'airline-theme': 'jellybeans',
\ 'background': 'dark',
\ 'laststatus': 2,
\ }

Note that an explicit setting in a theme will take precedence over these defaults.

GUI-based Vim users have additional options available in theming. For example,

let g:thematic#themes = {
\ 'bubblegum'  : { 'typeface': 'Menlo',
\                  'font-size': 18,
\                  'transparency': 10,
\                  'linespace': 2,
\                },
\ 'pencil_dark' :{ 'colorscheme': 'pencil',
\                  'background': 'dark',
\                  'airline-theme': 'badwolf',
\                  'ruler': 1,
\                  'laststatus': 0,
\                  'typeface': 'Source Code Pro Light',
\                  'font-size': 20,
\                  'transparency': 10,
\                  'linespace': 8,
\                },
\ 'pencil_lite' :{ 'colorscheme': 'pencil',
\                  'background': 'light',
\                  'airline-theme': 'light',
\                  'laststatus': 0,
\                  'ruler': 1,
\                  'typeface': 'Source Code Pro',
\                  'fullscreen': 1,
\                  'transparency': 0,
\                  'font-size': 20,
\                  'linespace': 6,
\                },
\ }

thematic stays out of your way, ignoring any settings that you aren't explicitly setting through your thematic configuration. For example, you can set guifont= in your .gvimrc independent of thematic.

Setting an initial theme

By default, thematic doesn’t initialize a theme when you start Vim.

But you can have it do so by specifying a theme to load in your .vimrc:

let g:thematic#theme_name = 'pencil_dark'


Commands can be used to navigate through your available themes. For instance, running :ThematicFirst invokes thematic and chooses the first theme, alphabetically.

:Thematic {theme_name} " load a theme by name (with tab completion)
:ThematicFirst         " switch to the first theme, ordered by name
:ThematicNext          " switch to the next theme, ordered by name
:ThematicPrevious      " switch to the previous theme, ordered by name
:ThematicRandom        " switch to a random theme

thematic does not map any keys by default, but you can easily do so in your .vimrc file:

nnoremap <Leader>T :ThematicNext<CR>
nnoremap <Leader>D :Thematic pencil_dark<CR>
nnoremap <Leader>L :Thematic pencil_lite<CR>

What theme properties can I set?

Many properties are available for terminal-only and GUI-based Vim.

Note that you can set these properties in g:thematic#defaults and g:thematic#themes, where a setting in the latter overrides a setting in the former.

For terminal or GUI-based Vim:

  • laststatus (0, 1, or 2) - controls the visibility of the status bar
  • ruler (0 or 1) - as alternative to status bar, shows minimal position details in lower right
  • colorscheme ('pencil', e.g.) - set the colors for all windows (optional if your theme name is the same as the colorscheme name)
  • background ('dark' or 'light') - colorschemes like pencil and solarized can be further configured via background
  • airline-theme ('jellybeans', e.g.) - plugin for theming your status bar
  • sign-column-color-fix (0 or 1) - temporarily modifies colorscheme to force gutter background to match Normal background
  • diff-color-fix (0 or 1) - temporarily modifies colorscheme to force diff character color to a standard red/green/yellow/blue
  • fold-column-color-mute (0 or 1) - temporarily modifies colorscheme to hide indicators, matching Normal text background
  • number-column-color-mute (0 or 1) - temporarily modifies colorscheme to hide numbers, matching Normal text background

The following options are for GUI-based Vim only (they will be ignored if you're running a terminal-based Vim):


  • typeface ('Source Code Pro ExtraLight', e.g.) - name of font
  • font-size (1+) - point size of font
  • linespace (0+) - pixel spacing between lines to allow the type to breathe


  • fullscreen (0 or 1) - if 1, force a switch to fullscreen
  • fullscreen-background-color-fix (0 or 1) - optional change of color of the background (or border) to match Normal text background
  • columns (1+) and lines (1+) - typically used to manage the height and width of the text area in fullscreen mode
  • transparency (0=opaque, 100=fully transparent) - view details of window and desktop beneath Vim

GUI fullscreen capabilities

thematic supports fullscreen capabilities for GUI-based Vim, including changing the fullscreen background to match the text background.

Disabling fullscreen

By design, once enabled, thematic won't disable fullscreen, as it can erode the user experience. You can still disable manually per the command:

:set nofullscreen

Note that when installed on a GUI-based Vim, thematic will override the fullscreen settings, specifically fuoptions to get better control over screen lines and columns and the fullscreen background.

Narrow and Widen

To narrow and widen the visible screen area without changing the font size, thematic provides a couple of handy commands you can map to keys of your choice. For example, to map this feature to the Command-9 and Command-0 keys in MacVim, add to your .gvimrc:

noremap <silent> <D-9> :<C-u>ThematicNarrow<cr>
noremap <silent> <D-0> :<C-u>ThematicWiden<cr>
inoremap <silent> <D-9> <C-o>:ThematicNarrow<cr>
inoremap <silent> <D-0> <C-o>:ThematicWiden<cr>

This is especially useful in fullscreen mode to adjust the side margins. It also complements Command-Minus and Command-Equals to adjust font size.


Q: I want to set cursorline, wrap, textwidth, foldcolumn, etc. in my themes.

At present, thematic focuses exclusively on global settings. The settings above are not globally-scoped but are instead scoped to individual buffers and windows. Until we determine a good approach to support these 'lesser' scoped settings, you can set them for all buffers via your .vimrc or by file type using the autocmd FileType feature in Vim.

Settings that actively modify your files, such as textwidth, aren't likely to ever be part of thematic.

Q: How can I configure Vim to emulate markdown editors like IA Writer?

It works best with fullscreen in a GUI-based Vim. A few steps are involved:

(1) Install a word processing plugin like pencil and a suitable colorscheme:

(2) Edit your .gvimrc to disable the tool bar, etc.

set antialias
set guicursor+=a:blinkon0    " disable cursor blink
set guioptions-=r   "kill right scrollbar
set guioptions-=l   "kill left scrollbar
set guioptions-=L   "kill left scrollbar multiple buffers
set guioptions-=T   "kill toolbar

(3) Finally, create a theme configured to your tastes:

let g:thematic#themes = {
\ 'iawriter'   : { 'colorscheme': 'pencil',
\                  'background': 'light',
\                  'columns': 75,
\                  'font-size': 20,
\                  'fullscreen': 1,
\                  'laststatus': 0,
\                  'linespace': 8,
\                  'typeface': 'Cousine',
\                },
\ }

Non-GUI terminal-based emulation is trickier, as there's no easy way to create a generous right margin. You can approximate it by switching from soft-wrap to hard line breaks with vim-pencil and using with a narrow textwidth:

autocmd FileType markdown set foldcolumn=12 textwidth=74

See the “Narrow and Widen” feature above to adjust the side margins interactively.

Q: Using MacVim, the fullscreen background color isn't working as expected. How do I change its behavior?

To have the fullscreen background's color set by thematic, enter the following in OS X Terminal:

$ defaults write org.vim.MacVim MMNativeFullScreen 0

Or, if you prefer that your fullscreen window float against a standard background:

$ defaults write org.vim.MacVim MMNativeFullScreen 1

(Note: due to OSX/MacVim bugs, fullscreen may or may not work for you in Yosemite (OS X 10.10). For example, you might encounter a persistent menu bar, an odd screen offset, or screen tearing. In such cases, try set lines= or set columns= with reduced values to fix things.)

Q: How can I apply my own custom highlights?

thematic doesn't yet support theme-specific customization beyond the -fix and -mute options mentioned above, but you can ensure that custom highlights are used in your .vimrc, for example:

augroup MyCustomHighlights
  autocmd colorscheme *
   \ highlight SpellBad   gui=bold guibg=#faa |
   \ highlight SpellCap   gui=bold guibg=#faf |
   \ highlight SpellRare  gui=bold guibg=#aff |
   \ highlight SpellLocal gui=bold guibg=#ffa
augroup END

This will apply across all themes, as well as manual colorscheme changes.

Q: In certain cases, the screen doesn’t properly redraw. Can you fix this?

You have encountered an outstanding bug that hasn’t yet been diagnosed and fixed. In the meantime, set up a handy key to force a redraw when the redraw does not occur. In your .vimrc:

" <c-l> to clear the highlight, as well as redraw the screen
noremap <silent> <C-l> :<C-u>nohlsearch<cr><C-l>
inoremap <silent> <C-l> <C-o>:nohlsearch<cr>

If you can fix this problem, a pull request would be welcome.

Monospaced fonts

Whether using terminal or GUI-based Vim, a good monospaced font can improve your editing experience. You already have a few installed (such as Menlo on OS X.) Many more are available to download for free:

The following collections feature bold and italic variations, to make the most of colorschemes that use them:

See also

If you find this plugin useful, you may want to check out these others by @reedes:

Future development

If you’ve spotted a problem or have an idea on improving this plugin, please post it to the github project issue page. Pull requests are welcome.

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