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*CSApprox.txt* Bringing GVim colorschemes to the terminal!
*csapprox* *csapprox.vim*
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For Vim version 7.0 or newer
Last changed 05 Oct 2008
By Matt Wozniski
Reference Manual~
1. Description |csapprox-intro|
2. Requirements |csapprox-requirements|
3. Configuration |csapprox-configure|
4. Rationale/Design |csapprox-design|
5. Known Bugs and Limitations |csapprox-limitations|
6. Appendix - Terminals and Palettes |csapprox-terminal-list|
7. Changelog |csapprox-changelog|
8. Contact Info |csapprox-author|
The functionality mentioned here is a plugin, see |add-plugin|.
You can avoid loading this plugin by setting the "CSApprox_loaded" global
variable in your |vimrc| file: >
:let g:CSApprox_loaded = 1
1. Description *csapprox-intro*
There is a wealth of colorschemes available for Vim. Unfortunately, since
traditional terminal emulators have only supported 2, 8 or 16 colors,
colorscheme authors have tended to avoid writing colorschemes for terminal
Vim, sticking instead to GVim. Even now that nearly every popular terminal
supports either 88 or 256 colors, few colorschemes are written to support
them. This may be because the terminal color codes are just numbers from 0 to
87 or 255 with no semantic meaning, or because the same number doesn't yield
the same color in all terminals, or simply because the colorscheme author
doesn't use the terminal and doesn't want to take the time to support
Whatever the reason, this leaves users of many modern terminal emulators in
the awkward position of having a terminal emulator that supports many colors,
but having very few colorschemes that were written to utilize those colors.
This is where CSApprox comes in. It attempts to fill this void by making GVim
colorschemes transparently backwards compatible with terminal Vim in a high
color terminal. Basically, whenever a colorscheme sets some colors for the
GUI, this script runs and tries to figure out the closest color available in
the terminal's color palette to the color the colorscheme author wanted.
Unfortunately, this does not work well all the time, and it has some
limitations (see |csapprox-limitations|). Most of the time, however, this
gives a very close approximation to the GVim colors without requiring any
changes to the colorscheme, or any user interaction.
2. Requirements *csapprox-requirements*
For CSApprox to work, there are 2 major requirements that must be met.
a) GUI support *csapprox-gui-support* *csapprox-+gui*
The "vim" binary must be built with GUI support (see |csapprox-limitations|
for an explanation). Unfortunately, several Linux distributions only include
GUI support in their "gvim" binary, and not in their "vim" binary. You can
check if GUI support is available by doing: >
:echo has('gui')
If that prints 0, the first thing to try would be searching for a larger vim
package provided by your distribution, like "vim-enhanced" on RedHat/CentOS
or "vim" or "vim-gnome" on Debian/Ubuntu.
If you are unable to obtain a "vim" binary that includes GUI support, but
have a "gvim" binary available, you can probably launch Vim with GUI support
anyway by calling gvim with the |-v| flag in the shell: >
gvim -v
If that does not work and no package with GUI support is available, you will
need to compile Vim yourself and ensure that GUI support is included. If this
is inconvenient for you, make sure that the Vim maintainer for your
distribution knows it.
b) Properly configured terminal *csapprox-terminal*
As said above, many modern terminals support 88 or 256 colors, but most of
these default to setting $TERM to something generic (usually "xterm"). Since
Vim uses the value of the "colors" attribute for the current $TERM in terminfo
to figure out the number of colors used internally as 't_Co', this plugin will
either need for 't_Co' to be set to 88 or 256 in |vimrc|, or for $TERM to be
set to something that implies high color support. Possible choices include
"xterm-256color" for 256 color support and "rxvt-unicode" for 88 color
Also, there are three different 256 color cube palettes available and CSApprox
has no way to tell which you're using unless $TERM is set to something that is
specific to the terminal, like "konsole" or "Eterm". Because of this, the
most sane behavior is assuming the user is using the most popular palette,
which is used by all but Konsole and Eterm, whenever $TERM is set to something
generic like 'xterm' or 'screen'. You can provide a different default,
however - see |csapprox-configuration|.
To turn on high color support without fixing $TERM, you can put something like
this into your |vimrc|: >
if &term == 'xterm' && $HOSTNAME == 'my-machine'
" On my machine, I use Konsole with 256 color support
set t_Co=256
let g:CSApprox_konsole = 1
3. Configuration *csapprox-configure*
There are several global variables that can be set to configure the behavior
of CSApprox. They are listed roughly based on the likelihood that the end
user might want to know about them.
g:CSApprox_loaded *g:CSApprox_loaded*
If set in your |vimrc|, CSApprox is not loaded.
g:CSApprox_verbose_level *g:CSApprox_verbose_level*
When CSApprox is run, the 'verbose' option will be temporarily raised to
the value held in this variable unless it is already greater. The default
value is 1, which allows CSApprox to default to warning whenever something
is wrong, even if it is recoverable, but allows the user to quiet us if he
wants by changing this variable to 0. The most important messages will be
shown at verbosity level 1; some less important ones will be shown at
higher verbosity levels.
g:CSApprox_eterm *g:CSApprox_eterm*
If set, CSApprox will use the Eterm palette when 'term' is "xterm" or
"screen*". Otherwise, the xterm palette would be used.
g:CSApprox_konsole *g:CSApprox_konsole*
If set, CSApprox will use the Konsole palette when 'term' is "xterm" or
"screen*". Otherwise, the xterm palette would be used.
g:CSApprox_attr_map *g:CSApprox_attr_map*
Since some attributes (like 'guisp') can't be used in a terminal, and
others (like 'italic') are often very ugly in terminals, a generic way to
map between a requested attribute and another attribute is included. This
variable should be set to a Dictionary, where the keys are strings
representing the attributes the author wanted set, and the values are the
strings that the user wants set instead. If a value is '', it means the
attribute should just be ignored. The default is to replace 'italic' with
'underline', and to use 'fg' instead of 'sp': >
let g:CSApprox_attr_map = { 'italic' : 'underline', 'sp' : 'fg' }
Your author prefers disabling bold and italic entirely, so uses this: >
let g:CSApprox_attr_map = { 'bold' : '', 'italic' : '', 'sp' : 'fg' }
Note: You can only map an attribute representing a color to another
attribute representing a color; likewise with boolean attributes.
After all, sp -> bold and italic -> fg would be nonsensical.
g:CSApprox_extra_rgb_txt_dirs *g:CSApprox_extra_rgb_txt_dirs*
When the colorscheme author uses a color by name, CSApprox needs to figure
out what #rrggbb value it stands for. It does this by parsing rgb.txt,
but first needs to locate it. It has a default search path included, but
should it fail to find rgb.txt, this variable can be set to a List of
other directories that ought to be searched. Default search path: >
[ /usr/local/share/X11, /usr/share/X11, /etc/X11, /usr/local/lib/X11,
/usr/lib/X11, /usr/local/X11R6/lib/X11, /usr/X11R6/lib/X11]
g:CSApprox_approximator_function *g:CSApprox_approximator_function*
If the default approximation function doesn't work well enough, the user
(or another author wishing to extend this plugin) can write another
approximation function. This function should take three numbers,
representing r, g, and b in decimal, and return the index on the color
cube that best matches those colors. Assigning a |Funcref| to this
variable will override the default approximator with the one the Funcref
g:CSApprox_redirfallback *g:CSApprox_redirfallback*
As of Vim 7.2.018, there is a bug in the Vim function synIDattr() that
stops it from correctly reporting information for the 'guisp' attribute.
CSApprox includes a workaround for this problem, as well as a test that
ought to disable this workaround once synIDattr() is working properly.
If this test should happen to give improper results somehow, the user can
force the behavior with this variable. When set to 1, the workaround will
always be used, and when set to 0, synIDattr() is blindly used.
4. Rationale/Design *csapprox-design*
Ideally, the aim is for CSApprox to be completely transparent to the user.
This is why the approach I take is entirely different from the GuiColorScheme
script, which will break on any but the simplest colorschemes. Unfortunately,
given the difficulty of determining exactly which terminal emulator the user
is running, and what features it supports, and which color palette it's using,
perfect transparency is difficult. So, to this end, I've attempted to default
to settings that make it unlikely that this script ever makes things worse
(this is why I chose not to override t_Co to 256 myself), and I've attempted
to make it easy to override my choice of defaults when necessary (through
g:CSApprox_approximator_function, g:CSApprox_konsole, g:CSApprox_eterm,
g:CSApprox_attr_map, etc). If any of my choices seem to be causing extra work
with no real advantages, though, I'd like to hear about it. Feel free to
email me with any improvements upon my design you might want to suggest.
5. Known Bugs and Limitations *csapprox-limitations*
GUI support is required.
There is nothing I can do about this given my chosen design. CSApprox works
by being notified every time a colorscheme sets some GUI colors, then
approximating those colors to similar terminal colors. Unfortunately, when
Vim is not built with GUI support, it doesn't bother to store the GUI
colors, so querying for them fails. This leaves me completely unable to
tell what the colorscheme was trying to do. See |csapprox-+gui| for some
potential work arounds if your distribution doesn't provide a Vim with +gui.
User intervention is sometimes required for information about the terminal.
This is really an insurmountable problem. Unfortunately, most terminal
emulators default to setting $TERM to 'xterm', even when they're not really
compatible with an xterm. $TERM is really the only reliable way to
find anything at all out about the terminal you're running in, so there's no
way to know if the terminal supports 88 or 256 colors without either the
terminal telling me (using $TERM) or the user telling me (using t_Co).
Similarly, unless $TERM is set to something that implies a certain color
palette ought to be used, there's no way for me to know, so I'm forced to
default to the most common, xterm's palette, and allow the user to override
my choice with |g:CSApprox_konsole| or |g:CSApprox_eterm|. An example of
configuring Vim to work around a terminal where $TERM is set to something
generic without configuring the terminal properly is shown at
Some colorschemes could fail if they try to be too smart.
A colorscheme could decide to only set colors for the mode Vim is running
in. If a scheme only sets GUI colors when the GUI is running, instead of
using the usual approach of setting all colors and letting Vim choose which
to use, my approach falls apart. My method for figuring out what the scheme
author wants the scheme to look like absolutely depends upon him setting the
GUI colors in all modes. Fortunately, the few colorschemes that do this
seem to be, by and large, intended for 256 color terminals already, meaning
that skipping them is the proper behavior.
It's slow.
For me, it takes Vim's startup time from 0.15 seconds to 0.35 seconds. This
is probably still acceptable, but it is definitely worth trying to cut down
on this time in future versions.
6. Appendix - Terminals and Palettes *csapprox-terminal-list*
What follows is a list of terminals known to have and known not to have high
color support. This list is certainly incomplete; feel free to contact me
with more to add to either list.
------------------------------- Good Terminals -------------------------------
The most recent versions of each of these terminals can be compiled with
either 88 or 256 color support.
256 color palette
Colors composed of: [ 0x00, 0x5F, 0x87, 0xAF, 0xD7, 0xFF ]
Greys composed of: [ 0x08, 0x12, 0x1C, 0x26, 0x30, 0x3A, 0x44, 0x4E,
0x58, 0x62, 0x6C, 0x76, 0x80, 0x8A, 0x94, 0x9E,
0xA8, 0xB2, 0xBC, 0xC6, 0xD0, 0xDA, 0xE4, 0xEE ]
rxvt-unicode (urxvt):
88 colors by default (but a patch is available to use xterm's palette)
Colors composed of: [ 0x00, 0x8B, 0xCD, 0xFF ]
Greys composed of: [ 0x2E, 0x5C, 0x73, 0x8B, 0xA2, 0xB9, 0xD0, 0xE7 ]
*csapprox-pterm* *csapprox-putty*
PuTTY (pterm; putty.exe):
256 colors; same palette as xterm
Mrxvt (mrxvt):
256 colors; same palette as xterm
GNOME Terminal (gnome-terminal):
256 colors; same palette as xterm
ROXTerm (roxterm):
256 colors; same palette as xterm
Terminal (xfce4-terminal):
256 colors; same palette as xterm
iTerm (
256 colors; same palette as xterm
Konsole (konsole):
256 color palette
Colors composed of: [ 0x00, 0x33, 0x66, 0x99, 0xCC, 0xFF ]
Same greyscales as xterm
You should set the g:CSApprox_konsole variable unless $TERM begins with
'konsole', case insensitive
eterm (Eterm):
256 color palette
Colors composed of: [ 0x00, 0x2A, 0x55, 0x7F, 0xAA, 0xD4 ]
Same greyscales as xterm
You should set the g:CSApprox_eterm variable unless $TERM begins with
'eterm', case insensitive
GNU Screen (screen):
256 color support. Internally, uses the xterm palette, but this is only
relevant when running screen inside a terminal with fewer than 256 colors,
in which case screen will attempt to map between its own 256 color cube
and the colors supported by the real terminal to the best of its ability.
-------------------------------- Bad Terminals -------------------------------
This is a list of terminals known *_not_* to have high color support:
** (as of OS X 10.5.2)
aterm (as of version 1.00.01)
xiterm (as of version 0.5)
wterm (as of version 6.2.9)
mlterm (as of version 2.9.4)
kterm (as of version 6.2.0)
7. Changelog *csapprox-changelog*
1.00 04 Oct 2008 First public release
0.90 14 Sep 2008 Initial beta release
8. Contact Info *csapprox-author*
Your author, a Vim nerd with some free time, was sick of seeing terminals
always get the short end of the stick. He'd like to be notified of any
problems you find - after all, he took the time to write all this lovely
documentation, and this plugin, which took more time than you could possibly
imagine to get working transparently for every colorscheme he could get his
hands on. You can contact him with any problems or praises at
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