Compiling Vim from source


Vim 8 was announced in September 2016 and I have decided to compile it from the source. The default config does not include Python support and some of my plugins require this.

The most thorough guide I have found is in the Wiki for the Vim plugin YouCompleteMe. However, I had to make a few tweaks to make it work.


First off, clone the Vim repository with

git clone
In the cloned directory the installation setup is managed with the configure script. To enable Python support the “Python config dir” is needed, which is returned from the command python-config --configdir. On one computer,
$ which python
and the “config” dir is /usr/lib/python2.7/config-x86_64-linux-gnu. On another computer where the Anaconda distribution is used,
$ which python
and the “config” dir is /usr/local/anaconda/lib/python2.7/config. You cannot use both Python 2 and Python 3, so I go for Python 3.

On the Linux Mint distribution I end up with the following options:

./configure --with-features=huge \
            --enable-multibyte \
            --enable-rubyinterp=yes \
            --enable-python3interp=yes \
            --with-python3-config-dir=/usr/lib/python3.4/config-3.4m-x86_64-linux-gnu \
            --enable-perlinterp=yes \
            --enable-luainterp=yes \
            --enable-fail-if-missing \
            --disable-gui \
            --enable-cscope \

The option --enable-fail-if-missing causes the configure command to stop if any of the other options are not available instead of just printing a small notification.

The “prefix” option is explained by ./configure --help:

By default, make install will install all the files in /usr/local/bin, /usr/local/lib etc. You can specify an installation prefix other than /usr/local using --prefix, for instance --prefix=$HOME.

So my --prefix is actually superfluous, but I keep it here for reference.

After the configure script has completed the actual compilation can commence. I did this in two steps:

sudo make install

The make install copies the binary to $PREFIX/bin and the runtime dir to $PREFIX/share/vim/vim80 (and probably other things).

To verify that the desired features are enabled, run vim --version and make sure there is a “+” in front of these features.


On YouCompleteMe’s Wiki it is mentioned that the VIMRUNTIMEDIR should be set in the first make.

As a side note, VIMRUNTIMEDIR is the directory Vim use for a lot of run time configuration like syntax highlighting as explained e.g. here.

It worked for me to perform the first compilation with

make VIMRUNTIMEDIR=/home/robert/vim/runtime
sudo make install
But it also turned out to be unnecesarry. When running make install a large part of the output consists of copying the runtime directory to /usr/local/share/....

>> Home