Ubuntu Linux Vim Sorry, the command is not available in this version: syntax on

by on March 4, 2007 · 38 comments· LAST UPDATED May 12, 2008

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Q. I am using vim under Ubuntu Linux and whenever I type following command:
syntax on

I’m getting an error which read as follows:
E319: Sorry, the command is not available in this version: syntax on

How do I fix this problem?

A. Vim is a text editor that is upwards compatible to Vi. It can be used to edit all kinds of plain text. It is especially useful for editing programs.

There are a lot of enhancements above Vi: multi level undo, multi windows and buffers, syntax highlighting, command line editing, filename completion, on-line help, visual selection, etc

Ubuntu Linux comes with tiny version of vim.

All you need to do is installed full vim version by typing following command:
$ sudo apt-get install vim

You can add syntax on command to ~/.vimrc file

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brandon February 26, 2008 at 9:57 pm

Did you even read the question? The answer doesn’t address the question at all.


2 BR February 28, 2008 at 4:19 am

Actually answers the question.

Ubuntu natively comes with tiny vim. This does not support syntax and other fancy stuff. So if you’ve just installed Ubuntu and run vim, you will get the error reported.

In order to get syntax highlighting and other features, you must install the complete vim via apt-get.


3 arachnid March 27, 2008 at 2:07 pm

Installing the full vim via apt-get doesn’t help at all. The problem stays as it is.


4 Aia March 29, 2008 at 1:33 am

Installing vim via apt-get solved the problem. Thank you.


5 Ryan April 1, 2008 at 2:36 am

Great post, solved my problem, thanks!


6 Michael April 2, 2008 at 1:07 pm

Works perfectly – who would have thought – two vim packages.


7 breno Leitao May 3, 2008 at 9:09 pm

you should be using vim-tiny that is the default package in Ubuntu.
You should install a more bloated version. :-)


8 nicholas June 28, 2008 at 6:34 am

It works. ha ha


9 curran July 17, 2008 at 2:46 pm

Thank you for this post, it worked fine!


10 dan August 29, 2008 at 6:54 am

solved my problem.

Thank you.


11 patrick September 23, 2008 at 6:47 pm

Thank you :-)


12 dan October 4, 2008 at 7:46 pm

I’m running Debian and I came across the same issue. I originally thought I was using some archaic version of vim! This article did the trick.


13 Andre October 29, 2008 at 8:27 pm

Works fine. Tk’s


14 argon November 21, 2008 at 10:21 pm

Thank you. I have apt-got vim, and my world is colorful now :)


15 elinusliga December 26, 2008 at 9:41 am

My Ubuntu 8.10 natively comes with vim-tiny. By installing full vim, now the syntax highlighting works.
The vi command no longer points to /usr/bin/vim.tiny. Instead it now points to /usr/bin/vim.basic

$ readlink -f `which vi`

$dpkg -S /usr/bin/vim.basic
vim: /usr/bin/vim.basic

Thanks so much Vivek!


16 Dom January 7, 2009 at 9:52 am

Ole! Thanks.


17 wooky January 19, 2009 at 4:18 pm

It works, thanks.


18 Pat January 27, 2009 at 12:26 am

Worked for me too. Thanks.


19 Jonatan Castro March 6, 2009 at 1:01 am

excellent tutorial!


20 nat April 1, 2009 at 2:26 pm

I was getting the same error. Dint know that I was running vim.tiny :D…. Thanx for the post .. Thank you . :)


21 Patrick August 20, 2009 at 6:40 am

Thanks for the tip! It solves my problem:)


22 Dhara September 22, 2009 at 5:59 am

Thanks a lot..it has solved my problem .Top of it other few errors are also solved …


23 Anon October 14, 2010 at 9:37 am

This is long-winded answer which is why a few people didn’t understand it.

The answer is the default version doesn’t have syntax highlight, so install the full version using:

sudo apt-get install vim


24 Akash November 10, 2010 at 5:24 pm

hey this was very useful, before trying your soln i tried
apt-get update vi ….. but no luck

what to say vivek,, u r just too good :)


25 Rossey November 25, 2010 at 11:06 am

I had the same problem on Ubuntu 9.10, but this didn’t fix the problem!

I had to remove vim, vim-tiny
sudo apt-get remove vim vim-tiny

And reinstall vim
sudo apt-get install vim


26 ixjnpns April 5, 2011 at 9:28 am

same problem, thx for help!


27 Phani April 15, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Thanks for your help. It solved my problem.


28 puck June 8, 2011 at 9:45 am

It works on debian 6.0


29 Enes November 30, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Thanks for the post. It solved my problems…


30 majkel May 17, 2012 at 5:19 am



31 Rob October 3, 2012 at 11:26 am

Sill works, Ubuntu 12.04


32 maru February 22, 2013 at 7:11 am

You may also need to run the following command, to use the “non-tiny” vi:

sudo update-alternatives –config vi


33 TY May 4, 2013 at 7:50 am

great! Your’are my hero.


34 John Coleman May 20, 2013 at 5:30 pm

DOH! DUH! Now my highlighting works. Thanks.


35 Vijay Kanta September 30, 2013 at 2:11 pm

The answer is not proper for people who are facing issues when vim is installed from source. Do you have a solution for people facing this problem after installing vim from source?


36 Rajesh November 30, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Thanks!!! installed the full version of vim, resolved the problem


37 LuisaG January 30, 2015 at 8:29 pm

Works fine, thanks


38 Tony January 31, 2015 at 4:12 am

thanks a lot


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