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

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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


Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin, DevOps engineer, and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. Get the latest tutorials on SysAdmin, Linux/Unix and open source topics via RSS/XML feed or weekly email newsletter.

40 comment

  1. 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.

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

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

  6. 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

  7. 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 :)

  8. 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

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

    sudo update-alternatives –config vi

  10. 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?

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