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[g]Vim in Python mode : Recompilation in Windows

Vim editor is best known between the developers who work on Unix systems – it’s a emacs competitor, something to call IDE-in-a-terminal – this editor, with proper dexterity and tuning (it seems to me, the amount of required dexterity is a little less and the required efforts for tuning are more obvious than in emacs, but the last has the real powerful functionality – it’s a programmer’s choice what to use) can make most of development processes faster and easier not in the expense of such advantages like auto-completion and project navigation. But if you plan to use it for Python development in Windows with all the advantages like these – you'’ll need to make some efforts, and the main effort is recompilation…

Let me present you some links to read about the subject:


A compilation was performed with [g]Vim 7.1, Python 2.5.2, Tcl 8.5.1, Cygwin 1.5.25-11 on Windows XP SP2 but the scenario, in fact, might be mostly independent from any versions numbers.

Installing required software

So let’s prepare. We need to install the language first – Python (if it is not installed) and, in you plan to use Tcl – Tcl/Tk (starting at some moment the Tcl language became a property of ActiveState: you can download a free ActiveTcl package). The dynamic libraries of these languages are used through the compilation process.

To work with archives and to make a compilation process possible you’ll need a Unix-utilities emulator running under Windows - it is Cygwin. It includes the the gcc compiler, the our “boss” of compilation (there is a way to make it with Borland compiler, but please believe me, this way is much more complicated) and all the secondary stuff that will be required for it. The installer works in not habitual way – it downloads files and packages only just after you have selected them (and just if you choose to set everything up using Internet, but it is required for the first time anyway) – herewith you, possibly, will return to installer to update or reinstall or install some more packages quite often. However, to install just the minimal set of stuff required in our case – you need to select only several items: just after choosing a way of setting up (for current moment the most stable mirror was (but literally in these seconds it was removed from the list of official mirrors): if you’ll get download errors – you will be returned to the mirror selection screen automatically) in the list of the packages, ensure that you are in Category mode (switch it with View button at the top, if required), and near the All item, click Default label several times to get it read as Uninstall (not to install the packages you don’t need) and select the next items: Utils/patch, Devel/gcc-g++, Devel/make, System/man and Devel/gcc-mingw (the last is already selected, may be, and if it’s true, then they have fixed the major problem that affected the whole compilation process :) ) – now some other items will be automatically selected (let’s re-check): Shells/bash, Utils/bzip2 and Devel/mingw-runtime (the last is immensely important). Also I recommend to install Web/wget to make the further downloading of patches easier. That’s all about Cygwin at the moment, you can press install.

Now we need to install gVim to dissect. You can tune it up for Python using this article I’ve mentioned before - but when you’ll try to get auto-complete working, Vim will say that it requires to be recompiled with +python key and it is exactly what we plan to do.


Run cmd and ensure that you have your name and your computer name set in your USERNAME and USERDOMAIN environment variables (echo %username%@%userdomain%) and your PATH contains a path to bin of Cygwin. HOME may be set to your “My documents” folder (the place where your Vim configuration file vimrc is stored), and VIM shoul point to the installed working Vim editor, preferrably in 8.3 format (i.e.: `C:\PROGRA~1\VIM). You can change variables values in the dialog located here: My computer → Options → Advanced → Environment Variables.

It is also important to get the sources, so we download them for the current installed version (be careful – namely the sources for Unix, even when you compile under Win32) (using the previous link you ca also download the debug files, but debugging is not covered in this article so it is not very required). Along with that sources you need to get language (-lang) and extra files for Windows (-extra) for the corresponding version from here.

Also, if you use a stable release and you want to install the newest patches – follow this link (correct the version number if you need) to get them. There is a problem gere, because they pack the patches only when their count reaches one hundred (001-100, 101-200 and so on), so for example if their count is 275 - you’ll need to download the late 75 files manually or by creating a batch-script which uses telnet. However, we have Cygwin installed, so we can make an .sh-script, executing the same functions using wget, it can look something like this:


for i in `seq 201 278`;

Now let’s sort the sources in order that is required for compilation.

Source archive, -extra and -lang archives are required to be unpacked one by one (replacing the old files, though) in some directory, keeping the structure (let it be C:/devel/vim-src/vim71 in our case): there inside the /doc, /nsis, /src, /farsi and s.o. directories must be placed. You can use bzip2 from Cygwin to unpack, or an internal archives plugin of Total Commander file manager, or a 7-zip archivator or any other archive manager that copes well with .tar.gz/ :).

In /runtime subdirectory you can place .vim files, /doc and /plugins from your working version of Vim editor - so the patches will also be applied to them accordingly, if you plan to use the patches way. Patches can be placed to /patches directory, by the way.


To install patches, you need to execute patch command from Cygwin set over every one of them, unpacking the archives with bunches of hundreds of patches, provisionally. In this case I’ve used .bat-files instead of .sh-script (you need to correct the numbers of patches to apply your variant, of course):

@ECHO off
ECHO changing directory to parent...

CD ..

ECHO -------------------- %Date% -------------------- >> patching-src.log

ECHO %CD%: applying first 200 patches

patch -p0 < patches/7.1.001-100 >> patching-src.log 2>&1
patch -p0 < patches/7.1.101-200 >> patching-src.log 2>&1

ECHO %CD%: applying the last patches

FOR /L %%B IN (201,1,278) DO
    patch -p0 < patches/7.1.%%B >> patching-src.log 2>&1

ECHO Finished


@ECHO on

Place this file in /patches directory, ensure the directories structure matches the one described above, correct numbers and execute it. In the sources root there will be a patching-src.log file created, where you can monitor the results of patching procedure. If patch utility wasn’t found, ensure Cygwin path is in you PATH. If some (small amount of) files has not been found and patched - there is nothing to worry about, they may relate to XWindow-version.

Now we go directly to the compilation process, from Cygwin console. There is only execution of three commands required – change to the source directory (Cygwin mounts your drives in /cygdrive/ point: correct the paths to you Python and Tcl installation folder and their concrete versions, but if you compiling a version without Tcl support – just remove the coinciding parameters) and create vim.exe (console version) and gvim.exe (GUI-version) files:

$ cd /cygdrive/c/devel/vim-src/vim71
$ make -B -f Make_cyg.mak GUI=no \
    PYTHON=/cygdrive/c/devel/Python PYTHON_VER=25 DYNAMIC_PYTHON=yes \
    TCL=/cygdrive/c/devel/Tcl TCL_VER=85 DYNAMIC_TCL=yes vim.exe
$ make -B -f Make_cyg.mak OLE=yes \
    PYTHON=/cygdrive/c/devel/Python PYTHON_VER=25 DYNAMIC_PYTHON=yes \
    TCL=/cygdrive/c/devel/Tcl TCL_VER=85 DYNAMIC_TCL=yes gvim.exe

You can ignore warnings and even some of the errors if they relate to Python or Tcl, if process is still going and .exe-files are created in the end. If everything has ended up successfully, then you’ll find both .exe files in src directory. Make a backup of existing files in working version of Vim (i.e. vim.exe.bak and gvim.exe.bak) and replace them with the ones just compiled. If you’ve applied the pathces, then place the *.vim files, /doc/ and /plugins directories back from /runtime directory, making a backup before, replacing the old versions. Now launch Vim or gVim from the working Vim directory and re-check the version and the compilation options in the same place to have +python key – it must be ok in most cases.

Possible drawbacks

During the process of compiltion I’ve met two errors: cannot exec cc1: No such file or directory and ld: cannot fin -lgcc. Both of them are known to the authors of Cygwin, however in mine versions the were not yet solved. The first one is temporary solved by adding a directory with cc1.exe executable file in local Cygwin PATH prior to compilation:

$ PATH=$PATH:/cygdrive/c/devel/cygwin/lib/gcc/i686-pc-cygwin/3.4.4

The second one is solved the same way the first must to – by installing Devel/gcc-mingw (they promised to make it automatically when user chooses gcc in future) while installing Cygwin. It is important to install the packages in same time, so if the error reappears still – try to select Reinstall mode in Cygwin installer just in the same place where you’ve selected Uninstall before and re-install all packages again.

Tuning up Vim for Python


Basing on this article I’ve created a pack (you can take it here) collected from the last versions of plugins mentioned there (Project, PythonComplete, NERD_Commenter, VCSCommand, RunScript and TagList plus, over them — PyDiction) + minimal setting (in ftplugin/python.vim, practically identical to the one mention in the article (TabWrapper function changed + another way to include dictionary) – omni completion is set to Tab). You need to extract the contents to the <path_to_installed_vim>\vimfiles. For taglist plugin you’ll need to download ctags from here, after unpacking to any directory, add its path to the PATH environment variable. Then you need to run vim and execute the command:

:helptags $VIM\vimfiles\doc

Then you’ll have a possibility to use :help <plugin_name> to get documentation of the corresponding plugin.

The default auto-completion, if you use this package settings, is called with Tab key, context-completion (omni completion) – by Ctrl+Enter and Ctrl+Space, and completing keywords and modules – by Ctrl+Tab (when you have a lot of variants, dictionary is loaded slow, so I’ve set it to a not-so-easy combination).

To include the proposed by specification first lines in python files header automatically when created, add the code below to the <path_to_installed_vim>\_vimrc (filename line is added to demonstrate a possibilities to add a file name):

function! BufNewFile_PY()
   0put = '#!/usr/bin/env python'
   1put = '#-*- coding: utf-8 -*-'
   $put = '#-*- filename: ' . expand('') . ' -*-'
   $put = ''
   $put = ''
   normal G

autocmd BufNewFile *.py call BufNewFile_PY()

…So now you can program in Python with comfort.

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