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Josh O'Rourke

Co-founder of Saoirse Media and Escape Plan. Program Lead of Solution Architecture at King's Daughters Health System.

Vim Tip: How to Use Vertical Guides

Vertical guides are a feature of most modern text editors that are useful when aligning text. Programmers typically use these to ensure that their code is indented properly or doesn’t exceed a certain line length (typically 80 or 100 characters).

In Vim, this feature is called colorcolumn. When set, colorcolumn will change the color of one or more columns in the current window. Using this feature is easy. Simply set the colorcolumn variable to the value of the column you want to highlight in the vim command line. Below is an example of setting the colorcolumn to 80.

:set colorcolumn=80

If you want to highlight multiple columns, you can give colorcolumn a comma-seperated list of values.

:set colorcolumn=80,100

To turn colorcolumn off, you can simply set the value back to zero.

:set colorcolumn=0

Finally, if you want to change the color, you can use the highlight command.

:highlight ColorColumn guibg=red

Further Reading

The Vim help documentation is an excellent resource if you know how to find what you’re looking for. You can find more information about colorcolumn by entering :help colorcolumn on the Vim command line.