Bill Agee's blog

Technology musings with a twist of user empathy.

How to Set Up the Solarized Color Scheme for Vim and iTerm2

When you stare at a display full of code for hours at a time, a nice looking color scheme is worth the time it takes to set up.

Enter Solarized, a great option for improving your overall text-editing life.

My officemate Kevin has been evangelizing Solarized for a while, so today I took the plunge and set it up, and man do I wish I had done this a while ago. Much of the content described below is straight from his setup - I definitely owe him.

The set of software I’m currently using with Solarized is:

  • iTerm2 (since in my experience it handles Solarized better than
  • The command-line vim that ships with OSX (since MacVIM appears to have weird problems with :shell)
  • pathogen.vim (for easy installation of vim plugins)
  • The Solarized config files for iTerm2 and vim
  • NERDTree (a tree explorer for vim)

The results look fairly nice, IMO.

For future reference, here’s how I set everything up:

  1. Download the stable version of iTerm2:

  2. Download and unzip the latest version of the Solarized .zip file (it contains the iTerm2 preset files you’ll need):

  3. In iTerm2, open “iTerm2 > Preferences > Profiles > Colors”, and click “Load Presets…” to load the Solarized color schemes (light and dark) that are found in the .zip in “solarized/iterm2-colors-solarized/”

    For more info see the iTerm2 README from - the path to it in the zip file is:


  4. Use these instructions from the pathogen github README to install it - pathogen will be used further down to install solarized.vim and NERDTree:

  5. Install solarized.vim using pathogen:

    (For more info see

    $ cd ~/.vim/bundle
    $ git clone git://
    In the parent directory of vim-colors-solarized:
    $ mv vim-colors-solarized ~/.vim/bundle/

  6. Install NERDTree:

    (See also

    cd ~/.vim/bundle
    git clone git://

  7. Set up your .vimrc appropriately - here’s mine:

    set ruler
    set cursorline
    "set number
    call pathogen#infect()
    syntax on

    filetype plugin indent on

    syntax enable

    " Solarized stuff
    let g:solarized_termtrans = 1
    set background=dark
    colorscheme solarized

  8. OPTIONAL: A nice choice for a terminal font is Inconsolata-dz - you can download it here, and configure iTerm2 to use it: