Make the ‘vim’ editor match the colours of your synesthesia.

Vimesthesia is a highlight file for the vim text editor designed to enhance the abilities of people with synesthesia.

One of the most common forms of synesthesia is grapheme/colour [1]: each letter appears with a specific colour, in a more-or-less context independent way [2]. Studies suggest that if text is presented such that the colour of each letter is tuned to match your experience then the speed at which you read, and the strength of your memory of the text could improve [1].

Try it out with these three steps:

1. Create

Click on the graphemes in the first copy of the pangram, and then tune Vimesthesia by choosing the colour that most closely matches your experience. The second copy of the pangram is provided for reference (it’s not physically coloured). You can cycle through pangrams by clicking the ‘cycle’ button. If you want to start this step again from scratch, click the ‘reset’ button.



2. Download

Click here to download a Vimesthesia install script for the highlights that you created in the previous step.

3. Install

To install Vimesthesia, run the script you downloaded in the previous step. To run the install script, enter the command ‘sh ~/Downloads/’ into your terminal, where ‘~/Downloads’ is the directory that you saved the install script to, and ‘YYYY_MM_DD-hh_mm’ is the date and time at which you downloaded the install script (the install script is named after the download date and time so that you can keep track of any modifications you make to your colour choices).

The install script will append the following lines to your ~/.vimrc file if they aren’t already present:

syntax on                                    " Added by Vimesthesia
function Vimesthesia()                       " Added by Vimesthesia
  silent set t_Co=256                        " Added by Vimesthesia
  silent set syntax=vimesthesia              " Added by Vimesthesia
endfunction                                  " Added by Vimesthesia
autocmd BufEnter * silent call Vimesthesia() " Added by Vimesthesia

The install script will also save the colours you chose in the first step to the highlight file ~/.vim/syntax/vimesthesia.vim. If you’d rather just download the highlight file on its own, it’s here.

If you want to make a modification to the colours you’ve chosen, just repeat these three steps and the new install script will overwrite the old one.

To uninstall Vimesthesia, remove the above lines from your ~/.vimrc file and remove the file ~/.vim/syntax/vimesthesia.vim. You can also uninstall Vimesthesia by downloading and running the uninstall script here.


V. Niccolai, J. Jennes, P. Stoerig, T.M. Van Leeuwen. Modality and variability of synesthetic experience. 2012. American Journal of Psychology. 125(1).

J. Simner, E. M. Hubbard. The Oxford Handbook of Synesthesia. 2014. Oxford University Press.


Please send bugs, feature requests and comments to


Vimesthesia is made available under the BSD 2 clause license. Like vim, Vimesthesia is charityware. You can use and copy it as much as you like, but you are encouraged to make a donation for needy children in Uganda. Visit the ICCF web sites for more detail, available at these URLs:

by mathpunk