I'm just getting started with Vim. It's a fun experience, but I've found it to be kind of overwhelming. I'm trying to get this plugin installed, vim-airline, but I'm having a lot of trouble. The Installation section on the Github page simply states:

copy all of the files into your ~/.vim directory

Presumably, this means download the .zip, extract it, and copy all of those files into ~/.vim/. I did this, but Vim just starts up like normal, and running :help airline just gives:

Sorry, no help for airline

I assume that this means it isn't getting installed. Also, the statusbar remains the same. I'm new to Vim and would really like to get this working. Thanks in advance!

EDIT: I also tried putting the files into /usr/share/vim/vim73/. No dice.

EDIT 2: I ran :helptags ~/.vim/doc and now the help-page displays when I type :help airline, but I'm still not getting the plugin itself (the status bar). Vim looks the same, but it can now display the help page.

  • 1
    Please accept answer to the one that points out that Add set laststatus=2 to your vimrc. needs to be set.
    – matsko
    Feb 2, 2014 at 7:14

8 Answers 8


Check the project's FAQ.

vim-airline doesn't appear until I create a new split

Add set laststatus=2 to your vimrc.

Inside vim, do :h laststatus to understand why this is needed. If you want to know in the future if a plugin is being "loaded" or not, check :scriptnames.


I installed airline using install instructions from https://github.com/bling/vim-airline

They recommended several package managers - I picked the first one:


git clone https://github.com/bling/vim-airline ~/.vim/bundle/vim-airline

I got :help airline to work with this command:

:helptags ~/.vim/bundle/vim-airline/doc

Like you, now the help-page displays when I type :help airline.


When you download the latest version of vim-airline as .zip and unzip it to a temporary directory, you get a vim-airline-master directory in the temp directory. Inside vim-airline-master you'll find autoload, doc and plugin directories. You should either

  • copy these three directories to your ~/.vim/ if they don't yet exist (don't overwrite existing directories with same names!) or
  • copy the contents of the aforementioned three directories to existing directories under ~/.vim/

However, as a side note, I strongly suggest looking into Pathogen as I've found it the most trouble-free way to play with Vim plugins.

  • Yes, I tried copying the three directories, autoload, doc, and plugin into ~/.vim/ using cp -r. Don't worry, cp -r will not overwrite existing directories -- it will simply "combine" them. In fact, I didn't even have a ~/.vim/ directory before I tried this. As for Pathogen, I couldn't get that installed either! It seems whatever plugin I try to install is ignored. Never used Vim before, so I'm not really sure what to do...
    – MunkyCheez
    Aug 22, 2013 at 2:10
  • 2
    pathogen is trivial to install, all you need to do is follow instructions from pathogen.vim: copy that file to ~/.vim/autoload and add call pathogen#infect() to ~/.vimrc. Then all plugins will be subdirectories of ~/.vim/bundle. Do you have a .vimrc file? Aug 30, 2013 at 14:06

Those manual installation instructions assume a lot -- I would say they're just wrong. The plugin files should actually be copied into various subdirectories of your ~/.vim directory.

I downloaded the zip file from its Vim scripts page and took a look.

The doc/airline.txt file goes into your ~/.vim/doc subdirectory. The plugin/airline.vim file goes into your ~/.vim/plugin subdirectory. The autoload/airline.vim file goes into your ~/.vim/autoload directory as does the autoload/airline directory and all its contents.

This is one of those more complicated plugins that should probably be installed using a plugin manager, but I wouldn't worry about that until you get a little more experience with Vim.

  • Thanks for the reply; however, this is how I already have things set up. The directories that I downloaded from the Airline site -- doc, autoload, and plugin (and the files they contain) have been merged with the respective directories within ~/.vim/.
    – MunkyCheez
    Aug 27, 2013 at 2:27

I was able to install vim-airline for gvim on Windows platform. But you should be able to follow the same process for linux based OS as well and install it without any problem.

NOTE: This installation procedure is manual.

Do the following steps to install vim-airline:

  1. Click on download zip (https://github.com/bling/vim-airline) and unzip it.

  2. For Windows Users:

    Copy all the contents in vim-airline-master and paste it into $HOME\vimfiles folder. If vimfiles folder is not present then create a new folder named vimfiles in your home folder.

    you can find your home folder by running the command :echo $HOME in vim.

    For Linux Users:

    Copy all the contents in vim-airline-master and paste it into $HOME/.vim directory using command cp -r.

  3. Now Open your .vimrc file by running the command :edit $HOME/.vimrc. Add the following line into your .vimrc file.

    set laststatus=2

    Reason: The default setting of 'laststatus' is for the statusline to not appear until a split is created. If you want it to appear all the time, add the following to your vimrc: set laststatus=2

    For more details run the command :help laststatus in vim.

  4. Finally To add help for vim-airline run the following command in vim.

    For Windows Users:

    :helptags $HOME\vimfiles\doc

    For Linux User:

    :helptags $HOME/.vim/doc
  5. Run :help airline in vim for more help and configurations.

    Enjoy the colorful line!!


I believe the files were not copied in the right place.

Under .vim directory, plugin, doc and autoload directories should go. I suspect vim-airline-master directory went under .vim directory and that is why the plugin is not getting set up.

  • (kindly see the comment I posted to your other answer)
    – MunkyCheez
    Aug 27, 2013 at 2:27

Even once you have a plugin properly installed, you may need to do this to make its help file accessible:

:helptags ~/.vim/doc

After that, running ":help airline" should work and it should tell you how to properly set it up for use in your Vim environment.

  • Okay, cool. I'm on my Mac now (OS X 10.4.11) and I tried the install again, and ran this :helptags ~/.vim/doc command, which did get the help screen for airline to display! :) However, I don't get the plugin itself -- the status bar. Do I have to "activate" it or something?
    – MunkyCheez
    Aug 22, 2013 at 2:17
  • 1
    It should activate automatically everything that is placed in autoload directory.
    – Jawa
    Aug 22, 2013 at 5:45
  • But... it's not?
    – MunkyCheez
    Aug 23, 2013 at 2:17
  • MunkyCheez: Do any of AirLine's scripts show up in the output of :scriptnames?
    – Heptite
    Aug 23, 2013 at 3:18
  • Yes, they do. Here's the output of :scriptnames: pastebin.com/JXuGFedu
    – MunkyCheez
    Aug 27, 2013 at 2:16

Do yourself a favor and install a plugin manager like pathogen.

It makes handling plugins a lot easier.

Once you have pathogen set up, installing airline is simple. If you have git:

git clone https://github.com/bling/vim-airline ~/.vim/bundle/vim-airline

Without git you have to download the zipfile vim-airline-master.zip. Then:

cd ~/.vim/bundle
unzip ~/vim-airline-master.zip
mv vim-airline-master vim-airline
  • As much as I'd like to simplify things and (eventually) get Pathogen set up, I was unsuccessful in my endeavors of doing so. I'd rather work on one issue at a time, if you know what I mean. I'll work on Pathogen again once I can get Airline installed.
    – MunkyCheez
    Aug 27, 2013 at 2:23
  • I fully inderstand, but with all due respect I suggest that getting pathogen to work should be the first priority because it will make subequent plugins much easier. You can find the install instructions on pathogen's github. The only detail missing is that execute pathogen#infect() should be the first command in your ~/.vimrc. Aug 27, 2013 at 17:17

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