Vim allows us to customize the statusline shown at the bottom of each window. To toggle the statusline visibility, the laststatus option can be used. It can be set to any of these values:

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0: never
1: only if there are at least two windows (default)
2: always

If we want to always show the statusline, we can use this command:

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set laststatus=2

Customizing the statusline

By default, the statusline shows the name of the buffer, but it can be customized quite a bit. To customize the statusline, we can set the statusline option:

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set statusline=Hello

Because the set command, allows us to set multiple options in one line, spaces have to be escaped:

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set statusline=Hello\ world

Many options can be used to customize the statusline (To see all of them, use help statusline). I’m going to go over the ones I find more useful.

A useful piece of information to include in the statusline is the path of the file in the current buffer. You can show the full path using %F:

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set statusline=%F

Because file paths might become very long, you might want to limit the number of characters it can use:

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set statusline=%.40F

This will show the last 40 characters of the full path.

I also find useful to know if the file I’m working on has been modified. We can use the %m flag for this:

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set statusline=%.40F\ %m

The statusline of a buffer with a modified file will look like this:

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/home/adrian/file.txt [+]

As our statusline becomes more complex, it will very quickly become hard to read. To aid reading we can use multiple lines to define it:

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set statusline=%.40F        " Full file path, at most 40 characters
set statusline+=\ %m        " Modified flag

Another cool thing we can do is colorize our statusline. To do this we use this format

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set statusline=%.40F        " Full file path, at most 40 characters
set statusline+=%#HLname#   " Use HLname color for content after this
set statusline+=\ %m        " Modified flag

HLname can be any of the colors returned by the highlight command. The actual values vary depending on your current theme and plugins. This is a valid one:

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set statusline=%.40F        " Full file path, at most 40 characters
set statusline+=%#Error#    " Use Error color for content after this
set statusline+=\ %m        " Modified flag

To reset the color to the default one we can use %*:

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set statusline=%.40F        " Full file path, at most 40 characters
set statusline+=\           " A space
set statusline+=%#Error#    " Use Error color for content after this
set statusline+=%m          " Modified flag
set statusline+=%*          " Restore default highlight

If you don’t like any of the colors returned by the highlight command, you can create your own color:

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highlight MyCustomColor ctermfg=Green ctermbg=Gray

To see the available colors, you can use help cterm-colors. Now you can use that color:

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set statusline=%.40F                " Full file path, at most 40 characters
set statusline+=\                   " A space
set statusline+=%#MyCustomColor#    " Use MyCustomColor for content after this
set statusline+=%m                  " Modified flag
set statusline+=%*                  " Restore default highlight

One last thing I’m going to add, is the current line and column number, but I want this information to be on the right side instead of the left.

First lets look at how to show the current line and column number, as well as the total number of lines in the file. To get the current column number we can use %c, for the line number %l, and for the total number of lines %L. Let’s put this together:

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set statusline=%l,                " Line number
set statusline+=\                 " A space
set statusline+=%3c               " Column number
set statusline+=\ \|\             " A separator
set statusline+=%L                " Total number of lines

I used %3c for the colum number to always reserve at least 3 characters for the column number. I did this because I don’t want my statusline to be jumping around too much when I’m moving in a file.

To split the status bar into a left and a right side, we just need to use %=:

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set statusline=%.40F                " Full file path, at most 40 characters
set statusline+=\                   " A space
set statusline+=%#MyCustomColor#    " Use MyCustomColor for content after this
set statusline+=%m                  " Modified flag
set statusline+=%*                  " Restore default highlight
set statusline+=%=                  " Split the left and right sides
set statusline+=%l,                 " Line number
set statusline+=\                   " A space
set statusline+=%3c                 " Column number
set statusline+=\ \|\               " A separator
set statusline+=%L                  " Total number of lines

As a last touch, I added some colors:

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highlight StatuslineFilename ctermfg=Black ctermbg=DarkGreen
highlight StatuslineModified ctermfg=DarkMagenta ctermbg=LightGreen
highlight StatuslineNumbers ctermfg=Black ctermbg=DarkYellow

set statusline=%#StatuslineFilename#   " Set color for file path
set statusline+=%F                     " Full file path, at most 40 characters
set statusline+=\                      " A space
set statusline+=%#StatuslineModified#  " Set color for modified flag
set statusline+=%m                     " Modified flag
set statusline+=%#StatuslineFilename#  " Set color for the rest of the bar
set statusline+=%=                     " Split the left and right sides
set statusline+=%#StatuslineNumbers#   " Set color for line numbers
set statusline+=%l,                    " Line number
set statusline+=\                      " A space
set statusline+=%-3c                    " Column number
set statusline+=\ \|\                  " A separator
set statusline+=%L                     " Total number of lines

This is how this statusline looks:

Custom Vim statusline

Nerdtree

If you use Nerdtree like me, you probably noticed, that the nerdtree buffer adds some information to its statusline, but because it is so narrow, it is impossible to read. To get rid of it, you can add this to your .vimrc:

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let g:NERDTreeStatusline = '%#NonText#'
[ vim  productivity  ]
Vim command line mode
Spell and Grammar checking on vim
Setting the search directory for Ctrlp vim plugin
Disable expandtab in Vim
Adjusting the width of Nerdtree navigator