I pulled all the source files, and then ran the following command to configure and tried to build vim with GUI support:

/configure --enable-gui=auto

Here is some more information:

checking --enable-gui argument... yes/auto - automatic GUI support
checking whether or not to look for GTK+ 2... yes
checking --disable-gtktest argument... gtk test enabled
checking for location of Motif GUI includes... <not found>

But the vim I compiled still doesn't support GUI.

vim --version
VIM - Vi IMproved 8.1 (2018 May 18, compiled Jul  6 2018 16:24:24)
Included patches: 1-155
Compiled by coeus@debian9
Huge version without GUI.  Features included (+) or not (-):

I am using Debian Stretch. Can anyone help me?

I tried to follow up with INSTALL file, but it seems it doesn't work, and there are no error messages mentioning the GUI is not compiled... Very strange.

  • 1
    I think there is a Debian package of vim with gui called vim-gtk. I would definitely try it before compiling my own. Edit: In fact, there are several (vim-gnome, vim-athena, etc) Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 2:11

1 Answer 1


I assume that you don't have the needed libraries installed on your system to build a gui. If you read the file src/INSTALL it explains the different --enable-gui options.

For example for me I could run ./configure --enable-gui=kde && make just fine but the resulting vim did not have a gui. When I checked ./configure --enable-gui=kde | grep gui I found that

checking --enable-gui argument... Sorry, kde GUI is not supported

Only when I ran ./configure --enable-gui=gtk2 --with-features=huge && make && src/vim -g it worked properly.

Bottom line: check the output of the configure script and find out if you have the needed libs.

  • 1
    I just do this again as your said: $ ./configure --enable-gui=gtk2 | grep -i "g[tu][ki]" checking --enable-gui argument... GTK+ 2.x GUI support checking --disable-gtktest argument... gtk test enabled But when run the make, there is still no GUI support. Which file I should check for details?
    – Coeus Wang
    Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 5:17
  • 1
    If --enable-fail-if-missing is added to the ./configure step, it fails if dependencies are missing. That can help to detect this kind of issue.
    – Wolfson
    Commented Apr 13, 2022 at 7:18

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