I was given a plugin for Vim. It came in something called a .vimball.

  • What am I meant to do with this exactly?
  • Where do I put it?
  • Do I need to be root to install it?

2 Answers 2


Simply open the vimball file in Vim and then execute :source %.

It will move the files to their appropriate folders in your ~/.vim directory.

You don't need to be root as it just copies files to your ~/.vim directory. You can delete it after you have sourced the vimball file

  • 3
    See also :help vimball for additional vimball-related commands (in vim 7 and up I think).
    – user72
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 17:30

:UseVimball path instead of :so [name].vba for vim8-packages/dein/vim-plug/minpac

If you use vim8 pack paths or a plugin manager which supports local plugins (e.g. dein or vim-plug), you might want to install a vimball (.vba[.gz]) into a specific directory and not merge it with your ~/.vim directory.

Example: Installation of Vis (Visual Block Cmds) by Charles Campbell (DrChip)

vim8 pack path/minpac

If you use the package feature of vim8 or minpac, ~/.vim/pack/manual/start/vis would be a sensible location. The installation steps would be

$ vim http://www.drchip.org/astronaut/vim/vbafiles/vis.vba.gz
:UseVimball ~/.vim/pack/manual/start/vis

If you use dein or vim-plug, you would install the vimball not in a pack path but one of your choice and would add this plugin with a plugin manager specific line to your $MYVIMRC:


$ vim http://www.drchip.org/astronaut/vim/vbafiles/vis.vba.gz
:UseVimball ~/.vim/dein-manual/vis


$ vim http://www.drchip.org/astronaut/vim/vbafiles/vis.vba.gz
:UseVimball ~/.vim/plugged-manual/vis
Plug '~/.vim/plugged-manual/vis'

Installing new version of a default plugin

However, note that default plugins (e.g. netrw) are sourced before plugins installed into a vim 8 packpath. The source order is:

  1. $HOME/.vim/plugin
  2. $VIM/plugin
  3. $VIMRUNTIME/plugin
  4. $HOME/.vim/pack/*/start/*/plugin

This means installing a newer netrw version into a packpath is not as straightforward as one would think. See for details Vim 8 packages, how do I overwrite a default package?.

  • Note, :UseVimball needs that path to exist (e.g. mkdir -p ~/.vim/pack/manual/start/vis) as the vimball code doesn't understand the vim8 package feature and doesn't expect missing parent directories. Worse, the failure is silent.
    – Adam Katz
    Commented Aug 23, 2023 at 21:23

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