Both background and colorscheme in ~/.vimrc are badly misbehaving!

I have setup solarized to work on vim and it can manually toggle between background light/dark. My general settings in ~/.vimrc are:

Plug 'altercation/vim-colors-solarized' "I use plug.vim
syntax enable
set background=light
set t_Co=256
let g:solarized_termcolors=256

Operating system: Ubuntu 14.04.; xterm and works well with 256 colors.

I'm trying to map in ~/.vimrc background toggling. For this purpose :help solarized (in vim) suggests to use:

call togglebg#map("<F9>")

but this doesn't work because it changes the colorscheme from solarized to default (my intention was to toggle only in solarized between dark and light).

So I remove from ~/.vimrc call togglebg#map("<F9>") and replaced it with what most google/superuser/vim.wikia commentators, in various flavors, have suggested with the following:

function! BgToggleSol()
    if (&background == "light")
      set background=dark 
       set background=light 

nnoremap <silent> <leader>sz :call BgToggleSol()<cr>

colorscheme solarized

But this has the same problem (that toggling resets colorscheme to default). While if colorscheme solarized is executed directly after set background=... in the if else endif clause then the background stops toggling between dark/light.

I must have exhausted nearly all possibilities, but the problem is still not going away.

Any suggestion is very welcome. Thanks in advance.


3 Answers 3


Something is definitely not right. I have in my .vimrc something like this:

set background=dark
colorscheme solarized

And when I do :set bg? after that, it shows "light". I think that's the reason the if/else/endif in you function doesn't work after 'colorsheme solarized'.

The only workaround I can think of is to maintain the state in a separate variable:

" Initially set it to "dark" or "light" according to your default
let s:mybg = "dark"
function! BgToggleSol()
    if (s:mybg ==? "light")
       set background=dark
       let s:mybg = "dark"
       set background=light
       let s:mybg = "light"
    " set background=light
    colorscheme solarized

nnoremap <silent> <leader>sz :call BgToggleSol()<cr>
  • Hmmm. What does :verbose set background report?
    – Rich
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 10:58
  • Thanks Boris Serebrov! It certainly is working. It's really nice and it's making so much difference in quality of work! Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 13:46
  • There is still a small nuance that's bugging me. The mapping togs well between dark/light using the script you drop earlier (now in my ~/.vimrc). The problem now (really a small issue) is that when I manually execute :set background? does not give always the right answer: it might be really a light screen and the cmdline reports dark and vice versa. Any suggestion why that might be and how to fix it please? Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 13:54
  • @Rich the :verbose set background says Last set from ~/.vim/plugged/vim-colors-solarized/colors/solarized.vim and this also confirms that calling colorscheme solarized also changes the background. Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 14:06
  • 1
    @AnnisMonadjem my solution is a workaround to the problem of background being set incorrectly. I would also prefer it to have correct value and then your initial code would just work and additional mybg variable would be not needed. I think you can try to report this issue to the vim-colors-solarized developers, maybe they will be able to fix it. Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 14:08

You might want something like:

map <Leader>bg :let &background = ( &background == "dark"? "light" : "dark" )<CR>

This toggles between dark and light. Leader's default, if not set otherwise, is \.

Btw you can also do so with colorschemes:

map <Leader>cs :execute ( g:colors_name == "selenized_bw" ? "colorscheme selenized" : "colorscheme selenized_bw" ) <CR>

Or together:

noremap <Leader>bg :let &background = ( &background == "dark" ? "light" : "dark" )<CR> <bar> :execute ( g:colors_name == "selenized_bw" ? "colorscheme selenized" : "colorscheme selenized_bw" ) <CR>
  • 2
    Welcome to Vi and Vim!
    – D. Ben Knoble
    Commented May 21, 2020 at 13:25
  • Thank you! What a nice surprise! :)
    – Suuuehgi
    Commented May 21, 2020 at 19:22

Here's an alternative two parter answer, that toggles both the colorscheme and the background. First, using your mapping, then a specific mapping pattern I use to mirror another popular plugin with many provided toggles.

This mapping toggles both the background to light or dark, and the colorscheme, using printf.

  1. I'll use your <leader>sz mapping here:

    nnoremap <silent><expr><leader>sz printf(":set bg=%s \| colo %s\r", &bg ==# 'dark' ? 'light' : 'dark', &bg ==# 'dark' ? 'modest' : 'moonfly')

Note that this uses <expr> in addition to your <silent> and this is required since we're using printf. Read :help <expr>

  1. I use tpope's vim-unpaired which advertises itself as "Pairs of handy bracket mappings" but it also provides many toggles that use a yo_ mapping.

    So I set my colorscheme toggle to use the same pattern:

    nnoremap <silent><expr>yot printf(":set bg=%s \| colo %s\r", &bg ==# 'dark' ? 'light' : 'dark', &bg ==# 'dark' ? 'modest' : 'moonfly')

    For some other examples of toggles, because why not, here's the list from vim-unimpaired and note that I am overwriting their colorcolumn toggle because I didn't realize it when I started using yot and evidently I never toggle that column:

    On  Off Toggle  Option
    *[ob*   *]ob*   *yob*   'background' (dark is off, light is on)
    *[oc*   *]oc*   *yoc*   'cursorline'
    *[od*   *]od*   *yod*   'diff' (actually |:diffthis| / |:diffoff|)
    *[oh*   *]oh*   *yoh*   'hlsearch'
    *[oi*   *]oi*   *yoi*   'ignorecase'
    *[ol*   *]ol*   *yol*   'list'
    *[on*   *]on*   *yon*   'number'
    *[or*   *]or*   *yor*   'relativenumber'
    *[os*   *]os*   *yos*   'spell'
    *[ot*   *]ot*   *yot*   'colorcolumn' ("+1" or last used value)
    *[ou*   *]ou*   *you*   'cursorcolumn'
    *[ov*   *]ov*   *yov*   'virtualedit'
    *[ow*   *]ow*   *yow*   'wrap'
    *[ox*   *]ox*   *yox*   'cursorline' 'cursorcolumn' (x as in crosshairs)

    tpope comments on why they chose y: "The mnemonic for y is that if you tilt it a bit it looks like a switch."


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