I'm having a hard time building a VIM 7.4(obtained from vim's ftp site) with gui option. It builds ok without the gui
option. Here's how I'm doing it:

cd ~/Downloads/vim74/src
./configure --enable-gui

The above line does not seem to work because I get this output from the command:

./configure --enable-gui | grep gui
checking --enable-gui argument... no GUI support

I uncommented line 352 of the makefile to enable the gui(I think):

CONF_OPT_GUI = --enable-gui=gtk2

But when I run vim -g(after rebuilding) I get:

E25: GUI cannot be used: Not enabled at compile time

There's a suggestion in the makefile to check the generated auto/config.h and
auto/config.mk files but the files are empty(less than 10 lines).
How do you fix this?

  • possible duplicate of How can I build vim with a gui without gtk? Sep 14, 2013 at 20:07
  • @RaduRădeanu I'm not looking for the appropriate apt command, it would probably work(haven't tried it). I want a solution for when compiling from its sources.
    – Plakhoy
    Sep 14, 2013 at 20:30
  • Ok, I will retract the close vote, but I will let the comment for future users. Sep 14, 2013 at 20:39
  • Did you do a make install or just a make? if the latter, then in order to run the newly-built binary you must specify the path explicitly i.e. if you are in the vim74 directory where you issued the make command, do ./src/vim -g . It should not be necessary to specify any additional options to configure, I just tested it and the default configuration produced a GUI-enabled executable. Sep 14, 2013 at 21:40
  • @steeldriver, I've tried both with no luck. Mine does not even generate the ./src/vim -g folder, how'd you do that? Please outline the steps you are using.
    – Plakhoy
    Sep 14, 2013 at 22:22

3 Answers 3


To build Vim you will need first to install all the dependencies. This could be done using

$ sudo apt-get build-dep vim-gtk # or vim-gnome, if you prefer.

This will download and install a lot of packages that should only be needed to compile Vim. If you don't want to keep them, before running that command add this to /etc/apt/apt.conf

  Get {
     Build-Dep-Automatic "true";

This will make all the packages installed with build-dep be "marked to be autoremoved". So after you finished compiling Vim you can uninstall them using sudo apt-get autoremove.

After this, just proceed with the usual steps:

$ ./configure --with-gui=gtk2 # or gnome
$ make -j 4
$ sudo make install  
  • For me on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS sudo apt-get build-dep vim-gtk showed error until I added "Source code" checkbox in Software&Updates on "Ubuntu Software" tab. Then I made sudo apt-get update and command worked.
    – Dmitry
    Oct 8, 2020 at 19:57

If you call ./configure --enable-gui=auto, the build process will automatically build against whichever GUI libraries are available. A cursory glance suggests that gtk2 will be prioritised over gnome2.


Just run into the same issue on Ubuntu 16.04. Turns out, it happens because packages with headers/libs for GTK2/Gnome aren't installed. After sudo apt-get install gnome-devel as @RAOF advised in this post, vim --version says it has GUI GTK2 support and gvim, gvimdiff, gview symlinks are created during install.

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