I've recently installed Ubuntu 16.04 and in the Release Notes it says

VIM defaults to python3

On my fresh install of Ubuntu 16.04 I installed vim with the following commands

$ python3 -V
Python 3.5.1+
$ vim
The program 'vim' can be found in the following packages:
$ sudo apt install vim
$ vim --version
VIM - Vi IMproved 7.4 (2013 Aug 10, compiled Apr 08 2016 11:38:28)
Included patches: 1-1689
Modified by [email protected]
Compiled by [email protected]
Huge version without GUI.  Features included (+) or not (-):
+acl             +farsi           +mouse_netterm   +tag_binary
+arabic          +file_in_path    +mouse_sgr       +tag_old_static
+autocmd         +find_in_path    -mouse_sysmouse  -tag_any_white
-balloon_eval    +float           +mouse_urxvt     -tcl
-browse          +folding         +mouse_xterm     +terminfo
++builtin_terms  -footer          +multi_byte      +termresponse
+byte_offset     +fork()          +multi_lang      +textobjects
+channel         +gettext         -mzscheme        +timers
+cindent         -hangul_input    +netbeans_intg   +title
-clientserver    +iconv           +packages        -toolbar
-clipboard       +insert_expand   +path_extra      +user_commands
+cmdline_compl   +job             -perl            +vertsplit
+cmdline_hist    +jumplist        +persistent_undo +virtualedit
+cmdline_info    +keymap          +postscript      +visual
+comments        +langmap         +printer         +visualextra
+conceal         +libcall         +profile         +viminfo
+cryptv          +linebreak       -python          +vreplace
+cscope          +lispindent      -python3         +wildignore
+cursorbind      +listcmds        +quickfix        +wildmenu
+cursorshape     +localmap        +reltime         +windows
+dialog_con      -lua             +rightleft       +writebackup
+diff            +menu            -ruby            -X11
+digraphs        +mksession       +scrollbind      -xfontset
-dnd             +modify_fname    +signs           -xim
-ebcdic          +mouse           +smartindent     -xsmp
+emacs_tags      -mouseshape      +startuptime     -xterm_clipboard
+eval            +mouse_dec       +statusline      -xterm_save
+ex_extra        +mouse_gpm       -sun_workshop    -xpm
+extra_search    -mouse_jsbterm   +syntax          
  system vimrc file: "$VIM/vimrc"
    user vimrc file: "$HOME/.vimrc"
2nd user vimrc file: "~/.vim/vimrc"
     user exrc file: "$HOME/.exrc"
 fall-back for $VIM: "/usr/share/vim"
Compilation: gcc -c -I. -Iproto -DHAVE_CONFIG_H   -Wdate-time  -g -O2 -fPIE -fstack-protector-strong -Wformat -Werror=format-security -U_FORTIFY_SOURCE -D_FORTIFY_SOURCE=1      
Linking: gcc   -Wl,-Bsymbolic-functions -fPIE -pie -Wl,-z,relro -Wl,-z,now -Wl,--as-needed -o vim        -lm -ltinfo -lnsl  -lselinux -lacl -lattr -lgpm -ldl  

$ vim --version | grep python
+cryptv  +linebreak   -python   +vreplace
+cscope  +lispindent  -python3  +wildignore

I'm aware that I could build from source, but I was wondering if I was missing something to get the python3 feature for scripting.


  • I think you're using vim.tiny? Where does /etc/alternatives/vim point? vim.gtk has +python3 on my Ubuntu 16.04 system anyway... Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 16:29
  • I thought that might be the cause, but unfortunately not. I've updated my question with relevant information. Thanks
    – R. Southee
    Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 16:47

3 Answers 3


remove vim and install vim-nox, since you don't need a GUI.

sudo apt-get install vim-nox

I had to make sure vim was entirely removed from my system by removing

ii  vim-common
ii  vim-runtime
ii  vim-gtk
ii  vim-gui-common
ii  vim-tiny

Admittedly, some of these packages were added on when trying to install vim-gnome and vim-nox. So your system may not have all those installed. You can check by running

dpkg-query -l | grep vim

Once all those were removed I successfully added Vim with a Python2 interpreter by installing nox with Py2

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install vim-nox-py2


remove vim and install vim-gnome.

sudo apt-get install vim-gnome
  • 1
    Thanks, I've decided to go with vim-nox, since I don't need a GUI
    – R. Southee
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 15:51

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