Ubuntu, Console VIM – weird characters in insert mode

Now that I feel quite comfy with VIM, over the weekend I needed to edit a config file in my Ubuntu 10.10 Virtualbox machine quickly. Instead of GVim, I just opened the file in console VIM. As I hit i to get into insert mode, a bunch of weird character boxes were inserted. That was not good at all 😦 – just when you think you’re comfortable with something if it does something totally weird. In any case, I was in too much of a hurry to bother and went about editing my file with gVim. Also, backspace was wonky (same weird characters) – so I felt better. For some reason that I fail to understand, why must Linux make proper backspace and delete handling such a pain! In any case, it’s something that I’ve dealt with enough times to know that there’ll be something on Google.

Later on, tried to see what all the fuss was about. Googling around, I found :help :fixdel and that seemed simple enough. Alas, when I tried it out, it didn’t fix the issue at all. Also, I seemed to be getting weird characters just pressing i to get into insert mode – and the VIM wiki page didn’t have anything about that. Neither did Google turn up anything that seemed related.

So today early morning, on a whim, read up a little on VIm terminal handling. I have the following in my .vimrc

set t_Co=256

Maybe it was the color escape code that was coming in – so checked out :echoe &term which returned xterm under gnome-console and builtin_gui under gvim. So I’ve put the following bit in my .vimrc and it seems to have fixed things nicely:

if &term == "xterm"
    set term=xterm-256color


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