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Just some alien fruit salad to keep you in the zone.

One day I had gotten totally annoyed with the neon-on-day-glo-vomit-with-sprinkles-of-multicolor colorschemes for the Vim editor, so I decided to write my own. After it seemed to be somewhat ready, I named it Zenburn and uploaded it to the Vim site. This was in 2002. Now it seems the little colorscheme has started to grow on its own! What follows is the short history of Zenburn.

After the initial upload, time passed like time has the habit of doing. People seemed to like the color scheme, and I was happy, as I had made it for myself and tweaked it carefully, little by little, while doing real development using the editor, so it was nice to see people appreciate it. Some more time passed, and I had almost forgotten about Zenburn.

Then one day, the people of Cream contacted me and wanted to include Zenburn as part of the Cream distribution. Although a bit perplexed, I was honored that they chose to include it. The Cream posse had some nice suggestions which went in to Zenburn, and a new version was uploaded shortly afterwards.

Again, time passes, and, as I use Zenburn daily, I tweak it little by little whenever I stumble upon odd spots which break the harmony. Around this time or later, moving around at work gets me a place next to a window. The zen which burns too pale doesn’t feel perfect, so I tweak the colors to achieve a slightly darker version. From this point forward, Zenburn is actually two schemes in one – one for light, one for dark, toggleable as described within the color scheme itself.

One day a mail comes in from Kurt Maier. Kurt had done very nice work by porting the entire Zenburn to 256-color cterm entries – this means Zenburn-colors in terminals with 256 color support. We merged my unreleased Zenburn with Kurt’s cterm-Zenburn with a few mail iterations, and a new version was soon uploaded.

Currently I know of the following pages with healthy and nutritious Zenburn-derivatives:

A tip of the hat to you. May you be forever in the zone.

If you can help make Zenburn better, please contact me. For example, currently there is very little support for the latest syntax groups (which means they will likely end up looking totally strange). This is mostly because I might not use such syntax groups myself, at least not until someone tells me how and where and why to use them.

And I’ll try hard to upload some unreleased changes soonish.

PS. You might want to check this Vim color scheme testing tipVim color scheme testing tip by Shan Leung Maverick Woo. The page is handy if you wish to see what different color schemes look like and which ones you might want to try.

Edit: thanks to Jakub C. for notifying me I had a wrong name for him!

Edit: added link to Notepad++ port, thank you to Dominykas “Chaosteil” C!

Edit: added link to Henrik Bergius’ page. (Seems to be updating a lot – me thinks I should make a static page of this post….)

38 Comments so far
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You’re my color theme hero, Jani. I’ve been using Zenburn every day for the last three years and I still love it. May you be forever in the zone, too.

Thanks for sharing Zenburn’s history. May the zone be with you. :)

Funny thing, I’m not Justin Mecham but that’s my screenshot. ;] Oh, and there is my blog, kind of zenburn (I’m quite bad at the design department) too. :P

Oh… I know where you got that Justin Mecham. I guess it should be Jakub Piotr C?apa and Justin’s copyright is rather about the Jabber blog engine code. ;-)

I’m also the owner of domain and always wanted to make some sort os site with all the customizations in one place. Just, you know, “Everything zenburn!”

As you may see I failed to create this site but I could use some help and offer some hosting (not 100% stable but not on my home DSL either) if anyone would like to do such thing. :-)

I love the colors, but must I use gvim to have them? I’d like to continue using regular terminal-window vim, but the colors don’t show up right in vim!

Mark, you might enjoy Kurt’s contribution to Zenburn. He made support for 256-color terminals (peek inside Zenburn.vim file).

I’m not quite sure how to use or configure such terminals, as I don’t use such a thing myself currently. When I tried to get cterm working in the past, Konsole (of KDE) had some trouble with that. And being the lazy bastard that I am, I reverted back to GVim.

But if you get the cterm working nicely, please post here and/or send a link to your experiences so I can update this page!

Here’s an interesting Wiki page about enabling 256 colors in Vim.

I’ve created color scheme for Kate/Kdevelop, heavily inspired by your zenburn. More info. you can find at

Very cool, thanks Lukasz! Zenburn seems to be popping up in many new places, and it makes me quite happy. Btw I corrected the link too, so no worries.

One day when I have time I must go through Vim 7 features and make sure every color in the theme is consistent. E.g. markers are perhaps not so nice at the moment in Zenburn.

Thank you. Zenburn is being used.

I don’t think I’d be able to keep coding without Zenburn.

Here is my conversion of Zenburn for Notepad++, even though it only supports a few languages (like C, C++, and a few more):

Good stuff!

I started porting Zenburn to the SubEthaEdit collaborative editor:

Has anybody done any work on zenburn for IntelliJ IDEA ?

Thank you. I’ve manage to setup my PHPeclipse with zenbrun color theme and it’s great!

Nice theme! Does anyone have a WinEDT version of Zenburn?

I just created a full kde3 color scheme for zenburn. it can be found at

I’ve taken the liberty of posting a Zenburn colorscheme for konsole 2.0 in kde4 to save people having to do it manually. It’s basically a rip-off of Christoffer Sawicki’s original Zenburn for Konsole.

More here.

And you can find a Typo/Css Zenburn theme at

This is a great theme, thanks for making it. If anyone would be motivated enough to do a scite port, I’d be incredibly grateful.

The official vim tips have moved to wikia. Here is the link to the “Vim color scheme testing tip”

Don’t forget that your theme is also ported to the most hyped editor this days, Textmate :)

Congrats, dude..

Thank you Markus :)

Great colorscheme. I got it to work in gnome-terminal thanks to the Kurt zone.

Only one hiccup. After quitting Vim the terminal doesn’t reset properly so that less uses zenburn*0.75 so to speak. Any ideas how to fix that?

Bernhard, that sounds like a bug in Gnome-terminal.

If “stty sane” command fixes it, perhaps you can do an alias for Vim, such that after execution it will run “stty sane”. Something like
alias v='vim && stty sane'?

I like Zenburn. Please don’t ever take it away from me. I’d be unhappy to go back to black, and loose my sanity if I had to go back to (!) a white background. Please let me keep it forever. I’ll pay. Lots. (By the way, I take my Zenburn on Emacs, where it seems curiously at home. Perhaps you, too have an appointment of destiny with The Dark Side? We serve good beer, and we have org-mode.) Cheers, and thanks! Scot

Scot, you are welcome, and rest assured Zenburn will stay with you! And the offer about dark side beer sounds very very tempting :)

Indeed, my long term plans include learning some FP language like Haskell. Maybe then I shall learn to use Emacs too, and walk between the shadow and the light, so to speak…


Thanks a lot for a very great theme. I was setting it up on my emacs when I realized I wanted to use it as the baseline for all my UI-tweaks at the office, and as I couldn’t find a Google Chrome/Chromium version, I published one. You can follow my link, or go to its Chrome Extensions Gallery

Hi Jani,

from another zenburn lover :)

I can’t get the zenburn settings for Visual Studio 2005. The link in Jeff Atwood’s page doesn’t seem to work anymore. Could you point me to a place where I can get it?

Thanks, saludos,

Hello Roberto!

For the original file, I suggest to email Jeff and ask him. It looks like the site has changed/removed the zip in question.

However, I did manage to find this version for Visual Studio. I’m not sure if it’s the exact same as what Jeff had.

Hope this helps!

PS. If you get a new URL from Jeff, or the original zip please post a comment or email me with the new location.

Curiosity: This Zenburn’s page is white and is killing my eyes. It could have the amazing Zenburn scheme.

Sebastian, I hear you – the page color scheme is against the “don’t burn the eyeballs” ethos.

I’ve been toying with the idea of changing the page layout and colors (also for the whole blog). But so far it has always trickled to the bottom of my TODO list. Maybe some rainy day it will happen.

Hi guys, we’ve added Zenburn to our list of eclipse themes –

Looks good, thank you Roger :)

ficou muito bom o tema para o eclipse! obrigado #brasil
was very good theme for the eclipse!

I love Zenburn! <3
I found it through anrxc, who also have more zenburn themes available, for Xdefaults etc.:

When I designed a small page for my personal stuff recently, I also tried to keep it zenburn-like, which you can see if you click my name.

Thank you so much for creating zenburn. I’ve been using it for at least 4 years and haven’t even been slightly tempted to switch. I used to be a chronic colorscheme hopper. You’ve created a masterpiece. :)

I just created a zenburn for xchat. Available here!

Thanks, it’s the best color scheme ever, using it since many years.

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