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vi

Vi is a text editor.  Note: a text editor, not a word processor.  It doesn't format or print or display graphs or cook your dinner; vi is a text editor: it edits text.

The original vi was written by Bill Joy as part of BSD Unix.  In time, it was ported to other Unix flavours, and by degrees took over the mantle of "standard editor" from the mighty ed.  It is still the one editor you are guaranteed to find on any Unix system.

Nowadays there is a "family" of vi-like editors, available on various platforms, including (if we count vim as vi) terminal and GUI versions for Mac OS X, The nearest thing to "true vi" is probably nvi.  This is the vi that comes with FreeBSD and OpenBSD. Linux distributions generally prefer elvis or vim.

vi has a reputation for being cryptic, arcane and generally user-hostile. It is true that learning to use the program entails navigating a steep learning curve; once the effort of learning is over, though, vi is a fine tool for writing.  I switched from emacs to vi simply because I found its interface the best for editing — for a touch typist, it is surely unbeatable.  And then, as they say, Emacs is a nice operating system, but I prefer Unix. vi fits in with the Unix way. It is a software tool for editing files.  That's what I want an editor to be.  When I'm writing, I don't want to "process words" (whatever that is), I don't want tables and graphs, I don't want to run Basic programs...  

The author of vi, Bill Joy, may not use it any more, but I will until they pry 'h', 'j', 'k', 'l' from my cold, dead fingers!

vi Resources

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This page was brought to you by ksh, vi, m4, sed & make, courtesy of openbsd.
Last changed: Tue Nov 8 17:32:19 CET 2016

pay no attention to the 1x1 gif behind the curtain!