Don't Forget Vi

After covering cross-platform editing tools, I received numerous email

responses pointing out that I had not mentioned the editor vi. Vi, one

of the oldest UNIX text editors, is still in widespread use and, yes,

versions do exist for Windows and other platforms, making it a cross-

platform tool as well.

Most Linux distributions include at least one (if not more) enhanced

versions of vi, typically elvis and vim. Of these, vim seems to get the

most votes for the extra editing features it offers. Vim, short for vi

improved, is available for free at At the vim

download site (, you can download

versions of vim for Windows, UNIX/Linux, OS/2, Amiga, Atari, MacOS,

BeOS, VMS, and even DOS, although some of the less popular platform

versions are out of date. You can download pre-built binary versions

from You'll find quite a lot of UNIX

and Linux versions available, and even a Windows CE version.

My co-author on "Teach Yourself Linux", Steve Oualline, is a vim fan.

We wrote an extended vim tutorial, called the Vim Cookbook, at A word of warning, though, vi,

even enhanced by vim, is not for the faint of heart. It works on the

idea of modes with keyboard commands to switch between modes. For

example, typing the letter "i" enters insert mode, and Esc drops back

into command mode. This use of modes and keyboard commands can make vi

hard to learn for newcomers. Vi is not a graphical application.

I used vi and clones like vim for years until I gradually switched to

more graphical text editors. Especially combined with xterm or other

shell windows, you can become really productive with vi, using the

shell window ability to select and paste.

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