Don't Forget Vi

By Eric Foster-Johnson, ITworld |  Opinion

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versions are out of date.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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