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 The most famous Unix text editor is undeniably VI (pronounced vee-eye). 

 Author:   Bill Joy 
 Homepage: http://ex-vi.sourceforge.net/
 Man Page: http://ex-vi.sourceforge.net/vi.html
 Tutorial: http://ex-vi.sourceforge.net/viin/paper.html
 Family:   ViFamily
 Platform: UNIX
 License:  BSD

See also ex

A terminal based editor.

It was written by BillJoy, one of the four founders of Sun Microsystems.

This editor spawned a whole family of clones; the ViFamily, with VI at it's root. VI is installed by default on most Unix / Linux flavours. Because it is so prevalent, VI usage is a key IT skill. If you work in unix administration/support you'll probably need to know VI (whether you like it or not!)

The ViFamily member that most resembles original VI is available here:


VI is notable for its use of modal commands as well as heavy use of regular expressions. The sam editor borrows from VI in that area. Commands can be prefixed with a number count to repeat them. You can also use a range of lines when running commands from the command line (accessed by pressing ':' in command mode).

While VI is a FullScreen TextEditor, it is line oriented in terms of commands (not stream oriented like the sam editor), which is not surprising given the nature of its commands. It is reminiscent of the UNIX ed editor: Originally vi was so called visual mode for LineBasedEditor? called ex. If you start ex with the command ex, it will start in ex-mode. If you start ex via symlink called vi, then it goes to visual mode. This command has same effect as command vi has: ex -v . Nowadays it is more common, that program binary is called vi and ex is just a symlink pointing to it.

Under Unix, "vi", "ex", and "view" (read-only mode) are "hard" links to the same executable. Vi uses the name it was called by to determine the mode it should start in.

All Linux systems I'm aware of install Vim? as vi.


I think there are still a few distributions that ship nvi instead of vim. And certainly busybox based systems like my ADSL router use the built in busybox vi rather than vim.


The *BSDs use nvi. Slackware and KateOS? use Elvis. Most everything else uses Vim.


Puppy Linux tries to keep the distro ISO small, and links Albrecht Kliene's E3 editor as vi.


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Last edited April 26, 2010 4:59 pm (diff)