*Copyright 1991 by Simon Fraser University.
The vi editor is available on almost all Unix systems. vi can be used from any type of terminal because it does not depend on arrow keys and function keys–it uses the standard alphabetic keys for commands.
vi (pronounced “vee-eye”) is short for “vi”sual editor. It displays a window into the file being edited that shows 24 lines of text. vi is a text editor, not a “what you see is what you get” word processor. vi lets you add, change, and delete text, but does not provide such formatting capabilities as centering lines or indenting paragraphs.
This help note explains the basics of vi:
vi has many other commands and options not described here. The following resources can help you get started using the vi editor, and are available at the UW University Book Store:
You may use vi to open an already existing file by typing
where “filename” is the name of the existing file. If the file is not in your current directory, you must use the full pathname.
Or you may create a new file by typing
where “newname” is the name you wish to give the new file.
To open a new file called “testvi,” enter
"testvi" [New file]
vi has two modes:
In command mode, the letters of the keyboard perform editing functions (like moving the cursor, deleting text, etc.). To enter command mode, press the escape <Esc> key.
In order to begin entering text in this empty file, you must change from command mode to insert mode. To do this, type
Nothing appears to change, but you are now in insert mode and can begin typing text. In general, vi’s commands do not display on the screen and do not require the Return key to be pressed.
Type a few short lines and press <Return> at the end of each line. If you type a long line, you will notice the vi does not word wrap, it merely breaks the line unceremoniously at the edge of the screen.
To move the cursor to another position, you must be in command mode. If you have just finished typing text, you are still in insert mode. Go back to command mode by pressing <Esc>. If you are not sure which mode you are in, press <Esc> once or twice until you hear a beep. When you hear the beep, you are in command mode.
The cursor is controlled with four keys: h, j, k, l.
Key Cursor Movement --- ---------------
h left one space j down one line k up one line l right one space
When you have gone as far as possible in one direction, the cursor stops moving and you hear a beep. For example, you cannot use l to move right and wrap around to the next line, you must use j to move down a line. See the section entitled “Moving Around in a File” for ways to move more quickly through a file.
Editing commands require that you be command mode. Many of the editing commands have a different function depending on whether they are typed as upper- or lowercase. Often, editing commands can be preceded by a number to indicate a repetition of the command.
To delete a character from a file, move the cursor until it is on the incorrect letter, then type
The character under the cursor disappears. To remove four characters (the one under the cursor and the next three) type
To delete the character before the cursor, type
To delete a word, move the cursor to the first letter of the word, and type
This command deletes the word and the space following it.
To delete three words type
To delete a whole line, type
The cursor does not have to be at the beginning of the line. Typing dd deletes the entire line containing the cursor and places the cursor at the start of the next line. To delete two lines, type
To delete from the cursor position to the end of the line, type
To replace one character with another:
To replace one word with another, move to the start of the incorrect word and type
The last letter of the word to be replaced will turn into a $. You are now in insert mode and may type the replacement. The new text does not need to be the same length as the original. Press <Esc> to get back to command mode. To replace three words, type
To change text from the cursor position to the end of the line:
To insert text in a line:
The text is inserted BEFORE the cursor.
To add text to the end of a line:
This adds text AFTER the cursor.
To insert a blank line below the current line, type
To insert a blank line above the current line, type
To join two lines together:
To join three lines together:
To undo your most recent edit, type
To undo all the edits on a single line, type
There are shortcuts to move more quickly though a file. All these work in command mode.
Key Movement --- --------
w forward word by word b backward word by word $ to end of line 0 (zero) to beginning of line H to top line of screen M to middle line of screen L to last line of screen G to last line of file 1G to first line of file <Control>f scroll forward one screen <Control>b scroll backward one screen <Control>d scroll down one-half screen <Control>u scroll up one-half screen
To move quickly by searching for text, while in command mode:
The cursor moves to the first occurrence of that text.
To repeat the search in a forward direction, type
To repeat the search in a backward direction, type
With vi, you edit a copy of the file, rather than the original file. Changes are made to the original only when you save your edits.
To save the file and quit vi, type
The vi editor editor is built on an earler Unix text editor called ex. ex commands can be used within vi. ex commands begin with a : (colon) and end with a <Return>. The command is displayed on the status line as you type. Some ex commands are useful when saving and closing files.
To save the edits you have made, but leave vi running and your file open:
To quit vi, and discard any changes your have made since last saving:
vi filename edit a file named "filename" vi newfile create a new file named "newfile"
i insert text left of cursor a append text right of cursor
MOVING THE CURSOR
h left one space j down one line k up one line l right one space
x delete character nx delete n characters X delete character before cursor dw delete word ndw delete n words dd delete line ndd delete n lines D delete characters from cursor to end of line r replace character under cursor cw replace a word ncw replace n words C change text from cursor to end of line o insert blank line below cursor (ready for insertion) O insert blank line above cursor (ready for insertion) J join succeeding line to current cursor line nJ join n succeeding lines to current cursor line u undo last change U restore current line
MOVING AROUND IN A FILE
w forward word by word b backward word by word $ to end of line 0 (zero) to beginning of line H to top line of screen M to middle line of screen L to last line of screen G to last line of file 1G to first line of file <Control>f scroll forward one screen <Control>b scroll backward one screen <Control>d scroll down one-half screen <Control>u scroll up one-half screen n repeat last search in same direction N repeat last search in opposite direction
CLOSING AND SAVING A FILE
ZZ save file and then quit :w save file :q! discard changes and quit file