8.7 Editing Texts
In order to edit files from the command line, you will get to know the
vi editor sooner or later. vi is a default editor which can be found on
nearly every UNIX/Linux system. It can run several operating modes in which
the keys you press have different functions. This does not make it very
easy for beginners, but you should know at least the most basic operations
with vi. There may be situations where no other editor than vi is
Basically, vi makes use of three operating modes:
- command mode
In this mode, vi accepts certain key combinations as commands.
Simple tasks such as searching words or deleting a line can be
- insert mode
In this mode, you can write normal text.
- extended mode
This mode is also known as colon mode as you have to enter a colon
to switch to this mode. In this mode, vi can execute also more complex
tasks such as searching and replacing text.
In the following (very simple) example, you will learn how to open and
edit a file with vi, how to save your changes and quit vi.
information about vi and vim (an improved version of vi), refer to .
8.7.1 Example: Editing with vi
NOTE: Display of Keys
In the following, find several commands that you can enter in vi by
just pressing keys. These appear in uppercase as on a keyboard. If you
need to enter a key in uppercase, this is stated explicitly by showing a
key combination including the Shift key.
To create and open a new file with vi, enter
By default, vi opens in command mode in which
you cannot enter text.
Press I to switch to insert mode. The bottom line
changes and indicates that you now can insert text.
Write some sentences. If you want to insert a new line, first press
Esc to switch back to command mode. Press
O to insert a new line and to switch to insert mode
In the insert mode, you can edit the text with the arrow keys and
To leave vi, press Esc to switch to command
mode again. Then press : which takes you to the
extended mode. The bottom line now shows a colon.
To leave vi and save your changes, type wq
(w for write; q
for quit) and press Enter. If
you want to save the file under a different name, type w
filename and press Enter.
To leave vi without saving, type q! instead and