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Vi in a Nutshell

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The unix text editor vi probably has more features than Microsoft Word yet I’ve only been using about 5 of them. Recently I’ve been learning a bit more about it.

I now know some of the more handy features thanks to the VI reference in forth edition of Unix in a Nutshell which was just released in October.

The reason I think vi is an important editor to learn is that it is typically installed on any unix system (including Mac OSX) by default. Other unix text editors such as emacs aren’t installed by default as often.

Basic VI features (beginners only)

Using vi is pretty easy if you know a few things about it, if you don’t you probably won’t even be able to edit or save a file. Lets start by editing a file /tmp/somefile

vi /tmp/somefileVi starts up in command mode, you can give VI commands to run such as delete this line, search for this, etc.

To start we want to give the insert command so hit i, you should see — INSERT — at the bottom of the screen. Go ahead and write a haiku or something.

Now to save it you need to go back into command mode this is done by hitting ESC now type wq (this means write and quit).

Ok that’s the basics you can get pretty far just knowing that.

Handy Features in VI

Here’s a list of some of the commands that I have found to be quite handy:

  • Search :/pattern – search for pattern in the file. This can be a regular expression. Hit n to go to the next match.
  • Find and Replace :s/find/replace/g
  • Go to End of Line $
  • Beginning of Line ^
  • Last line in the file L
  • Middle of the file M
  • Top of the file (Home) – H
  • Go to line 10 :10
  • Delete current line dd
  • Copy or yank a line Y – you can use 5Y to copy 5 lines. Also try yG, and y$.
  • Paste p
  • Undo u
  • Redo Ctrl+R

Have any other handy vi tips? post them in the comments.

Comments

*Originally published at Pete Freitag’s Homepage

Pete Freitag (http://www.petefreitag.com/) is a software engineer, and
web developer located in central new york. Pete specializes in the
HTTP protocol, web services, xml, java, and coldfusion. In 2003 Pete
published the ColdFusion MX Developers Cookbook with SAMs Publishing.

Pete owns a Firm called Foundeo (http://foundeo.com/) that specializes
in Web Consulting, and Products for Web Developers.

Vi in a Nutshell
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About Pete Freitag
Pete Freitag (http://www.petefreitag.com/) is a software engineer, and web developer located in central new york. Pete specializes in the HTTP protocol, web services, xml, java, and coldfusion. In 2003 Pete published the ColdFusion MX Developers Cookbook with SAMs Publishing.

Pete owns a Firm called Foundeo (http://foundeo.com/) that specializes in Web Consulting, and Products for Web Developers. WebProNews Writer
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