Systems & Software Solutions
December 12, 1998
Vi, the standard screen editor on Unix machines, is a very powerful editor. However, it is quite different from word processors or editors in most other environments. This document serves as a friendly introduction to vi. Once you are comfortable with the commands described here, consult the Vi Editor Reference Manual.
Copyright 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1994, & 1998 by Susan Liebeskind (Atlanta, GA) and Miles O'Neal (Austin, TX). All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted to redistribute this in either source or formatted form, so long as this copyright & the author's names are included, unmodified in content, and so long as no charge beyond reasonable cost of reproduction is charged. Notwithstanding, inclusion in any other work or collection which is sold, rented, or otherwise charged for, is prohibited without express consent of the authors.
Rev. 1.0 Aug 22, 1989 shl
Rev. 1.1 Jan 9, 1990 meo
Rev. 1.2 Dec 31, 1991 meo
Rev. 1.4 Mar 22, 1994 meo
Rev. 1.5 Aug 3, 1998 meo
Rev. 1.6 Dec 12, 1998 meo
1.1. Using this document
1.2. Vi concepts
2. Command vs Input Modes
2.1. What are the editing modes?
2.2. How to enter command mode
2.3. How to enter input mode
2.4. How to enter data in input mode
2.5. How to leave input mode
2.6. Undo Command
3. Cursor Motion
3.1. Moving a character at a time
3.2. Moving a screen at a time
3.3. Moving 1/2 screen at a time
3.4. Moving to start and end of a line
3.5. Moving from start to end of a file
4. Editing Commands
4.1. Delete Commands
4.2. Replace Commands
4.3. Search Commands
4.4. Saving & Exiting Commands
==> xyzzy(This is not a vi prompt; vi almost never displays a prompt.) Wherever possible, I have tried to give you some sort of mnemonic device for associating the command with its function. Some are better than others.
==> Aand the command
==> ado two different things. If you use the [CAPS LOCK] key when entering data, remember to toggle it off when you finish.
Commands in vi are a sequence of characters, not characters which must be pressed together. Only control key commands, specified by the string [CTRL], followed by another key, must be entered by pressing the Control key and the other key at the same time. Control key commands are not case sensitive. If you need to press return following a command, I have specified [RETURN] after the command.
You can always abandon the vi session without saving your work. No work is saved until you say so - this is your ace in the hole.
The term white space means any character that is not actually shown on the terminal. This includes [SPACE], [TAB] and [RETURN] characters.
There are two modes in vi:
Input mode is the mode for entering text into the file. Everything you type in this mode will become part of whatever you are editing.
==> aThis command inserts text beginning to the right of the cursor. or by issuing the insert command
==> iThis command inserts text beginning to the left of the cursor.
Keep the command pair straight by remembering that the command `a' means append (a)fter the cursor.There are two other ways to enter insert mode which give you a blank line on which to enter data.
==> OThis is the capital letter Oh, not a zero. This command will put a new line above the cursor, and put you in insert mode.
==> oThis will put a new line below the cursor, and put you in insert mode.
The `O' and `o' represent (o)pening a new line for input. The big O takes precedence, so it goes abOve. The little o goes below.
==> uIf you issue this command in command mode, it will undo the last change you just made. If you issue the undo command again it restores the change (undoes the undo).
NOTE: Some vi clones allow multiple undo commands. See your editor's man page or other documentation for details.
`u' means (u)ndo the last change.This is very useful when you have accidentally garbled the last line of text you entered and want to get back what you started with. WARNING!!! Undo only restores the last change you made. If you have made massive changes which you wish to undo, you will have to quit vi without saving your text; undo won't help. For this reason you may wish to save your work fairly often at times when you are certain you want to keep the changes you have made so far. Alternatively, save the changes to a different file name.
==> hThis will move the cursor back (left) 1 character.
==> lThis will move the cursor forward (right) 1 character.
==> jThis will move the cursor down 1 line.
==> kThis will move the cursor up 1 line.
The keys are all in a row on the middle row of letters on the standard keyboard. From left to right, the cursor motion associated with the keys is:Basic Cursor Motion h j k l <-- | ^ --> | | v |Of the group,
- `h' is leftmost, which helps to remind you that it will move left.
- `l' is rightmost, which helps to remind you that it will move right.
- I am hardpressed to come up with a good mnemonic for `j' (down - jump down?) and for `k' (up - kick up?).1
==> <CTRL>F or <CTRL>fThis command will move you forward one full screen. If you are at the end of the file, the terminal will beep instead. The `f' key can be upper or lower case.
==> <CTRL>B or <CTRL>bThis command will move you back one full screen. If you are at the beginning of the file, the terminal will beep instead. The `b' key can be upper or lower case.
`F' means forward through the file and `B' means backward through the file.
==> <CTRL>D or <CTRL>dThis command will move you forward one half screen. If you are at the end of the file, the terminal will beep instead. The `d' key can be upper or lower case.
==> <CTRL>U or <CTRL>uThis command will move you back one half screen. If you are at the beginning of the file, the terminal will beep instead. The `u' key can be upper or lower case.
`D' means down through the file and `U' means up through the file.
==> ^ or 0Pressing the `^' key (usually the shifted 6 key on the main keyboard) will move the cursor to the first non-white-space character of the current line.
Pressing the `0' (zero) key moves the cursor to the first character of any type on the current line.
==> $Pressing this key will move the cursor to the end of the current line.
0 ^Think of this line here.$
==> 1GPressing this key sequence will place the cursor on the first character of the first line of the file.
A `G' preceded by any other positive integer will go to that line number in the file, if the file has that many lines. Otherwise the terminal will beep at you.
==> GPressing this key will place the cursor on the first character of the last line of the file.
Think of `G' as standing for (G)o to a line. The 1G command means go to line 1 and 123G means go to line 123. The `G', with no preceding number, means go to the bottom line. Since its physical line number may vary, you let vi figure it out; no line number needs to be specified.
==> xThis command removes the character under the cursor.
You `x' out or cross out the character underneath by deleting it.
==> ddThis command deletes the current line.
==> dwThis command deletes the current word.
A mnemonic would be `d' for (d)elete something. You add a `w' to affect a word. You double the `d' to affect a line.
==> rThis command allows you to replace the current character.
==> ccThis command allows you to change the contents of the current line.
==> cwThis command allows you to change the contents of the current word.
`r' is for replacing a character. `c' is for (c)hanging something. You add a `w' to affect a word. You double the `c' to affect a line.
To include a `/' or `?' (or the `') as part of the search string, you must "escape" any of these characters with the `' character.
==> /<search string>[RETURN]This command will let you search forward through the file looking for the string. The search will wrap around to the start of the file.2
==> ?<search string>[RETURN]This command will let you search backward through the file looking for the string. The search will wrap around to the end of the file.3
The `/' is a forward slash, and is used to search forward. The `?' on standard keyboards is the shifted `/' key, and you can think of the act of shifting as reversing the command direction.To repeat the search, press `/' or `?' depending on whether you want to search forward or backward for the next occurrence. When the cursor moves to the bottom of the screen, press [RETURN] without entering anything. Vi will use the last search string entered as its target.
==> :wThis command will save all changes that you have made so far. You will still be editing the file when this command finishes.
==> :q!This command will abandon all changes that you have made since you entered vi, or since you last wrote the file with the :w command, whichever came later.
==> :wqThis command will save your work and exit vi immediately after the save.
`w' is for (w)riting the file and `q' is for (q)uiting vi.
If everything you type appears on screen, you are in input mode. If you are not sure, press [ESC] until you hear a beep. You will then be in command mode for certain.I am trying to use the cursor keys to move around but things aren't working properly!
You are probably in input mode. Press [ESC] till you hear the beep.I'm typing in text, but it is not going into the file, and the cursor is moving and the terminal is beeping...
You are in command mode. Move the cursor to the place where you want to begin inserting text, and issue an insert command.I just changed the last line inadvertantly. How can I get back what I had before?
Issue the undo command, `u'. Your line will be restored. Recall that you will only get your last change back, though.I don't know what I did. HELP!
Relax. No work is saved until you issue the :w or the :wq command. Here is a sure fire-way to abandon without saving:You have abandoned all work in your last editing session since you last wrote the file with a :w command, or since you invoked the editor, whichever came later.
- Press [ESC] till you hear the beep.
- Enter the command==> :q![RETURN]
Copyright 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1994, & 1998 Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX, and Susan Liebeskind, Atlanta, GA. All rights reserved. Miles O'Neal <roadkills.r.us@XYZZY.gmail.com> [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] c/o RNN / 1705 Oak Forest Dr / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514