vim and vi

We all have our preferences for editors and IDEs.

I like Emacs and IntelliJ.

But I also like vi.

When you work on Linux-Servers that are not your own, there is a certain, quite limited set of software installed, that makes this thing work.

Usually you will find Perl and Python. And vi as editor.

Of course it is possible to install emacs or some people like „tiny“ editors like nano, pico, joe, jed, kedit, gedit,… And then again, you need to install them. Not on one server, but on a lot of servers. Where they serve no purpose, other than allowing people who are not comfortable with vi to edit.

So I guess, it is ok, if there is a number of servers belonging to a team if the team agrees to use an additional editor.

But generally, it can be assumed that this is not the case or not there on every server.

So we need to learn vi or vim.

Vim is an improved version of vi, which is what Linux system today have as vi. Usually. And it is less and less common that Aix, Solaris or other Unices are still in place, it is more and more Linux only, with vim as the default editor that is always there. And it works without graphical user interface, which is a big plus. Servers can and often do have X11 libraries installed, so it is possible to ssh with -X option to allow X11 forwarding. But this is a little bit to set up on both sides, which can be some work. And which can fail because of a missing part. And changing the server setup is not always desirable. And not always efficient, if it is a huge number of servers. So not needing X11 can be a plus and makes it universal.

So what is annoying in the beginning: The editor has different modes. Text can be entered in insert mode. Then this ends and keys work as commands. So some effort is needed to understand the basics, while some editors are self explanatory and work like „normal editors“ from the beginning. But just learn it.

On the other hand, vi and even much more so vim is a very powerful editor. It has a lot of functionality and for people who really know it well, it can be very fast. As with Emacs it IS possible to configure vim to a great extent. Damian Conway has written macros for vim that allow it to work as a replacement for powerpoint for presentation that are very code centric. With the limitations of what text mode provides, but it is still amazing.

This is not the way to go on thousands of Linux servers, because it is not efficient to distribute the configuration and maybe not desirable.

So I work with Emacs with my configuration. I am totally lost with Emacs with the default configuration.

And I work with vi with the default configuration and deliberately avoid adding my personal configuration.

Since Emacs, Vi and IntelliJ are different enough and look different enough, it is not such a danger to mix them up.

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