Linux and Unix are managed through a series of text files. Linux administrators do not normally use graphical editors to manage these configuration files. Editors such as WordPerfect, starOffice, and yes, even Microsoft Word normally save files in a binary format that Linux can't read. Popular text editors for Linux configuration files include emacs, pico, joe, and vi.
While emacs may be the most popular text editor in the world of Linux, every administrator needs at least a basic knowledge of vi. While emacs may be more popular and flexible, vi may help you save a broken system. If you ever have to restore a critical configuration file using an emergency boot floppy, vi is probably the only editor that you'll have available. You need to know how to restore your system from a rescue floppy, which does not have enough room to carry any editor other than vi.So should know how to use vi editor.
$ vi /tmp/test ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ “/tmp/test” [New File]
If this is a new file, you should see something similar to above.
The box at the top represents where your cursor is. The bottom line keeps you informed about what is going on with your editing (here you just opened a new file). In between, there are tildes (~) as filler because there is no text in the file yet. Now here's the intimidating part: There are no hints, menus, or icons to tell you what to do. On top of that, you can't just start typing. If you do, the computer is likely to beep at you. And some people complain that Linux isn't friendly.
The first things you need to know are the different operating modes: command and input. The vi editor always starts in command mode. Before you can add or change text in the file, you have to type a command (one or two letters and an optional number) to tell vi what you want to do. Case is important, so use uppercase and lowercase exactly as shown in the examples! To get into input mode, type an input command. To start out, type either of the following:
Type a few words and then press Enter. Repeat that a few times until you have a few lines of text. When you're finished typing, press Esc to return to command mode. Now that you have a file with some text in it, try moving around in your text with the following keys or letters: Remember the Esc key! It always places you back into command mode.
Arrow keys-Move the cursor up, down, left, or right in the file one character at a time. To move left and right you can also use Backspace and the space bar, respectively. If you prefer to keep your fingers on the keyboard, move the cursor with h (left), l (right), j (down), or k (up).
The only other editing you need to know is how to delete text. Here are few vi commands for deleting text:
To wrap things up, use the following keystrokes for saving and quitting the file:
If you've really trashed the file by mistake, the :q! command is the best way to exit and abandon your changes.
The file reverts to the most recently changed version. So, if you just did a :w, you are stuck with the changes up to that point. If you just want to undo a few bad edits, press u to back out of changes.
You have learned a few vi editing commands. I describe more commands in the following sections. First, however,
here are a few tips to smooth out your first trials with vi:
Besides the few movement commands described earlier, there are other ways of moving around a vi file. To try these out, open a large file that you can't do much damage to. (Try copying /var/log/ messages to /tmp and opening it in vi.) Here are some movement commands you can use:
To search for the next occurrence of text in the file, use either the slash (/) or the question mark (?) character. Follow the slash or question mark with a pattern (string of text) to search forward or backward, respectively, for that pattern. Within the search, you can also use metacharacters. Here are some examples:
The vi editor was originally based on the ex editor, which didn't let you work in full-screen mode. However, it did enable you to run commands that let you find and change text on one or more lines at a time. When you type a colon and the cursor goes to the bottom of the screen, you are essentially in ex mode. Here is an example of some of those ex commands for searching for and changing text. (I chose the words Local and Remote to search for, but you can use any appropriate words.)
You can precede most vi commands with numbers to have the command repeated that number of times. This is a handy way to deal with several lines, words, or characters at a time. Here are some examples:
Putting a number in front of most commands just repeats those commands. At this point, you should be fairly proficient at using the vi command. Once you get used to using vi, you will probably find other text editors less efficient to use.
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