How do I use the vi text editor?

The vi text editor has three modes: command mode, input mode, and ex mode.

Command mode

When starting, vi begins in command mode. If you are ever unsure which mode you're in, press Esc to return to command mode. In command mode, you can move around with the arrow keys, or by using the vi movement keys, as follows:

h left
j down
k up
l right

Several vi commands are listed in the table below:

Command Action
Ctrl-b Go back one page
Ctrl-f Go forward one page
x
Delete the character the cursor is on
Shift-x
Delete the character before the cursor
dd Delete the current line
Shift-d
Delete everything from the cursor to the end of the line
u
Undelete a line you just deleted
Shift-u
Undo all changes to the current line
Shift-z-z
Save your file and exit the vi editor
Note:
In command mode, you can type a number before pressing a command key to repeat the command multiple times. For example, to delete eight lines from the cursor position, you could press 8 and then type dd.

Input mode

The input mode lets you insert or append text. To insert text before the cursor's current position, in command mode, press i. Similarly, to append after the cursor, you can type a. Remember that you can't move around with the cursor keys in this mode. When you're done entering text, press Esc to go back to command mode.

Ex mode

The ex mode is an extension of command mode. To get into it, press Esc and then : (the colon). The cursor will go to the bottom of the screen at a colon prompt. Write your file by entering :w and quit by entering :q. You can combine these to save and exit by entering :wq. However, if you're finished with your file, it's generally more convenient to type Shift-z-z from command mode.

For a more thorough list of vi command keys, see A quick reference list of vi editor commands.

At Indiana University, for personal or departmental Linux or Unix systems support, see At IU, how do I get support for Linux or Unix?

This is document adxz in the Knowledge Base.
Last modified on 2015-05-13 00:00:00.

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