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Vi or Vim (VI IMproved) is a visual text editor that can be run inside a shell. This has the advantage, that you can quickly write or edit text files in the shell, even over an ssh connection without needing a graphical user interface. Alternatively there is the option to edit files locally (on your desktop computer) in your favourite editor or IDE (e.g. Notepad++, VSCode, ...) and then transfer the files to the remote (super)computer. Visit the file transfer page for more information on that topic. As these tansfers can be a lot of effort, just to fix a missing ; or typo, Vi/Vim can come in handy, as they are available on practically every Unix system.

While it's usage is far from intuitive, a few basics are generally helpful. For a more complete coverage of this editor, why people use it and why you should probably do that too, please take a look at the vimtutor, the References or the internet in general. There are lots of great resources, presenting reasons for using Vi/Vim and giving detailed instructions for its effective usage.


In Vi/Vim there are six modes from which the four most important ones are listed below.

Mode Name Description How to Reach the Mode from Normal
normal For navigation and manipulation of text. This is the mode that vim will usually start in, which you can usually get back to with pressing ESC. you are already there or ESC
insert For inserting new text. Insert mode works more or less like you would expect a normal text editor to work with arrow keys for navigation, backspace for deletion and characters for text. a,A,i,I,o,O
visual For navigation and manipulation of text selections, this mode allows you to perform most normal commands, and a few extra commands, on selected text. v,V,Ctrl-V (Vim-only)
command-line For entering editor commands. :
search Searching forward and backward. /,?

More information about different modes and their uses can be found in the References or the internet.

Basic Commands

To open yourfile.txt in Vi/Vim simply enter

$ vim yourfile.txt

From normal mode (press Esc to get there) you can type commands.

File handling

:w save the current file
:w filename save the current file to filename
:q quit Vi/Vim
:q! quit Vi/Vim without saving (discarding changes)
:wq or :x to quit Vi/Vim with saving changes

Inserting and replacing text

a append text after cursor position
A append text at the end of the current line
i insert text before cursor position
I insert text before first character on the current line
o insert a new line below current line and place cursor on it
O insert a new line above current line and place cursor on it
rX replace character under cursor by X
R change into replace mode


For a tutorial you can call the

$ vimtutor

and follow the instructions on screen.


Interactive Vim Tutorial

Vim/Guide in the Gentoo wiki

Why should you use vi (or vim)

Vim Game