The vi editor (visual editor) - A quick reference guide.

To startup vi:

vi filename

Vi has three main modes Command mode, Insert mode and Command-Line mode.

vi modes

The editor begins in command mode, where cursor movement and copy/paste commands can be issued. If you are ever unsure which mode you're in, press Esc to return to command mode.

Insert text (Insert mode):

Open line above cursor
Insert text at beginning of line
Insert text at cursor
append text after cursor
Append text at line end
Open line below cursor

Switch to Command mode:

Switch to command mode: [ESC]

Most commands execute as soon as typed except for "colon" commands which execute when you press the return key.

Cursor Movement (command mode):

Scroll Backward 1 screen
[ctrl] b  
Scroll Up 1/2 screen
[ctrl] u  
Go to beginning of line
Go to line n
Go to end of line
Scroll Down 1/2 screen
[ctrl] d
Go to line number ##
Scroll Forward 1 screen
[ctrl] f  
Go to last line
Scroll by sentence f/b
( )      
Scroll by word f/b
w b
Move left, down, up, right
h j k l
Left 6 chars
Scroll by paragraph f/b
{ }
Move left, down, up, right
Arrow Keys
Go to line #6

Delete text (command mode):

Change word
Replace one character
Delete word
Delete text at cursor
Delete entire line (to buffer)
Delete (backspace) text at cursor
Delete 5 lines (to buffer)
Delete current to end of line
Delete lines 5-10

Editing (command mode):

Copy line
Copy n lines
Copy lines 1-2 /paste after 3
Paste above current line
Paste below current line
Move lines 4-5 /paste after 6
    Find the next t ft
Join previous line
Search backward for string
Search forward for string
Find next string occurrence
% (entire file)
(search and replace) /old text with new/
c (confirm) g (global - all)
Ignore case during search
:set ic
Repeat last command
Undo previous command
Undo all changes to line

Save and Quit (command mode):

Save changes to buffer
Save changes and quit vi
ZZ or :wq
Save file to new file
:w file
Quit without saving
Save lines to new file
:10,15w file

In general a number n preceding any vi command will tell vi to repeat that command n times.

:syntax on Turn on syntax highlighting
:syntax off Turn off syntax highlighting
:set number Turn on Line numbering (shorthand :set nu)
:set nonumber Turn off Line numbering (shorthand :set nonu)

:set ignorecase Ignore case sensitivity when searching
:set noignorecase Restore case sensitivity (default)

:set autoindent Turn on Auto-indentation
Use the command >> to indent and the << command to outdent
:set shiftwidth=4 Set indentation to four spaces
:set noautoindent Turn off Auto-indentation
Change all Windows CR/LF to Unix style LF line endings in the current file:
(To enter the ^M, type CTRL-V CTRL-M)

Command-line mode
Command-line mode commands are typed at the bottom of the screen.
To enter Command-line mode from Command mode, push colon : a colon will appear at the bottom.
Command-line (Ex) commands:

q [Enter]If you haven't made any modifications, or have already saved them beforehand.
quit [Enter]If you haven't made any modifications, or have already saved them beforehand.
q! [Enter]ignore any modifications and quit.
w [Enter]Save and return to Command mode.
wq [Enter]Save and quit.
x [Enter]Save and quit, same as wq

The Ex mode is similar to the command line mode as it also allows you to enter Ex commands. Unlike the command-line mode you won't return to normal mode automatically. You can enter an Ex command by typing a Q in normal mode and leave it again with the :visual command. Note that the Ex mode is designed for Batch processing and as such won't support mappings or command-line editing.

vi is pronounced as the two letters: "vee eye"

The vi editor was an update on the earlier ex (and ed) editors, it introduced a Visual Interactive mode which was contracted to give the name vi.

“vi was written for a world that doesn't exist anymore - unless you decide to get a satellite phone and use it to connect to the Net at 2400 baud” - Bill Joy


Full list of VI commands
Programmers Vim cheat sheet
VIM tutor
Learning the vi Editor - How to use the vi editor.
History and effective use of Vim - Joe Nelson.
How to grok vi - Stack Overflow.
bcvi - Back Channel vi - remote file editing with SSH.
book - Practical vim by Drew Neil.
book - Learning the vi & vim Editor
MacVim & MacVim vs TextMate

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