"It's a vi thing - you wouldn't understand."

The Cult of vi

"Emacs is a hideous monstrosity, but a functional one. On the other hand, vi is a masterpiece of elegance. Sort of like a Swiss Army knife versus a rapier."

[ PICTURE: Amusing vi advocacy cartoon ]

Which cult?

Yes, vi is a religion. More than that, it's a cult religion. It started out as a UNIX editor and has now become a Ubiquitous editor. Unlike, say, Microsoft Word, it can also give the illusion of magic. Watching a vi guru doing some heavy editing on a file, as her fingers fly over the keys and textual transformations sweep across the screen, one could believe that one is in the presence of supernatural powers. "Awesome", the audience murmur to themselves. Maybe.

This is a page of unabashed advocacy, so if you hate vi go elsewhere.

Most people's first experience with vi is one of alarm, confusion, worry and eventually frustration. If they can figure out how to exit without corrupting their file with a string of meaningless $%£!!:::s, they're lucky.

Unfortunately, this colours many people's attitude to vi for life. They immediately fire up Emacs, and breathe a sigh of relief as they find the cursor keys actually move the cursor around, instead of producing a series of impudent beeps.

But there's something about vi. It's unforgiving, yes, but I won't accept that it's non-intuitive. That depends on your intuition, i.e. your 'editing mindset'. vi's editing mindset is different to virtually all other modern text editors and word processors, which is where the confusion arises. However, once you get into that mindset yourself, you find yourself suddenly liberated and editing power crackles through your fingertips. If you're like me, you find yourself suddenly missing the power of vi in other editing situations: your word processor, the command line, writing an entry in your electronic diary. It's difficult to get out of the vi mindset once you've^]Bdwiyou're[2] in it.

Fortunately for vi cultists, their fellow fanatics have ported vi all over the place. To my knowledge, vi (or a close relative) is available on the following platforms:

Getting hold of vi

Learning vi

Tips and tricks

Some of these are useful, some elegant or amusing, but mostly both.

A vi miscellany

Honk if you love vi

Silly vi-related things.
Moose Mansions