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Linux Pocket Guide, 2nd Edition by Daniel J. Barrett

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Your Default Editor

Various Linux programs will run an editor when necessary, and by default the editor is vim. For example, your email program may invoke an editor to compose a new message, and less invokes an editor if you type “v”. But what if you don’t want vim to be your default editor? Set the environment variables VISUAL and EDITOR to your choice, for example:

$ EDITOR=emacs
$ VISUAL=emacs
$ export EDITOR VISUAL                Optional

Both variables are necessary because different programs check one variable or the other. Set EDITOR and VISUAL in your ~/.bash_profile startup file if you want your choices made permanent. Any program can be made your default editor as long as it accepts a filename as an argument.

Regardless of how you set these variables, all system administrators should know at least basic vim and emacs commands in case a system tool suddenly runs an editor on a critical file.

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