In the next few chapters, we’ll introduce a number of popular applications for Linux. We’ll start here with text editing, which underlies nearly every activity on the system. (You need an editor to create a file of more than trivial size, whether it is a program to be compiled, a configuration file for your system, or a mail message to send to a friend.) On a related topic, we’ll show you some text formatters that can make attractive documents and utilities that manage printing.
In this section, we’re going to cover the use of the vi (pronounced “vee-eye”) text editor. vi was the first real screen-based editor for Unix systems. It is also simple, small, and sleek. If you’re a system administrator, learning vi can be invaluable; in many cases, larger editors, such as Emacs, won’t be available in emergency situations (for instance, when booting Linux from a maintenance disk).
vi is based on the same principles as many other Unix applications: that each program provide a small, specific function and be able to interact with other programs. For example, vi doesn’t include its own spellchecker or paragraph filler, but those features are provided by other programs that are easy to fire off from within vi. Therefore, vi itself is a bit limited, but is able to interact with other applications to provide virtually any functionality you might want.
At first, vi may appear to be somewhat complex and unwieldy. However, ...