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11.3. ex Command-Line Options

While most people know ex commands only by their use within vi, the editor exists also as a separate program and can be invoked from the shell (for instance, to edit files as part of a script). Within ex, you can enter the vi or visual command to start vi. Similarly, within vi, you can enter Q to quit the vi editor and enter ex.

If you invoke ex as a standalone editor, you can include the following options:


Start editing at line number num, or the last line of the file if num is omitted.


Start editing at the first line matching pattern. (Fails if nowrapscan is set in your .exrc start-up file.)

-c command

Run the given ex command upon start-up. Only one -c option is permitted. An older form of this option, +command, is still supported.


Run as a line editor rather than full-screen vi mode (default).


Enter LISP mode for running LISP programs (not supported in all versions).

-r [file]

Recover and resume editing on file after an aborted editor session or system crash. Without file, list files available for recovery.


Silent; do not display prompts. Useful when running a script. This behavior also can be set through the older - option.

-t tag

Edit the file containing tag and position the cursor at its definition (see ctags in Chapter 3, "Linux Commands" for more information).


Run in full-screen mode (same as invoking vi).

-w rows

Set the window size so rows lines at a time are displayed; useful when editing by a slow dial-up line.


Prompt for a key that will be used to try to encrypt or decrypt a file using crypt (not supported in all versions).


Same as -x, but assume the file is encrypted already (not supported in all versions).


List files that were saved due to an editor of system crash (not supported in all versions).


Edit files read-only; do not allow changes to be saved.

You can exit ex in several ways:


Exit (save changes and quit).


Quit without saving changes.


Enter the vi editor.

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