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Preface to the 6th Edition

The 6th edition of Learning the vi Editor brings the book into the late 1990s. In particular, besides the "original" version of vi that comes as a standard part of every UNIX system, there are now a number of freely available "clones," or work-alike editors. Many of them have improvements over the original vi . One could thus say that there is now a "family" of vi editors, and this book's goal is to teach you what you need to know to use them.

What's New

The following features are new for this edition:

  • Many minor corrections and additions have been made to the basic text.

  • For each chapter where it's appropriate, there is a command summary at the end.

  • New chapters cover each vi clone, the features and/or extensions common to two or more of the clones, and multiwindow editing.

  • The chapter for each vi clone describes a bit of that program's history and goals, its unique features, and where to get it.

  • The new appendix describes vi 's place in the larger UNIX and Internet culture.


The following programs were used for testing out various vi features:

  • The Solaris 2.6 version of vi for a "reference" version of UNIX vi

  • Version 1.79 of Keith Bostic's nvi

  • Version 2.0 of Steve Kirkendall's elvis

  • Versions 5.0 and 5.1 of Bram Moolenaar's vim

  • Versions 7.4 and 8.0 of vile , by Kevin Buettner, Tom Dickey, and Paul Fox


First and foremost, thanks to my wife Miriam for taking care of the kids while I was working on this book, particularly during the "witching hours" right before meal times. I owe her large amounts of quiet time and ice cream.

Paul Manno, of the Georgia Tech College of Computing, provided invaluable help in pacifying my printing software. Len Muellner and Erik Ray of O'Reilly & Associates helped with the SGML software. Jerry Peek's vi macros for SGML were invaluable.

Although all of the programs were used during the preparation of the new and revised material, most of the editing was done with vim versions 4.5 and 5.0 under GNU-Linux (Redhat 4.2).

Thanks to Keith Bostic, Steve Kirkendall, Bram Moolenaar, Paul Fox, Tom Dickey, and Kevin Buettner, who reviewed the book. Steve Kirkendall, Bram Moolenaar, Paul Fox, Tom Dickey, and Kevin Buettner also provided important parts of Chapters 8 through 12.

Without the electricity being generated by the power company, doing anything with a computer is impossible. But when the electricity is there, you don't stop to think about it. So too when writing a book -- without an editor, nothing happens, but when the editor is there doing her job, it's easy to forget about her. Gigi Estabrook at O'Reilly is a true gem. It's been a pleasure working with her, and I appreciate everything she's done and continues to do for me.

Finally, many thanks to the production team at O'Reilly & Associates.

Arnold Robbins
Ra'anana, ISRAEL
June 1998

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