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Learning the vi and Vim Editors [Paperback]

by Arnold Robbins, Elbert Hannah, Linda Lamb
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 22, 2008 059652983X 978-0596529833 Seventh Edition

There's nothing that hard-core Unix and Linux users are more fanatical about than their text editor. Editors are the subject of adoration and worship, or of scorn and ridicule, depending upon whether the topic of discussion is your editor or someone else's.

vi has been the standard editor for close to 30 years. Popular on Unix and Linux, it has a growing following on Windows systems, too. Most experienced system administrators cite vi as their tool of choice. And since 1986, this book has been the guide for vi.

However, Unix systems are not what they were 30 years ago, and neither is this book. While retaining all the valuable features of previous editions, the 7th edition of Learning the vi and vim Editors has been expanded to include detailed information on vim, the leading vi clone. vim is the default version of vi on most Linux systems and on Mac OS X, and is available for many other operating systems too.

With this guide, you learn text editing basics and advanced tools for both editors, such as multi-window editing, how to write both interactive macros and scripts to extend the editor, and power tools for programmers -- all in the easy-to-follow style that has made this book a classic.

Learning the vi and vim Editors includes:

A complete introduction to text editing with vi:

  • How to move around vi in a hurry
  • Beyond the basics, such as using buffers
  • vi's global search and replacement
  • Advanced editing, including customizing vi and executing Unix commands


  • How to make full use of vim:
  • Extended text objects and more powerful regular expressions
  • Multi-window editing and powerful vim scripts
  • How to make full use of the GUI version of vim, called gvim
  • vim's enhancements for programmers, such as syntax highlighting, folding and extended tags


  • Coverage of three other popular vi clones -- nvi, elvis, and vile -- is also included. You'll find several valuable appendixes, including an alphabetical quick reference to both vi and ex mode commands for regular vi and for vim, plus an updated appendix on vi and the Internet.

    Learning either vi or vim is required knowledge if you use Linux or Unix, and in either case, reading this book is essential. After reading this book, the choice of editor will be obvious for you too.

    Frequently Bought Together

    Learning the vi and Vim Editors + Learning the bash Shell: Unix Shell Programming (In a Nutshell (O'Reilly)) + Classic Shell Scripting
    Price for all three: $67.97

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    Editorial Reviews

    Book Description

    Text processing at maximum speed and power

    About the Author

    Arnold Robbins, an Atlanta native, is a professional programmer and technical author. He has been working with Unix systems since 1980, when he was introduced to a PDP-11 running a version of Sixth Edition Unix. His experience also includes multiple commercial Unix systems, from Sun, IBM, HP and DEC. He has been working with GNU/Linux systems since 1996. He likes his Macintosh laptop, but it has been commandeered by one of his daughters.

    Arnold has also been a heavy awk user since 1987, when he became involved with gawk, the GNU project's version of awk. As a member of the POSIX 1003.2 balloting group, he helped shape the POSIX standard for awk. He is currently the maintainer of gawk and its documentation.

    O'Reilly has been keeping him busy: He is author and/or coauthor of the bestselling titles: Unix In A Nutshell, Effective awk Programming, sed & awk, Classic Shell Scripting, and several pocket references.

    Elbert is a professional software engineer and software architect recently finishing a 21-year career in the telcom industry. He wrote a full screen editor in assembler in 1983 as his first professional assignment, and has had special interest in editors since. He loves connecting Unix to anything and once wrote a stream editor program to automate JCL edits for mainframe monthly configurations by streaming mainframe JCL to a stream editor on an RJE connected Unix box.

    He loves tinkering with everything Unix and considers any environment incomplete without his suite of Unix work-alike tools and the latest version of vim. He is a Unix Shell specialist, writing entire applications with only the shell.

    His telcom honored him with their highest award for money-saving applications that he authored using a set of mainframe screen-scraping tools he wrote himself. They continue to use those applications today. He was also one of three founding team members that brought web 1.0 to the corporate consciousness in his telco position, and his team featured on the cover of CIO Magazine for their innovative and pioneering works.

    He also served a brief stint on the original Microsoft NT beta support team in 1992.

    He loves bicycling, music, and reading. Today he lives in the Chicago area where he occasionally takes on short term projects and works on personal software products.

    Linda Lamb is a former employee of O'Reilly Media, where she worked in various capacities, including technical writer, editor of technical books, and marketing manager. She also worked on O'Reilly's series of consumer health books, Patient Centered Guides.


    Product Details

    • Paperback: 494 pages
    • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; Seventh Edition edition (July 22, 2008)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 059652983X
    • ISBN-13: 978-0596529833
    • Product Dimensions: 7 x 9.1 x 1.1 inches
    • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
    • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars How To Really Learn Vim January 29, 2011
    Format:Paperback
    I use TextMate for writing code and for most text editing while I'm on the Mac (although I'm editing this review with MacVim version 7.3, otherwise I'd feel dirty). Everywhere else I use vi and Vim (Windows/Linux/OpenBSD/etc.) I spent years using Emacs and gradually made the shift to Vim a few years ago. I found Vim to be lighter weight and easier to configure than Emacs. Anyway, if you're tackling an uber-editor like Vim, you need a really great book. For Vim, that book is "Learning the vi and Vim Editors".

    The book initially introduces you to vi and ex, giving you the most basic commands. Pay attention to these first few chapters as it lays the foundation for the rest of the book. You'll move on to learn about global replacement and the power of regular expressions in the context of text replace commands. A short chapter is devoted to advanced editing features and takes you through basic vi customizations, how to execute Unix commands, how to filter text within vi through Unix commands, abbreviations to simplify repetitious typing, mapping keys to simplify repetitious keystrokes, and some basic ex scripting.

    A very brief chapter introduces you to the major vi clones. Then, a really beefy section spanning chapters 9 through 15, covering 159 pages, takes you through Vim in great detail. All the major differences between vi and Vim are discussed. You'll learn about multi-window editing, the specifics of Vim scripting, GVim (the GUI version of Vim), and Vim enhancements related to software developers.

    Following the Vim section of the book, there are small chapters that describe each of the other major vi clones, including nvi, elvis and vile. Near the end of the book, you'll find the appendixes crammed full of vi and ex commands.
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    42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
    Format:Paperback
    vi, like many of the utilities developed during the early years of Unix, has a reputation for being hard to navigate. Bram Moolenaar's enhanced clone, Vim ("vi Improved"), has gone a long way toward removing reasons for such impressions. Vim includes many conveniences, visual guides, and help screens. It has become possibly the most popular version of vi, so this seventh edition of this book devotes seven new chapters to it in Part 2. However, many other worthy clones of vi also exist and they are covered in part 3.

    The first two chapters present some simple vi commands with which you can get started. Chapters 3 and 4 concentrate on easier ways to do tasks. Chapters 5 through 7 provide tools that help you shift more of the editing burden to the computer. They introduce you to the ex line editor underlying vi, and they show you how to issue ex commands from within vi.

    Chapter 8, provides an introduction to the extensions available in the four vi clones covered in this book. It centralizes in one place the descriptions of multiwindow editing, GUI interfaces, extended regular expressions, facilities that make editing easier, and several other features, providing a roadmap to what follows in the rest of this book. It also provides a pointer to source code for the original vi, which can be compiled easily on modern Unix systems, including Linux.

    Part 2 describes Vim, the most popular vi clone. Chapter 9, provides a general introduction to Vim, including where to get binary versions for popular operating systems and some of the different ways to use Vim. Chapter 10 describes the major improvements in Vim, such as built-in help, control over initialization, additional motion commands, and extended regular expressions.
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    20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Best Vi/Vim Book on the Market September 16, 2008
    Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
    This new edition goes above and beyond of what's currently available in the area of Vi/Vim tutorials.

    It is fascinating to watch how much time and typing a programmer can save every single day, once they've figured out how to use a tool like Vim efficiently. Many people just know 5% of what an editor is capable of, and day-in and day-out they're using way too many keystrokes. What a waste of time and what a strain on your hands!

    "vi and vim" 7th edition (make sure to get the latest, not the previous one) explains how to make the most out of this editor. By the way, you should always use "vim", not the legacy "vi" editor, which is a waste of time as it lacks important features. Luckily "vim" is standard on many systems like Linux nowadays, and even if you type "vi" there, you'll get the better "vim" automatically.

    Learning shortcuts for common editing tasks like block indentation, text formatting, or screen movement is essential for fast typing, and the challenge is to keep the shortcuts all memorized. Vim isn't your father's editor, it has literally thousands of keystroke combinations, and if you don't have a system to memorize them, you'll never use them. Luckily, "vi and vim" 7th edition explains them all in detail and in a way that makes it easier to recall them later when you need them.

    The book gives mnemonics whenever possible and it explains concepts like vim's combination of action and move commands in a way that lets you understand the concept behind these commands instead of simply having to memorize nonsensical keystrokes.

    There's some chapters which I consider fluff, but I guess there is people out there using odd vi incarnations like "elvis" or "gvim", so the authors felt like they were worth to be covered as well.
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    Most Recent Customer Reviews
    4.0 out of 5 stars vi and vim
    I avoided buying this book for many years, because I had reasoned that I could always find what i wanted at vim.org or at vim tips wiki. Read more
    Published 9 days ago by Ego Dissolve
    5.0 out of 5 stars Great book.
    Easy to read. Good way to find a few new commands you can learn. I keep it by my workstation at work and refer to it for shortcuts to my editing. Good book.
    Published 2 months ago by The Docster
    5.0 out of 5 stars Great book to get friendly with vi/vim
    Many desktop or mobile programmers which eventually need to write some code at the server-side consider vi as a tool developed by some green people from alpha-centauri for some... Read more
    Published 3 months ago by SERGEY STEPANOV
    5.0 out of 5 stars Great to learn vi
    Absolutely great for beginners in vi! The authors do an excellent job explaining things! Although there should still be a quick reference insert included with the book.
    Published 4 months ago by JKPurdy
    5.0 out of 5 stars O'Reilly is the best.
    You can't make a mistake with O'Reilly books. If you need technical documentation these are the best. They make great gifts.
    Published 4 months ago by mizuno
    5.0 out of 5 stars Feels helpful and complete
    This is able to be read casually. It seems like it could act as a good reference, but also can be read through to gradually introduce you to the mindset. Read more
    Published 5 months ago by NiHa
    4.0 out of 5 stars VI Vim book
    Learning VI can be a lifetime job, I bought this book to use as a reference as well as teach me more magic keystrokes. Read more
    Published 6 months ago by denny
    5.0 out of 5 stars It costs lots of time to full read it, but worth it for sure.
    I borrowed this book for library because my professor advised me that mastering an editor should be the best investment you can achieve in your early life of college. Read more
    Published 7 months ago by Peter
    4.0 out of 5 stars Student studing Linux
    I am currently studing Linux and the text book that we use is a good one but it can confuse you by not simplifing certain content or dumming it down enough, therefore I'm trying to... Read more
    Published 10 months ago by Tom Mccarthy
    5.0 out of 5 stars Wow ... is that how you use it?
    Amazing...explained this way, VI/vim is so easy and so extensible, I wonder why I was afraid to try it before now. It has replaced nano as my editor of choice. Read more
    Published 15 months ago by William R. Carr
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