UNIX Editor

UNIX Editor


UNIX visual editor (vi) is a screen-oriented visual editor primarily created for the UNIX operating system. The UNIX visual editor (vi) has been play a very significant role in the writing of shell scripts and maintenance programs and it has also been an integral part of the UNIX operating system since it was created (Lamb & Robbins, 1998). However, despite the fact that going by today’s standards UNIX visual editor (vi) seems outdated because of the rapidly changing technology in computer science, its used can not be underestimated. This is attributable to the fact that, it still has one redeeming feature because it’s still a fundamental tool that comes with almost all UNIX installations throughout the world (Robbins et al., 2008). Therefore, it remains a good set of knowledge for people directly working with a UNIX shell.  Thus, the UNIX visual editor vi remains a screen editor available on all UNIX systems, and it is usually a fast and powerful visual editor which has no menus, but rather uses keystrokes combinations in order for commands to be accomplished (Rosen et al., 2006).

Often Shell script writing shows basic construction of a script file that is executable. However, such roles which include writing shell scripts and maintenance programs by the UNIX visual editor (vi) covers both the conditional and repetitive structures (“if” loops and statements). Therefore, the “programming constructs” provided by the UNIX visual editor (vi) are the things that make shell scripts powerful, legitimate, and genuine programs compared to those written in other programming languages (Lamb & Robbins, 1998).

However, if the UNIX visual editor (vi) is considered from the perspective of writing shell scripts and maintenance of programs it would be essential to note that, it has been a significant force that drive these two important roles (Robbins et al., 2008). Hence, this will be considered from the perspective of writing shell scripts and maintenance of programs. For example, the UNIX visual editor (vi) has been extensively used in writing shell scripts mainly because a shell script is usually a text file that contain shell commands in a sequence that are all executable at once. This is in combination with other available programming structures such as “if” loops or statements (Rosen et al., 2006).

There are various commands that can be used to execute a variety of roles when using UNIX visual editor (vi). For example, the comment character is “#”. However, there is also a compulsory requirement where the first line of a script file is always a special comment “#!” which is responsible of providing the path to the program (such as command shell) that is responsible of making sure that the script is processed (Robbins et al., 2008). Moreover, many configuration files in UNIX are actually shell scripts written in C shell (csh) commands. Therefore, there are many UNIX administrators use UNIX visual editor (vi) to also write shell scripts for the purpose of performing maintenance operations (Lamb & Robbins, 1998).

For instance, there are some shell commands that can be used to write shell scripts using the UNIX visual editor (vi) such as those shown below:

#! /bin/csh

# Usage: find file filename

# Synopsis: find file with given name find. – Name “$1” -print

However, in writing the shell scripts it is important to make the file executable as well as placing the executable in the predefined path and/or modifying the path for the inclusion of this executable. Moreover, it should also be possible to re-initialize the system, in order to ensure that the table of executables is updated (Rosen et al., 2006). Finally, the UNIX visual editor (vi) also consists of many commands that play vital role in maintaining the programs as a way of ensuring the UNIX operating system performs appropriately (Lamb & Robbins, 1998).


Lamb, L., & Robbins, A. (1998). Learning the (vi) Editor, 6th ed. Boston, MA: O’Reilly & Associates, Inc.

Robbins, A., Lamb, L, & Hannah, E. (2008). Learning the (vi) and Vim Editors, 7th ed. Boston, MA: O’Reilly & Associates, Inc.

Rosen, K.H., Host, D.A., Klee, R. (2006).UNIX: the complete reference. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Osborne Media.



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