Text Editors

Text editors are used to create and change files containing text of any sort. A text editor is the single most important application program that you will use on a Unix machine. You will need to use one for everything from sending e-mail messages to writing programs. There are quite a few available on fisher, and it may be worth your while to try several to see which one suits you best.

This page describes most of the editors available on fisher:

  • vi
  • emacs
  • vim and gvim
  • xemacs
  • jove
  • nedit
  • dtpad
  • pico

But first, some general notes:

Starting an editor: The editors can be started simply by typing the their name as a command. You can then create a new file, or ask to edit an old one. Alternatively, you can give the name of a file to edit or create when you start the editor. For example, the command

pico fred

starts up the pico editor in order to edit the file fred.

 

Types of editors: There are two ways to interact with an editor. Some editors will create their own window in which to run, and they will typically have some facility for mouse input in addition to keystroke input. Other editors will simply use up the window in which the editor was started, use only keystroke input, and do not allow for mouse input.

Graphical editors with mouse input: emacs, gvim, xemacs, nedit, dtpad

Non-graphical editors without mouse input: emacs -nw, vim, vi, jove, pico

Many people prefer to used an editor with mouse input. However, even you’re one of these people, you should note that if you are using the department computer over a slow connection to the internet, a graphical editor with mouse input could take a long time to appear on your screen and may respond so slowly that it affects your work. It might also be possible that your connection does not permit the use of graphical programs. In either case you will want to use one of the non-graphical editors that just uses the window in which you started the program.

Line editing: Some of the editors (emacs, xemacs, pico, jove) use the same set of “emacs” style commands for moving around in the file. These line editing commands are also used in several other programs. (A few programs use a different set of “vi” style commands.)

Text editors vs. word processors: A text editor should not be confused with a word processor. A word processor is typically a large program with a built in typesetter that will attempt to display on the screen exactly what will be printed. Examples of popular word processors are Microsoft Word and WordPerfect. Fisher has the office suite StarOffice installed, which includes a word processor. Word processors were not designed to handle lengthy mathematical documents, nor were they designed for writing programs.

 

Detailed information

vi

How to start

vi filename

How to quit

:q (you might have to press ESC first)

Description

vi is a popular editor that uses keystroke input and a full-screen display, but not the mouse. vi runs in the window where you start it, or on an ordinary terminal. It has two modes, “edit” and “command”, which some people find very irritating. It starts very quickly and can be used very efficiently, if you know what you’re doing. If you like vi then you should consider one of its enhanced versions vim.

Getting help

man vi

There are books on how to use vi. Almost every general Unix book has a section on vi as well.

emacs

How to start

emacs filename will run the X-windows version.

emacs -nw filename will run in the current window (no mouse input).

How to quit

Control/X Control/C

Description

emacs is a very elaborate program with many capabilities. It has special modes for editing source code for almost all programming languages (such as C, R, Perl, (La)TeX, etc.). It is also possible to run interactive programs like R and Splus within emacs.

emacs comes with built-in spell checking, an email client, a Usenet news reader, a web browser, and much more, including a phychotherapist.

Special help on using emacs with (La)TeX, Splus, and R is available on a separate web page.

Getting help

man emacs gives mostly information on starting emacs and running it under X-windows.
info emacs gives extensive online help.

Within emacs, pressing the function key F1 followed by t will start a beginner’s tutorial
There are books on how to use emacs. Almost every general Unix book has a section on emacs as well.
Main emacs web page. You can find extensive help here, and you can also get emacs for just about any type of computer that you use.

vim and gvim

How to start

vim filename

gvim filename

How to quit

:q

Description

vim is an enhanced vi clone that is also available on most platforms. gvim is exactly like vim except that is runs in its own X-window and accepts mouse input.

Getting help

man vim

Click Help

vimtutor starts a tutorial for beginners.

man gvim

Main vim web page You can find extensive help here, and you can also get vim for just about any type of computer that you use.

jove

How to start

jove filename

How to quit

Control/X Control/C

Description

jove is a small version of emacs that always runs in the window in which it was started. Starts much more quickly than emacs -nw

Getting help

man jove

teachjove starts a tutorial for beginners.

nedit

How to start

nedit filename

How to quit

Control/Q

Description

nedit uses the mouse and arrow keys to move around the file. Advertizes itself as being a good editor for writing programs. Also advertizes itself as being a good editor for people used to MS Windows and Mac environments. Designed from the ground up to be a mouse-based editor. If you hate emacs and vi, nedit might be for you.

Getting help

Click on Help

Main nedit web page You can find extensive help here, and you can also get nedit for just about any type of computer that you use.

dtpad

How to start

dtpad filename

How to quit

Click File and select Close

Alt/F4

Description

dtpad is a very basic text editor that accepts mouse input.

Getting help

man dtpad

Click Help

pico

How to start

pico filename

How to quit

Control/X

Description

pico is a small, keystroke-based editor. It was designed to be used with the mail and news client pine. It is very simple to use, in no small part because it has very few capabilities. Uses “emacs” style line editing commands.

Getting help

man pico

When using pico press Control/G for some very limited online help.

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