Basic vi Commands

Basic vi Commands

The UNIX vi editor is a full screen editor and has two modes of operation:

Command mode commands which cause action to be taken on the file, and

Insert mode in which entered text is inserted into the file.

In the command mode, every character typed is a command that does something to the text file

being edited; a character typed in the command mode may even cause the vi editor to enter the

insert mode.

In the insert mode, every character typed is added to the text in the file; pressing the <Esc> (Escape)

key turns off the Insert mode.

To Get Into and Out Of vi

To Start vi

To use vi on a file, type in vi filename. If the file named filename exists, then the first page (or

screen) of the file will be displayed; if the file does not exist, then an empty file and screen are

created into which you may enter text.

1. vi filename edit filename starting at line 1

2. vi -r filename recover filename that was being edited when system crashed

To Exit vi

Usually the new or modified file is saved when you leave vi. However, it is also possible to quit vi

without saving the file.

Note: The cursor moves to bottom of screen whenever a colon (:) is typed. This type of command is

completed by hitting the <Return> (or <Enter>) key.

1. :x<Return> quit vi, writing out modified file to file named in original invocation

2. :wq<Return> quit vi, writing out modified file to file named in original invocation

3. :q<Return>quit (or exit) vi

4. :q!<Return>quit vi even though latest changes have not been saved for this vi call

Moving the Cursor

Unlike many of the PC and MacIntosh editors, the mouse does not move the cursor within the vi

editor screen (or window).

You must use the the key commands listed below. On some UNIX platforms, the arrow keys may be

used as well; however, since vi was designed with the Qwerty keyboard (containing no arrow keys)

in mind, the arrow keys sometimes produce strange effects in vi and should be avoided.

If you go back and forth between a PC environment and a UNIX environment, you may find that this

dissimilarity in methods for cursor movement is the most frustrating difference between the two.

In the table below, the symbol ^ before a letter means that the <Ctrl> key should be held down

while the letter key is pressed.

1. j or <Return> [or down-arrow] move cursor down one line

2. k [or up-arrow] move cursor up one line

3. h or <Backspace> [or left-arrow] move cursor left one character

4. l or <Space> [or right-arrow] move cursor right one character

5. 0 (zero) move cursor to start of current line (the one with the cursor)

6. $ move cursor to end of current line

7. w move cursor to beginning of next word

8. b move cursor back to beginning of preceding word

9. :0<Return> or 1G move cursor to first line in file

10. :n<Return> or nG move cursor to line n

11. :$<Return> or G move cursor to last line in file

Screen Manipulation

The following commands allow the vi editor screen (or window) to move up or down several lines

and to be refreshed.

1. ^f move forward one screen

2. ^b move backward one screen

3. ^d move down (forward) one half screen

4. ^u move up (back) one half screen

5. ^l redraws the screen

6. ^r redraws the screen, removing deleted lines

Adding, Changing, and Deleting Text

Unlike PC editors, you cannot replace or delete text by highlighting it with the mouse. Instead use

the commands in the following tables.

Perhaps the most important command is the one that allows you to back up and undo your last

action. Unfortunately, this command acts like a toggle, undoing and redoing your most recent

action. You cannot go back more than one step.

1. u UNDO WHATEVER YOU JUST DID; a simple toggle

The main purpose of an editor is to create, add, or modify text for a file.

Inserting or Adding Text

The following commands allow you to insert and add text. Each of these commands puts the vi

editor into insert mode; thus, the <Esc> key must be pressed to terminate the entry of text and to

put the vi editor back into command mode.

1. i insert text before cursor, until <Esc> hit

I insert text at beginning of current line, until <Esc> hit

2. a append text after cursor, until <Esc> hit

A append text to end of current line, until <Esc> hit

3. o open and put text in a new line below current line, until <Esc> hit

O open and put text in a new line above current line, until <Esc> hit

Changing Text

The following commands allow you to modify text.

1. r replace single character under cursor (no <Esc> needed)

R replace characters, starting with current cursor position, until <Esc> hit

2. cw change the current word with new text, starting with the character under cursor,

until <Esc> hit

3. cNw change N words beginning with character under cursor, until <Esc> hit;

e.g., c5w changes 5 words

4. C change (replace) the characters in the current line, until <Esc> hit

cc change (replace) the entire current line, stopping when <Esc> is hit

Ncc or cNc change (replace) the next N lines, starting with the current line, stopping

when <Esc> is hit

Deleting Text

The following commands allow you to delete text.

1. x delete single character under cursor

Nx delete N characters, starting with character under cursor

dw delete the single word beginning with character under cursor

dNw delete N words beginning with character under cursor;

e.g., d5w deletes 5 words

1. D delete the remainder of the line, starting with current cursor position

dd delete entire current line

Ndd or dNd delete N lines, beginning with the current line;

e.g., 5dd deletes 5 lines

Cutting and Pasting Text

The following commands allow you to copy and paste text.

1. yy copy (yank, cut) the current line into the buffer

Nyy or yNy copy (yank, cut) the next N lines, including the current line, into the buffer

2. p put (paste) the line(s) in the buffer into the text after the current line

Other Commands

Searching Text

A common occurrence in text editing is to replace one word or phase by another. To locate instances

of particular sets of characters (or strings), use the following commands.

1. /string search forward for occurrence of string in text

2. ?string search backward for occurrence of string in text

3. n move to next occurrence of search string

N move to next occurrence of search string in opposite direction

Determining Line Numbers

Being able to determine the line number of the current line or the total number of lines in the file

being edited is sometimes useful.

1. :.= returns line number of current line at bottom of screen

2. := returns the total number of lines at bottom of screen

3. ^g provides the current line number, along with the total number of lines, in the file at

the bottom of the screen

Saving and Reading Files

These commands permit you to input and output files other than the named file with which you are

currently working.

1. :r filename<Return> read file named filename and insert after current line (the line with


2. :w<Return> write current contents to file named in original vi call

3. :w newfile<Return> write current contents to a new file named newfile

4. :12,35w smallfile<Return> write the contents of the lines numbered 12 through 35 to a

new file named smallfile

5. :w! prevfile<Return> write current contents over a pre-existing file named prevfile

Slide:ology Summary

“Communication is about getting others to adopt your point of view, to help them understand why you’re excited (or sad, or optimistic, or whatever else you are). If all you want to do is create a file of facts and figures, then cancel the meeting and send in a report.”

: Seth Godin

The audience will either read your slides or listen to you. They will not do both. So, ask yourself this: is it more important that they listen, or more effective if they read?

True presentations focus on the presenter and the visionary ideas and concepts they want to communicate.

Create ideas, not slides.

10/20/30 Rule: You should deliver you 10 slides in 20 minutes, no fonts smaller than 30 points.


Five Theses of Presentation:

1. Treat Your Audience as King

They didn’t come to your presentation to see you. They came to find out what you can do for them. Success means giving them a reason for taking their time, providing content that resonates, and ensuring it’s clear what they are to do.

2. Spread Ideas and Move People

Creating great ideas is what we were born to do; getting people to feel like they have a stake in what we believe is the hard part. Communicate your ideas with strong visual grammar to engage all their senses and they will adopt the ideas as their own.

3. Help Them See What You’re Saying

Epiphanies and profoundly moving experiences come from moments of clarity. Think like a designer and guide your audience through ideas in a way that helps, not hinders, their comprehension. Appeal not only to their verbal senses, but to their visual senses as well.

4. Practice Design, No Decoration

Orchestrating the aesthetic experience through well-know but oft-neglected design practices often transforms audiences into evangelists. Don’t just make pretty talking points. Instead, display information in a way that makes complex information clear.

5. Cultivate Healthy Relationships

A meaningful relationship between you, your slides, and your audience will connect people with content. Display information in the best way possible for comprehension rather than focusing on what you need as a visual crutch. Content carries connect with people.


Sensitive Presentation Ecosystem:


Time Estimate for Developing a Presentation

6 – 20 hours

Research and collect input from the web, colleagues, and the industry.

1 hour

Build an audience-needs map.

2 hours

Generate ideas via sticky notes.

1 hour

Organize the ideas.

1 hour

Have colleagues critique or collaborate around the impact the ideas will have on audience.

2 hours

Sketch a structure and/or a storyboard.

20 – 60 hours

Build the slides in a presentation application.

3 hours

Rehearse, rehearse , rehearse (in the shower, on the treadmill, or during the commute)

36 – 90 hours total


7 Questions to Knowing Audience

1. What are the like?

Demographics and psychographics are a great start, but connecting with your audience means understanding them on a personal level. Take a walk in their shoes and describe what their life looks like.

2. Why are they here?

What do they think they’re going to get out of this presentation? Why did they come to hear you? Are they willing participants or mandatory attendees? This is also a bit of a situation analysis.

3. What keeps them up at night?

Everyone has a fear, a pain point, a thorn in the side. Let your audience know you empathize – and offer a solution.

4. How can you solve their problem?

What’s in it for the audience? how are you going to make their lives better?

5. What do you want them to do?

Answer the question “so what?” Make sure there’s clear action for your audience to take.

6. How might they resist?

What will keep them from adopting your message and carrying out your call to action?

7. How can you best reach them?

People vary in how they prefer to receive information. This can include everything from the setup of the room to the availability of materials after the presentation. Give the audience what they want, how they want it.


Design Effective Slides

Arrangement: contrast, hierarchy, unity, space, proximity, flow

Visual Elements: background, colour, text, images, audios, videos

Movement: timing, pace, distance, direction, eye flow


Tell a wonderful story.

Be simple.

Reduce text as much as possible.

Images must be clear and resonated.

Build own diagrams.

Use body languages.

Control presentation flow.

Be consistent.

Prepare for Q&A.