Survive Vi

The Absolute Minimum You Must Learn

People like to joke about how hard it is to exit Vi. It’s true that for years people would be suddenly forced to use Vi without expecting it, for example, when editing a crontab was a common one. Here are the absolute basics to help you survive your first encounter with Vi with a smile.

Now that Nano terminal editor is the default on all major Linux distros Vi users are the ones stuck not being able to exit.

Keep in mind that the arrow keys are now fully supported by Vi itself (not just Vim) even though you should learn to use hjkl navigation as soon as possible.

Action Mode Description
i Command Change into -- INSERT -- mode.
ESC INSERT Escape -- INSERT -- to Command.
Both Move left.
Both Move down.
Both Move up.
Both Move right.
:wq Command Save and quit.
:q! Command Quit without saving.
:w Command Save without exiting.

See that’s not so bad! Here’s a PNG if you want a copy.

Seriously, that’s all you need to get started with Vi/m and never bother with Nano at all. In fact, that’s easier than learning Nano. Just say no to Nano!

The reason ZZ and ZQ and Control-[ were removed from the survival guide is that too many beginners would experiment with different combinations having forgotten how to exit and end up accidentally doing Control-Z which backgrounds the process. This is yet another reason nano is so bad for beginners.