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Linux skills: 9 tutorials to get more from your text editor

Are you getting everything you need out of your text editor? Read Enable Sysadmin's recent articles about Linux text editors to find out what you're missing.
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When it comes to a sysadmin's daily drivers, text editors are always near the top of the list. Whether you're partial to Vi/Vim, Emacs, Nano, ed, or any of the many other options out there, you probably couldn't do your job without one of these handy tools close at hand.

If you're considering a new text editor, or aren't sure you're getting everything out of your current favorite, read some of Enable Sysadmin's recent articles about Linux text editors to find out what you're missing.

Learn Vi/Vim features for new and experienced users

Vi was written way back in 1976, but it remains the default text editor on most Linux distributions (as well as macOS, BSD, and Solaris). Vim (which stands for “Vim improved”) is a port of Vi first released in 1991 with, as the name suggests, features that you won't find in Vi.

So if you're just getting started with Linux, you're probably using Vi or Vim. In that case, Seth Kenlon's How to get started with the Vi editor will give you a leg up on your learning journey. Seth shares how to launch Vi, the differences between command mode and insert mode, and some shortcuts that will make your work on the command line easier.

If you're a seasoned Vim user, check out Jack Knight's Vim features for power users to add some advanced features to your toolkit. Jack explains how to work with multiple files, comment several lines at once, write a macro to generate a number list, and more.

[ Download now: A sysadmin's guide to Bash scripting. ]

Automating tasks is one of the most important things a sysadmin can do to avoid rework and become more efficient. In Recursive Vim macros: One step further into automating repetitive tasks, Elyezer Rezende takes the recommendations Ricardo Gerardi offers in Use Vim macros to automate frequent tasks a step (or two further). Check out these two articles for tips on automating tasks with Vim.

If you love Vi/Vim but want some of the features available in newer text editors, Kakoune might help you bridge the gap. In Try Kakoune for a modern Vi, Seth Kenlon tells you how to get started with Kakoune and take advantage of its updated navigation options, keyboard shortcuts, and more.

Fall for Emacs features

Emacs is a well-loved cousin of Vim with a dedicated fan base. If you're a new user, Tara Gu's article A beginner's guide to text editing with Emacs remains a must-read getting-started resource.

But if you want to go in a little deeper, Seth Kenlon's 5 features that will make you fall in love with Emacs gives you insight into using plugins, remote editing, keyboard shortcuts, and more. And because these features are so useful, Seth shows how to implement them in other text editors, including Vim, Atom, and VS Code.

Go really old school with ed

Ed was the first text editor written for Unix, making it one of the oldest text editors available. It's also one of the smallest and most powerful text editors. It may not have modern features, but as Seth Kenlon says in How to get started with the ed text editor, it can get you out of a bind in an emergency, like when your system is in recovery mode and you don't have your usual tools available. For this reason alone, it's worth your time to learn.

[ Free eBook: Manage your Linux environment for success. ]

Compare text editors

There are dozens of text editors to choose from, and who has time to compare them all? If you're trying to decide which editor is right for you, get expert advice from real-world users in Vim vs. Nano vs. Emacs: Three sysadmins weigh in. In this article, Seth Kenlon, Ricardo Gerardi, and Amy Marrich tell you what they like about their favorite text editor. See what they have to say when making your decision.

Do you have some text editor tips that make your life easier? Consider sharing them with other sysadmins by writing about them for Enable Sysadmin. For information about contributing, visit our FAQ page and sign up to join the community.

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Topics:   Text editors   Software  
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Vicki Walker

Vicki Walker is Managing Editor, Digital Communities, for Red Hat. She has more than 15 years of experience in technology publishing for companies including Red Hat,, Dark Reading, SAP, BlackBerry, and Network Computing, for more than 15 years. More about me

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