What’s the Difference Between Vi and Vim Editors

Text editors are important tools in the life of a Linux user. As we get used to our preferred Linux operating system distribution, we slowly transition from beginners to expert users.

In the course of this transition, we find ourselves leaning more and more towards this operating system’s non-graphical user interface. Reason? This Linux OS environment hosts numerous computing tools associated with it. This non-graphical user interface is none other than the Linux command-line environment.

Linux application packages and utilities bound to the command-line environment are resource-friendly and faster in their executive power in comparison to the ones bound to the graphical user interface like the Linux Desktop environment.

The vi and vim editors reside in the Linux command-line environment and are the go-to editors for users handling projects associated with source code and log files than might require impromptu editing.

This article will address the differences that define vi and vim are separate and distinct editors despite both them sharing unmatched similarities.

Difference by Definition

Despite both editors showcasing a similar file editing behavior, we can distinctively set them apart through their definitions.

  • Defining vi editor – Vi or visual interface is a standardized terminal-based text editor originating from ed; also a terminal-based Unix text editor, whose continuous developmental improvement led to the creation of the vi text editor.
  • Defining vim editor – Vim or visual interface improvement can be looked at as a vi editor implementation with improved user experience because of additional/extra features and increased effectiveness.

Difference by Syntax

Now that we know vi is the founding father of vim text editor, let us look at the syntax presentation in terms of these two text editors’ usage.

The standard syntax for using the vi and vim text editor is as follows:

$ vi path/to/text/file
$ vim path/to/text/file

For instance, if we were to open and edit a file called sample_file.txt, the associated vi command will be as follows:

$ vi sample_file.txt
$ vim sample_file.txt

Feature Differences

Both vi and vim are reputable text editors, however, since vim is a better version of vi, it outshines it in terms of supporting the following prominent features’ implementation:

  • word completion
  • command-line history
  • macros
  • windows splitting and tabs
  • pattern matching
  • undo and redo multiple times
  • code highlighting

Installing Vi and Vim Editors in Linux

POSIX and Single UNIX Specification standards describe open and visual modes evident in the vi text editor. Therefore, any device that meets the compliance associated with these standards is directly compatible with the vi text editor. Therefore, vi is already pre-installed in almost all Linux operating system distributions.

As for the vim text editor, you can install it on your preferred Linux OS distribution from one of the following installation commands.

$ sudo apt install vim            [On Debian, Ubuntu and Mint]
$ sudo yum install vim            [On RHEL/CentOS/Fedora and Rocky Linux/AlmaLinux]
$ sudo emerge -a app-editors/vim  [On Gentoo Linux]
$ sudo pacman -S vim              [On Arch Linux]
$ sudo zypper install vim         [On OpenSUSE]    

Both vi and vim text editors will perform well when handling simple text editing tasks. However, However, when handling extremely long files or code snippets, vim is feature-rich enough to handle such files.

Check out the following vim related tips:

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