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vi Modes

When you start up vi, you are automatically placed in command mode. In command mode, you can move the cursor, delete text, change text, perform searches, and exit vi. What you cannot do in command mode is insert text. To do this you need to enter insert mode. This can be achieved by pressing i. When you are finished typing text and want to return to command mode again, you press the escape (ESC) key.

If you are not sure which mode you are in then pressing escape always puts you into command mode. If you are already in command mode, then pressing escape should make your terminal beep, leaves you in command mode anyway.

The :set showmode option offers an alternative way to distinguish between modes. Setting this option will display a message at the bottom of your screen each time you enter text input mode:

 --- INSERT ---

There are many flavours of vi, and the one you are using for the tutorials tells you the mode by default without having to type the command shown above.

If you use a set command remember that whatever you set is not saved between runs of vi, so every time you restart vi you must type the set commands again. Set and other ":" commands are entered from command mode by typing a ":" and then the command in question. As you type the command appears at the bottom of the window. Once the command is typed in you press <return> to execute the command.


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