What Does Vi Mean?

Vi is a screen editor for Linux, Unix and other Unix-like operating systems. Pronounced (vee-aye), vi stands for visual instrument. It is a widely-used default text editor for Unix-based systems and is shipped with vitually all versions of Unix. It exclusively uses the keyboard and provides a very efficient interface for editing programs and scripts.


Vi is somewhat difficult to learn, but programmers are happy to go through the learning curve to gain the provided efficiency. In comparison to a general purpose word processor program, VI is tailored to a more specific profile of usage and users – programmers of UNIX-based systems.

This term is also known as visual editor and VI.

Techopedia Explains Vi

Unlike the widely popular Windows-based word processors (such as Microsoft’s Notepad and Word), VI does not provide any formatting or “What You See Is What You Get” capabilities.

The original VI program was written by Bill Joy in 1976 and become part of the Single Unix Specification Standard, demanding every conforming Unix distribution to include it. Until the rise of Emacs in 1984, another popular text editor, VI was the de facto standard Unix editor. Even 2009 survey of Linux Journal readers have awarded VI as the highest used text editor leaving Emacs to second place.

Vi actually has an underlying editor known as ex. That is, vi is the visual mode of ex. To execute commands inherent to the ex line editor, the colon (:) is used. There are also two main modes of operation: the command mode and the insert mode. To return to the command mode, simply press the ESC key.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…