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Editors FAQ

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Table of contents

  1. What emacs-style text editors are available?
  2. What other emacs-style text editors are available?
  3. What vi-style text editors are available?
  4. What other text editors are available?
  5. What word processors are available?

Questions and answers

  1.   What emacs-style text editors are available?

    emacs is the world's most powerful text editor, by far, and time spent learning it will be repaid many times over later. There are free versions for all common desktop platforms, so effort spent learning the editor on one system is not lost when you change to another.

    emacs comes with its own self-teaching tutorial: type Ctl-h t to get started. There is an extensive hypertext-linked online manual in the info system, accessible inside an editor session by typing Ctl-h i, and externally through the standalone info and xinfo utilities. In additional, all editor commands are self documenting.

    Two features in particular make emacs different from other text editors: dynamic key binding allows editing functions to be bound to keys for convenient and rapid access, and new editing functions can be written in Emacs Lisp inside the editor and used immediately. As a result of this extensibility, there are tens of thousands of editing functions collected in hundreds of libraries that other people have written, and that you can use.

    The latest release of this editor is available as nemacs (for new emacs). Consult the the menu path Help -> Emacs News (bound to the keystrokes C-h n) for details about the changes.

    Besides the classic GNU Emacs Manual (15th edition, ISBN 1-882114-85-X), written by its original developer, Richard Stallman, there are also several other books on emacs, including Learning GNU Emacs (3rd edition, ISBN 0-596-00648-9), The Craft of Text Editing (ISBN 0-387-97616-7), Writing GNU Emacs Extensions (ISBN 1-56592-261-1), UNIX Desktop Guide to Emacs (ISBN 0-672-30171-7), GNU Emacs: UNIX Text Editing and Programming (ISBN 0-201-56345-2), and An Introduction to Programming in Emacs Lisp (ISBN 1-882114-56-6).

  2.   What other emacs-style text editors are available?

    There are some smaller editors with emacs-style key bindings. Some can run in a separate X11 Window System window, while others run only in a terminal window. They include jed (John E. Davis' editor), jove (Jonathan's Own Version of Emacs), qemacs (Quick Emacs), teachjove (tutorial for jove), xjed (X11 Window System version of jed), xjov (X11 Window System version of jove), and zile (Zile is Lossy Emacs).

  3.   What vi-style text editors are available?

    vi is the original Berkeley Unix screen editor. Unlike emacs, it is not extensible, not self-documenting, and it has separate text entry and command modes. Its development has been frozen for two decades, whereas emacs continues to grow in power.

    view is a version of vi that works in read-only mode. vedit is a variant intended for beginners.

    There are two reimplementations of this editor, vile and vim. They attempt to remedy some of its deficiencies, and many vi-users have found it convenient to switch to them.

    The book Learning the vi Editor (6th edition, ISBN 1-56592-426-6), and the companion vi Editor: Pocket Reference (ISBN 1-56592-497-5) are good references.

  4.   What other text editors are available?

    ed is the original Unix line editor, dating from the early 1970s. You probably don't want to use it for any but the most trivial editing jobs. It has a companion red, which restrict some of its features.

    ex is the line editor upon which vi is built.

    gnome-text-editor is a simple screen editor for those users who limit themselves only to editing commands found in menus.

    kate (GNU/Linux systems only) is a screen editor with editing menus.

    kedit (GNU/Linux systems only) is another simple screen editor.

    mcedit is small terminal-based text editor that comes with the Midnight Commander tool, mc.

    moe is a screen editor with unlimited undo/redo capability.

    nano is a reimplementation of the pico editor.

    pi is a locally written editor that was developed to be portable across several different microcomputer systems.

    pico is small terminal-based text editor that comes with the pine mail client.

    rnano is a restricted version of nano.

    sed is a stream editor, used primarily for automated batch editing in Unix shell scripts. The book sed and awk (2nd edition, ISBN 1-56592-225-5) and the companion guide sed & awk Pocket Reference (ISBN 0-596-00352-8) are good references for this editor.

    xedit is a primitive screen editor for the X11 Window System.

    yudit is a screen editor for files written in the Unicode character set.

  5.   What word processors are available?

    Applix office, ooffice, and StarOffice soffice are the only word processors on our Unix systems. If you are creating short documents in a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) environment, you may find word processors suitable. Longer documents, documents that have complex structure or mathematics, and documents that need to be portable and archival, need the power of a stable typesetting system, such as LaTeX.

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Department of Mathematics
University of Utah
155 South 1400 East, JWB 233
Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-0090
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