I discovered vi/vim only yesterday
on my ubuntu I didn't have vim installed, only vi
I enjoyed its simplicity and minimalism

then I decided to try vim too, ran sudo apt install vim, played with it

Today I tried turning on simpler vi again, but it opens only vim

How do I return back to simpler version without uninstalling vim?


In fact the "simpler version" on Ubuntu is also a Vim. Vim can be compiled with more or less features. The "simple" Vim is still available as vi.tiny (at least on Ubuntu 16.04).

I would recommend to just use the full-featured Vim (called "Huge version"). It has things like syntax highlighting and a lot more.

BTW: If you want to use Vim with graphical UI, you can install it with

sudo apt-get install vim-gtk3

How to start?

Well, Vim (and even the smaller Vim) is a very powerful editor. And like every powerful software there is a lot to learn. At the beginning it will be hard and you will be slow, but that will improve.

For the first steps start the program vimtutor. It loads a text file as a tutorial and teaches you the basic move and editing commands.

Also the help of Vim is very good and extensive. You could start with

:help user-manual

And you are always welcome to ask questions here. Be prepared that a lot of answers will contain a reference to some help topic. Don't worry, we all know that finding the correct help topics is sometimes difficult for a beginners.

One last tip: Vim is highly configurable using a file called vimrc. Don't just copy some fancy configuration from somewhere. You may use them as inspiration, but you should build up your own configuration as you learn.

  • I feel overwhelmed by commands in Vim, so I wanted to train on smaller set of Vi first – Noone AtAll Oct 19 '19 at 13:59
  • @NooneAtAll The command-set of the smaller Vim version is not so much smaller and when you ask questions here, the guys answering will assume a full featured Vim. I've added a section "How to start?". – Ralf Oct 19 '19 at 15:15
  • so this is not all there is in ubuntu-pseudo-Vi? – Noone AtAll Oct 19 '19 at 15:57
  • @NooneAtAll These are only the basics. vimtutor handles most of them and a few more. – Ralf Oct 19 '19 at 16:12
type -a vi

will give you the full path(s) to the vi(m) executable(s) .

Most likely the simpler version is vim.tiny or vim.basic.

Then you can create an alias to whichever version of vi(m) you want.


You mentioned that you are running on Ubuntu.

This means that the executable called vi is the same one as vim, unless you've gone out of your way to install another vi-compatible editor and changed it to be the default, which is unlikely.

The name Vim is an abbrevation of "VI iMproved". vi is an editor in its own right. Vim is based on a vi clone called stevie, but it has accumulated features over the years and now has many features that are not present in the original vi or in stevie.

Under certain circumstances, vim will run in vi-emulation mode, which disables many of the extensions.

You can force vim to run in vi emulation mode by putting set compatible in your .vimrc like so.

" ~/.vimrc file

" turn on vi-compatibility
set compatible

However, vim is a complicated program with many obscure features. If it's important to you to have an editor that's very simple overall, there are some choices. Keep in mind, though, that getting help with unpopular editors is much harder than getting help with vim or emacs issues.

  • nvi available via apt-get install nvi ... a re-implementation of the original vi editor with few additional features.
  • elvis available via apt-get install elvis-tiny ... another small vi clone.

And some that aren't vi-compatible.

  • mg -- editor that emulates the keybindings of gnu emacs. (apt-get install mg)
  • nano -- another simple editor. (apt-get install nano if it is not already installed). nano is very popular, but it's somewhat hard to get help with because the editor has so few features.

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