I use Kubuntu 14.04 with its default installation (bash, Konsole). I want to learn a powerful, all-keyboard, text editor, and settled on one of these: Vi, Vim, Emacs, (and I'll learn Nano since it's simple). I have a little experience with the command line: Bash and Python, so I'm ready to add another skill in my pursuit of using Linux without a Windows system.

From Bash, Typing vim or emacs prompt me to install packages.

Typing vi works. It runs an editor, So I thought it must be Vi.

But the splash screen, if you call it that in Bash, says VIM Vi Improved and that it's Running in Vi compatible mode. So now I figure it must be Vim.

So which is it and why does typing vim in bash not run my editor?

3 Answers 3


Vim started as a clone of vi and has almost all of the commands and features of the original vi, plus a lot of enhancements. (See :help design-compatible.) It can be compiled into one of basically five configurations: tiny, small, normal, big and huge. (See :help :version.) It can also be configured at run time to disable the extended features and use only those features found in the original vi. (See :help 'compatible'.)

Since it can be made to behave very closely to the original vi, many Linux distributions include it as their vi, the basic visual editor found on almost all Unix systems. When you run vi, you usually get either the tiny or small version of Vim running in vi-compatible mode. That is why you get the Vim splash screen when you run vi.

This vi, though, is not the full-featured Vim that most users want for regular use. Most Linux distributions offer that version of vim, often the huge version, in an optional package such as vim or vim-enhanced.


Since you're on Ubuntu, verify if Vim is installed by running

dpkg -l | grep vim

Check the available alternatives to Vi by running

update-alternatives --list vi

Set your favorite alternative to Vi by running

update-alternatives --config vi
  • That's clear: I've just got vim-common, vim-runtime and vim-tiny under my default installation of kubuntu 14.04. "There is only one alternative in link group vi (providing /usr/bin/vi): /usr/bin/vim.tiny " Nothing to configure. I suppose that means I've got vim.tiny, and that's it out of the three (VI, VIM and EMACS)
    – user12711
    Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 16:49
  • 3
    @user12711 indeed. If you want vim as you'd expect to find, install vim, or if you want the GUI frontend as well, one of vim-gnome, vim-gtk or vim-athena. I'd recommend installing one of the latter three, since they have more features compiled in than the one vim has (like X11 clipboard support).
    – muru
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 10:58
  • 4
    pixel, update-alternatives --display vi provides a much nicer view, IMHO.
    – muru
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 11:00

Quick command to tell if it's vi or vim

vi -h

this will display the help info in my case :

$ vi -h
VIM - Vi IMproved 7.4 (2013 Aug 10, compiled Aug  7 2016 16:03:11)
[... skip other info ...]

So here i'm with VIM.

  • or use vi --version command Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 8:18

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