Vi very successfully minimises finger travel and speed with command mode.

Swapping ; and : seems to save a lot of extra shift keystrokes for commands which are used more freqently than repititions of letter searches, but there are disadvantages to using a non standard key layout.

What are the advantages of : for commands? Compared to the effiency and elegance of Vi overall I feel like there must be some logic I'm missing.

1 Answer 1


You know the story behind the hjkl keys in Vi? Well, : was unshifted on Vi author's ADM-3A terminal.

No idea if that's the real explanation in this particular case, but it seems at least as plausible as the hjkl story.

  • 1
    +1 This definitely seems plausible. In ADM-3A, ; is on the home row and : is on the top row. So if this is the reason, it could be argued even with the shift, that the new layout is an improvement!
    – 79E09796
    Sep 18, 2016 at 16:21
  • 1
    Cool story about the arrows. They reused those keys for Apple IIc "console" and many video games too... Sep 19, 2016 at 1:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.