Time To End The vi/Emacs Debate

Edwin Torres

March 13, 2018

If you still use Emacs, I feel for you. Perhaps it is time to give vi a try.

User Comments


Vi and emacs have never shard the same goals - at least not since the early days. Most vi implementations are basic minimal editors meant to satisfy the standard and provide a uniform general purpose editor for unix. It was convenient to simply add some interactive sugar around ex and call it the standard editor for the system. ex is still essentially the only standard way to programmatically perfrom many file manipulation tasks from a shell script, aside from ed, and being able to carry over that functionality into the editor is rather neat.

However, it's really only vim that has seriously tried to fill the role of emacs as a heavyweight programmers tool.

I'm not an emacs expert, but vim still makes it very difficult to build simple composible functions into commands during interactive editing the way I expect a scheme-based editor might, so I'm tempted to give emacs a try. Vimscript is a horrible language and the other embedded scripting languages aren't integrated in a way that makes them easily accessible while editing. Possibly neovim has made some improvements in that area. I haven't had a chance to explore it.

Daniel- Thanks for providing some history on the editors' goals. Interesting.

It's no wonder that software continues to be so poorly-designed when a modal interface like vi's is accepted without question.

Devon- Thanks for your comment. I've always felt that you can create great software with any plain text editor or IDE. vi happens to be my favorite text editor, mainly for familiarity and nostalgia. And you can easily create poorly designed software with advanced IDEs like Eclipse and Visual Studio Code.