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Set Vim as your default editor for Unix

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created December 6, 2001 · complexity basic · author bhaskar · version 5.7


Normally, typing edit on a Unix system brings up the vi editor and not Vim. If you've installed Vim in your home directory somewhere, you don't have a root account, and you want to make Vim the default editor for anything you do (e.g. edit a SQL statement in SQLplus), define these three variables in your .profile:

VIM=<base directory where Vim executable is placed>
VIMRUNTIME=<base directory where Vim runtimes are kept>
EDITOR=$VIM/vim

E.g:
VIMRUNTIME=/usr/bin
EDITOR=/usr/bin/vim

If you've installed vim with another name (say, vim.exe) then change EDITOR=$VIM/vim to EDITOR=$VIM/vim.exe

Source .profile, and the next time you start an editor from any program you'll bring up Vim.


On Ubuntu (or other Debian-based systems), update-alternatives can be used to change the default editor:

sudo update-alternatives --config editor
# Type the number which corresponds to Vim here (after installing it) then press Enter.

$EDITOR is the defined variable that programs on Unix-like operating systems are supposed to use for the default editor. Actually, $VISUAL is another defined variable for a non line-oriented editor, which is technically the correct role for Vim. Many notable programs on Unix support these variables, though obviously there are a few that for various reasons do not.

CommentsEdit

Note that if you built Vim manually rather installed your distribution's package, it may not show up in the list presented by update-alternatives, you will need to add it:

sudo update-alternatives --install /usr/bin/editor editor /usr/bin/vim 100

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