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Text Editors

To edit (i.e., modify) the shell's startup files, as well as most of the other configuration files on the system, we use a program called a text editor. A text editor is a program that is, in some ways, like a word processor in that it allows us to edit the words on the screen with a moving cursor. It differs from a word processor by only supporting pure text, and often contains features designed for writing programs. Text editors are the central tool used by software developers to write code, and by system administrators to manage the

configuration files that control the system.

There are a lot of different text editors available for Linux; most systems have several in- stalled. Why so many different ones? Because programmers like writing them, and since programmers use them extensively, they write editors to express their own desires as to how they should work.

Text editors fall into two basic categories: graphical and text based. GNOME and KDE both include some popular graphical editors. GNOME ships with an editor called gedit, which is usually called “Text Editor” in the GNOME menu. KDE usually ships with three which are (in order of increasing complexity) kedit, kwrite, and kate.

There are many text-based editors. The popular ones we'll encounter are nano, vi, and emacs. The nano editor is a simple, easy-to-use editor designed as a replacement for the pico editor supplied with the PINE email suite. The vi editor (on most Linux sys- tems replaced by a program named vim, which is short for “Vi IMproved”) is the tradi- tional editor for Unix-like systems. It will be the subject of our next chapter. The emacs editor was originally written by Richard Stallman. It is a gigantic, all-purpose, does-ev- erything programming environment. While readily available, it is seldom installed on most Linux systems by default.

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