Vi and Emacs Without the Religion

Chris Patti over at Blind Not Dumb has gathered his courage and written a piece on vi versus Emacs. He approaches the subject, as the title suggests, without the usual religious fervor.

His take, which is hard to argue with, is that the best editor depends on what you are trying to do. If you want to edit text as quickly and efficiently as possible then vi/Vim is probably the editor for you. Be aware, though, that Vim is an editor not an IDE. Patti says that efforts to bolt on IDE-like features rarely end well. Either the extension doesn't work well or it destabilizes Vim.

Emacs, on the other hand, is more of a programming environment that is highly optimized for dealing with text. That means that you can not only edit but do other other—usually but not always—text oriented tasks in the same environment. That gives rise to the familiar—to Emacsers—tendency to move everything possible inside Emacs.

The other advantage of Emacs is that you can customize it to operate in almost any conceivable way. Vim, of course, is also customizable but not nearly to the same extent.

Patti's post is a balanced recounting of the benefits of each editor and may help n00bs trying to decide which one to use to pick the editor best suited for them. I'd bet that almost every Emacs/vi user knows and have used both. Many people start with one and switch to the other for some reason. From my point of view, I love using Emacs because I have adjusted it to enable a nearly frictionless workflow. Still, there are times when only vi/Vim is available so I'm glad to know both.

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