Using Editors

An editor is a utility designed to view and modify files.

Editors don't apply any persistent formatting to viewed text, although many use colors or styles to provide additional contextual information, such as type information in source code files. For example, if you're editing C code, some editors use different colors to indicate keywords, strings, numbers, and so on.

Which editor you use is largely a question of personal taste:

  • Do you want to use a mouse or other pointer, or do you want to use just the keyboard?
  • Do you need to type international characters, accents, and diacritical marks, or just ASCII?
  • How do you like to invoke commands? In some editors, you type a single character, in others, you press a keychord, and in yet others, you click a button or select an item from a menu.

One important distinction between the editors is whether they're text-based or graphical. Text-based editors are more flexible because you can use them in text mode, in a console window, remotely via telnet or qtalk, and so on; graphical editors tend to be friendlier and easier to use, but can run only in a graphical window.

If you start a graphical editor from the command line, you'll probably want to start it as a background process—by adding an ampersand (&) to the command line—so that you can continue to use the current window while the editor is still open. If you're using a text-based editor, start it as a foreground process by omitting the ampersand.

Last modified: 2013-12-21

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