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Editor wars

The hacker community has a tradition of treating their favorite editor with a reverence bordering on religious fanaticism. Many flame wars have been fought between groups insisting that their editor of choice is the paragon of editing perfection, and deprecating the other's. Most participants in these arguments recognize that it is (mostly) tongue-in-cheek. There are related wars over operating systems and programming languages.

Editor wars are usually fought between the devotees of Emacs and vi, the two most popular editors on Unix. Most Unix users and programmers use one or the other of these editors. Many are familiar with both, at least enough to get around, and so feel they are well-placed to make judgment calls as to which is "better".

Frequently, at some point in the discussion, someone will point out that ed is the standard text editor.

The Church of Emacs has been formed by Emacs users, to worship Emacs and discourage the use of vi. It has its own newsgroup, alt.religion.emacs. Richard Stallman has jokingly declared himself to be St IGNUcius, a Saint in the Church of Emacs.

vi lovers have created an opposing Cult of vi, which some Emacs users call "clearly a miserable attempt to ape their betters."

Perceived benefits of Emacs

  • Emacs has a much larger set of available commands than any of the vi-like editors.
  • Emacs has many plug-ins such as the gnus newsreader and various software development tools.
  • Emacs includes vi, in the form of viper-mode.

Perceived benefits of vi-like editors

  • vi commands are entered largely without the use of shifting keys such as Ctrl or Meta. Some users find this reduces wrist strain.
  • vi is smaller and faster than Emacs.
  • vim, a popular vi-like editor, is scriptable in commonly-used languages such as Perl and Python.

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