Unix Text Editors

There’s quite a few ways for you to edit your texts in Unix. This page summarises the most common Unix commands for text editing.

Unix and Linux Text Editors

There’s three big groups of text editors you can find:

  • text-mode editors – both the text and the interface for editing it are shown as text and available for comfortable work in your typical terminal or remote SSH session. If you’re editing a web page or a code of program, you probably need external software for rendering result of your work. Great choice for editing config files though!
  • editors with graphics interface – still mostly focused around text editing area that traditionally has fixed width font for easier coding, but aided by graphical interface – so menus are more accessible, dialogue windows more meaningful and flexible, etc
  • WYSIWYG editors – these are document editors, not plan text editors. The purpose of such editors is to help you design a document for later printing or sharing online, and you get to see your resulting text as you type – no need for external software to see how it will look.

These editors work in your text-only Unix session and are most quick and lightweight ways to make some changes to a text file.

nano text editor


Some say, nano editor it’s the easiest to use.

  • ed
  • vi – this editor can be found on any Unix or Linux distro since late 1990s

vim editor


vim – my personal preference! 🙂 it’s a Vi IMproved editor – lots of customisations and expansions on top of vi editor

  • pico
  • emacs

Unix text editors with GUIs

These editors are more advanced tools with support for graphics users interface (GUI), which essentially allows for representing available editing options in  more user-frinendly way and support mouse for typical editing operations.

  • vim or gvim (and neovim)
  • emacs
  • gedit
  • kate

Unix WYSIWYG text editors

These are the editors which support the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) concept – meaning that their graphics interface will show you exactly the appearance of your document as it will have when printed.  All font families and sizes, page margins and formatting elements will be shown to make creating of your document the easiest and most natural act.

  • AbiWord
  • Atom – perhaps the best looking and most modern of them all, because it’s a fairly recent project
  • LibreOffice Writer (previously OpenOffice Writer)