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Most of the things we have been talking about only work in vim. Typically, on Linux, you have vim. When you type ":help" I think it tells you what program it is. Actually, just the fact that ":help" works indicates it is vim or a vim variant; native vi doesn't have alot of these extensions.
Unfortunately, here at work I only have access to vi. When I get home tonight I'll do some more looking.
Does arbitrary text line break?
Is it breaking on white space or always at the same point? What point does it break at?
wrap causes the display to wrap at the end of the screen.
wrapmargin and textwidth cause the data to wrap at the point specified. Although both of these break on whitespace by default.
If tw=255 and wrap is on the screen will show something like 3 full 80 characters display lines and a short 15 character line (given lucky white space). If nowrap is set the display will scroll right. Of course the above assumes the standard 80 character line, but since you said you were in the native command line that is a somewhat reasonable assumption.