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I personally would recommend vi over pico, jed, etc... even for a beginner. Yes you have to figure out :i :w :q :q! but that is enough to get by for simple editing. The advantage is I do not know of any distro that does not have vi available, with the exception of Gentoo. So if you know vu you are usually good for the quick tweak to get the !?$# thing installed.
vim for everything except LISP (i like emacs better for that)
vim can be a bit hard to start with, but you can save loads of time just by having litle shortcuts like 'o' to open a new line, Ctrl+A to increment a number, etc. Also, not having to have one hand over the arrow keys is a big plus once you get used to the weird hjkl system.
Of course emacs has the same kind of benefits, but i'm not so keen on stretching my hands for Ctrl+[whatever] combinations.
Location: Rome, Italy ; Novi Sad, Srbija; Brisbane, Australia
Distribution: Ubuntu / ITOS2008
I used to use Emacs, but just today i started learning Vim and liking it more than Emacs. Emacs has far too many options that others will surely find useful, but i do not. For example why check your e-mail with Emacs if there are other programs made for especially doing that. Although Emacs is a superb editor, it just bothers me that it tries to be many things at once, and it is one of the rare programs that is actually good at being more than an editor, while Vim is an editor, an advanced editor and just that, and i like that.
Well my thats my humble opanyway..
I prefer vi simply because its always on almost every Unix-like system. One time I heard/read someone make a comment about vi and emacs: Vi is a text editor. Emacs is a text editor, a mail reader, a news reader, a browser, an FTP client, ...