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VI...making newbies scream since 1976

Posted 01-19-2009 at 10:38 AM by rocket357

There's a discussion going on here:

claiming that VI is ruining chances of Linux adoption among new users.

The basic argument is that VI is too hard to support...many users get a taste of VI's alienish nature and go screaming back to their Windows machines.

Ok, I'll give you a few points here...

a) VI is not a newb-friendly editor. I've been using VI for years now, and I still learn something new everyday. It's a complex, powerful, and insanely well thought-out beast...mastering VI could take years (As of yet, I'm no VI guru!).

b) newbies exposed to VI go screaming back to Windows. Again, this is likely true. "Holy crap, I can't even *type* in this editor! Screw this, I'm going back to sanity-land!" (haha). VI is not for the faint of heart.

But doesn't it go without saying that if I'm setting up a new user with Linux, I'm certainly not going to set them up with Hardened Linux From Scratch? What if the Linux community put some ground rules in place...all newcomers must master HLFS before moving on to Gentoo, before moving on to Slackware, before moving on to Debian, before moving on to Ubuntu/Fedora/etc...?

This violates one critical characteristic of the Linux movement...*choice*.

If there is anything of concern in this argument, it's that Linux distributions virtually all guarantee the availability of VI (Gentoo's minimal installer does not come with VI preinstalled), but the choice of "user-friendly" editors is *not* standard. Some have nano, some have pico, some have emacs, etc... and perhaps these distributions don't make the choice of editors *painfully* clear... but how obvious does the Linux community need to be? Why are new users editing files in a console editor? Shouldn't they be playing around with a GUI system to get a feel for it before diving in to the intricacies of Linux CLI use? Sure, there are oddballs that were born with a knack for CLI use and likely picked that up from the start, but for average computer users, shouldn't we direct them to a more suitable environment?

Perhaps the issue is the support guy slinging new users into VI.

How is that a failure on the part of Linux?
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  1. Old Comment
    Hi Rocket357,
    In my case; really a newbie, I have not learned much about using terminal mode, if VI means that, and I'm not any kind of a computer programmer. I'm more of an end user. I moved into linux because of the headaches of Windows crashing and slow performance. Started with PCLOS about 2006 and progressed to Mint11, Mint13 is slower, and would like to use Slackware 13.37. However, it does not come with a GUI after installation. I can log on in terminal mode....where do I go from there? Was there a choice I missed? Not sure. Us newbies don't understand coding format and have difficulty when someone tells us to type the following code. No example here. We do not know where the code is exact or the person expects me to know a variable, I should know, goes there. So that is where I'm lost. Yes, I have looked at the 'Help' listing but again it is Greek. I did discover how to get a director listing and print it. I keep reading and try to learn, so time consuming and I don't read so fast.

    The install was made on the hard drive that had Mint13 on it. So that is where I stand now. I use multiple 2.5" HDs for different OSs and one drive is dual boot with Linux Ubunta/Windows 7. All this is used on a Dell 1545 laptop with 4gb RAM.
    Sincerely Hopeful.
    Posted 06-19-2012 at 08:32 AM by kayakman kayakman is offline
  2. Old Comment
    My honest opinion? Learn to stand before you learn to walk. There are numerous "lightweight" GUI distros out there (I'm not an expert in this area...I run very minimalist command line systems, typically). Ask has tons of knowledgeable people when it comes to all of the variations in Linux that you could imagine. Mint 13 is too slow? Grab an XFCE distro. Still too slow? Grab a fluxbox distro. You have the choice.
    Posted 06-21-2012 at 07:26 PM by rocket357 rocket357 is offline
  3. Old Comment
    If you think vi makes new commers yell and run away wait until they find out the _beast_ called emacs. I think it will take them (atleast me) months even to find out that there is even a news reader in it... For the life of me I could not get my head around emacs (I tried a lot of times though).
    BTW dont you think it would be a _lot_ better if someone had written a simple help file? Whatever I learned about vi was from vim
    Posted 07-09-2012 at 02:20 PM by honeybadger honeybadger is offline
  4. Old Comment
    I think nano is pretty much reasonable. Ideally perhaps a newbie-friendly it would mimick GUI editors in more shortcuts such as control+s to save and control+o to open (I always catch myself either doing control + o to try to save something in kwrite or control + s to try to save in nano), but it's light-years away of vi in newbie-friendliness. I just don't get why is that so common to see sometimes instruction apparently directed at newbies saying thing like first you got to edit file X, type "vi filex". I think it in some cases it may be some sort of prank on newbies, and if we were to see the one who did the suggestion he'd have the "trollface" expression. "Problem, noob?".
    Posted 07-09-2012 at 10:23 PM by the dsc the dsc is offline
  5. Old Comment
    I don't have enough fingers to use emacs, honeybadger. I only have 10 =)

    And I've wondered how many "vi /etc/fstab" instructions were pranks, too, the_dsc. I don't know if it is simple "I'm used to it, so I don't even think about it" or malicious "haha, this will be hilarious!". I'd hope that it is complacency vs. maliciousness, but you never know.
    Posted 07-13-2012 at 04:17 PM by rocket357 rocket357 is offline


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