Bye Bye Vi: GNU/Linux Distros Drop Support

If you grew up with Unix systems like we did, you’ll be sorry to hear the news: vi, the noble text editor that has served us so well these 40 years, is going away — from many GNU/Linux systems, anyway. As of this writing, GNU/Linux Mint, Debian, Ubuntu, and OpenSUSE — four of the five most popular GNU/Linux distributions — have all announced that they will no longer ship the ‘vi’ editor as part of their base installs. For those of us who got our start in the punched-card era and still think of files as a collection of lines instead of a stream of bytes, this is a major blow. But, we can all take some comfort in the fact that, at least for now, the stripped-down version of vim synonymous with vi on these systems will continue to be available from package repositories.

The reasons for the move aren’t entirely clear to us, but from what we can see on the GNU/Linux mailing lists, the confusing modal interface and the fact that novice (and many seasoned) users can’t figure out how to save a file and exit the program seem to have influenced the decision. Also cited were support changes expected as GNU/Linux gains in popularity. As the user base expands to include less technically-savvy individuals, fewer people will be able to fix their constant boot issues, which is the primary use-case for vi. Replacing the self-help model will be a support infrastructure where users can take their machines to “GNU/Linux Geniuses” who will solve the problems for them.

The War is Over

This move essentially puts an end to the editor war between vi and GNU Emacs, a conflict which has continued since the mid-1980s. GNU Emacs isn’t installed as part of the base for most (any?) distros either, so the announcement puts the editors back on an equal footing, at least as far as distribution goes. To obtain a version of vi on your favorite Linux system, you’ll need to install it explicitly, like GNU Emacs users have been doing (and whining about) seemingly forever. We don’t expect hostilities between the two camps to completely subside, but we can’t help but wonder if the energy would be better applied elsewhere, considering the replacement editor that’s slated to be shipped instead.

Out With the Old, in With the New

So, with the two favorites out of the race, what will be the default editor in the new GNU/Linuxes? We spoke with an insider at a major commercial distribution (you know which one) who told us that a version of Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code (renamed GNU/Visual Studio Code) will ship with the base install of all future versions of their GNU/Linux operating system, effectively replacing vi. While we were initially surprised by this decision, the reasons quoted make a lot of sense. First, there’s popularity. Visual Studio Code was ranked number one in the 2018 Stack OverFlow Developer Survey, with 34.9% of over 100,000 respondents saying they used the editor. Vim users represented only 25.8%, with Emacs at a tiny 4.1%. That many JavaScript developers can’t be wrong.

Our source also cited Microsoft’s recent forays into open-source, including the GNU/Visual Studio Code editor itself (released under the MIT license), the groundbreaking release of Windows calculator code, and their recent purchase of GitHub:

So far, Microsoft has embraced open source, and continue to extend the projects they’ve become involved with. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

We agree.

167 thoughts on “Bye Bye Vi: GNU/Linux Distros Drop Support

  1. To Whom It May Concern:

    This is not a good idea. Most if not all of our systems for our stores reside on a UNIX/LINUX based platform. If I may be so bold in my comments, again just because something is OLD does not mean it is not used. It means it has lasted the test of time and developers and users have no issue with it.

    Now, there will be some that say, get the new stuff. Well in my years of experience, getting the new “shiny spinning thingy”
    just because it is a new “shiny spinning thingy” is just well, a waste of mental energy.

    No, I do not need an IDE. No, I don’t want the confusion of all the gizmos across the top of the task bar. Just continue to support the application and provide those who what all the bells and whistles of a IDE, EDE, EI-EI-O or whatever – to those who want it.

    Again this is a terrible idea and unfortunately, the “THINK-TANK” or persons who decided this is great idea have shown their limited depth and breath of systems who use this tool.

  2. Vim is my heart.
    VI is for computing legends.
    It’s heartbreaking to see Linux dropping vi.
    Those people who aren’t used to VI or vim shouldn’t use Linux. They should use Windows.
    Linux is for vim. Without vim computing world will be powerless.

  3. Glad its an april fools joke. Vi rocks!!! and its tiny. Emacs is cool too, but its name no longer fits … eight megs and constantly swapping. Visual code as a replacement?

  4. Microsoft is not your friend, and they’re not ‘helping’ their competition, Linux, out of benevolence. It’s a trap, do not be deceived, do not waver in your distrust a company that has, more than any other, destroyed the independent software market for the microcomputer world. They are a monopoly, a trust, and they should be drawn and quartered by the FTC, along with so many others.

    1. To expand on this, think about what Microsoft did with Internet Explorer. They introduced non-standard features, specifically so that for websites developed for IE, Mosaic/Netscape would not display them properly. This is what they plan to do with Linux. Their intention with Linux is to introduce closed software into their own Linux distributions, and take over from within.

  5. “So far, Microsoft has embraced open source, and continue to extend the projects they’ve become involved with. I can’t wait to see what comes next.”

    I hope they don’t extinguish open source.

  6. I’m glad this is a joke. When I started I’m the semiconductor industry I was forced to learn vi (vim now). I’m so glad I was. It is the best way for me to code lisp-esq scripting language we use. I’ve tried using VSC for a little bit, didn’t add enough to keep trying.

    I would be very sad if it got removed since getting our CAD group to install stuff isn’t a thing.

  7. Well, the jokes on me I guess. That was very well played indeed… Now I have to hunt down the perpetrators, and exile them to either the penal colony Rura Penthe, LV-426 or to ponder their actions on the “Tree of Woe”…

    1. The statement “Liberals can’t meme.” is generally a true one. That’s why there was such a consorted effort to ban them in some contexts by people who call themselves “liberals” (talk about bass-ackwards – people claiming to be supporting liberty by opposing people using their fundamental liberty of free speech) … but … Resistance is futile. The memes must flow. and flow they will.

      BTW Smollet is a non-repentant felony-level criminal who deserves only punishment at this time. The failure of the justice system to do it’s job is not going to go well for society. Laws and their enforcement were created as a more civilized alternative to the more ancient and basic system of vengeance. When the legal system fails, the more fundamental system engages. If Smollet cared about humanity at all, he would proclaim the wrongness of his actions publicly and make amends. Although I have no intent to participate, I am convinced regarding this matter, “There will be blood.” and that blood will be on the hands of Smollet.

    1. vi probably will never die considering it costs virtually nothing to maintain and include on future linux distros. It will just keep staying there compiled along with all the other components living on until no-one uses it anymore. Then it will still stay because it is an established component and no-one could actually know if there isn’t something out there that requires it. Best to leave it in. So vi will probably never die, at least not until linux dies and I expect linux to outlive me, and probably my children, and their children, and …….. :-)

  8. I had a vi mug once; no idea where it is now. Back before 2000, you had to know vi to configure the networking on a Solaris box before you could download packages for emacs. I suppose pico may have been there. I never learned pico or ed for cron editing. It was easy to replace every other editor with vi. I’ve been using vi and Vim for decades, and will continue to use Vim instead of using an IDE.

  9. the part about javascript developers being right, is so trollish… they are wrong about many things, stability, security, privacy, basic design, intelligence, sanity, common sense and they make climate change worse.
    Javascript developers, you are like java developers and rust developers, you all make the planet die quicker by bloating the web for no good reason. Oh money you say? Let’s see how that money does for you when mass extinction hits and you have no one to boss around. Same with your rich corporate rulers.

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