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Inevitably, you're going to want to edit a file on tilde.town. It might be a beautiful pile of HTML, a poem, or some delicious spaghetti code. If you're used to editing files on a graphical desktop it can be kind of daunting to accomplish this task at first.

This part of the wiki covers the editors we have available on the town, ranked by beginner friendliness.


A lot of documentation on editors (and command line programs in general) tells you about key combinations you can use. While in a graphical desktop you have the ability to either click on File -> Save or hit C-s, here we just have the latter.

So when you see C-s, that means hold control and press s, then release.

If you see S-C-s, that means hold shift and control, press s, then release You probably won't see S-s since that just means S.

The somewhat confusing M-x means hold alt, press x, then release.

You might also see C-c C-x Which means hold control and press c, release c, press x, release both keys.

You might also see the charcter ^ used to mean hold control.

let's do this

  1. nano

    nano can't do much, but what it can do it makes very easy and straightforward.

    nano public_html/index.html

    All of the operations (saving, quitting) are shown whenever you run nano, making it self-documented. It's definitely a go-to editor if you're brand new to editing text in a command line environment.

    Our own ~minerobber has a page about nano.

  2. micro

    While micro is very simple, you do have to do a little more learning than nano. You'll be rewarded with more features, though, like split screens and syntax highlighting.

    micro public_html/index.html

    micro is intended for beginners and is easy to get going with. Check out our page on micro for a reference on how to use it.

  3. emacs

    emacs has been around for a long time and can do many, many things. It's also easy to extend with your own features, making its list of features essentially infinite. There is a pretty steep learning curve for emacs, but for basic text editing you can get the hang of it pretty quick.

    emacs public_html/index.html

    Check out our quickstart to learn more.

  4. vim

    In many ways vim is simpler than emacs, but it takes an approach to text editing called modal editing that sets it apart from the other editors on this list. This approach is pretty sweet but is not for everyone and takes time to get used to.

    vim public_html/index.html

    Check out our quickstart to learn more.

  5. everything else

    We have more editors than just the ones listed above, but they are of more interest to those curious about Unix history or obscure software. Check out ~elly's tutorial on ed or, from the command line, run man joe.

last compiled: 2021-06-04 12:34:03.178788