/ Understanding the Console

Contents of files and introduction to Vi

Let’s talk about reading and modifying files.

This post is part of the "what is sudo?" series, which aims to help understand Linux and text consoles.

The cat command

Using the cat command, you can view the text contents of a file:

cat my_file.txt

You can also use cat to append to a file, and to overwrite a file.

The code below appends “Hello, world” to the file my_file.txt.

cat >> my_file.txt
Hello, world


The code below overwrites my_file.txt with the words “Hello, world”.

cat > my_file.txt
Hello, world


The vi command

Note, sometimes this command is vim (for vi “improved”).

Vi is a text editor. You can open files, edit them, and save them.

It is powerful, but it takes some getting used to.

Open files like so:

vi my_file.txt

Here’s a quick list of commands:

  • i gets you into ‘Insert’ mode. Think of this as your normal text editor mode, where you can write characters, use your backspace, etc…
  • v gets you into Visual mode, where you can select characters.
  • V gets you into Visual (line) mode, where you can select lines.
  • ESC gets you out of any mode.
  • While not in a mode, :w saves the file to disk.
  • While not in a mode, :q quits the current file.

You can chain the last two commands like so: :wq, so save and quit.

If you want to learn how to use Vi well, I recommend this: http://vim-adventures.com

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