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vi(1) Reference Manual Appendix

Appendix: character functions

This appendix gives the uses the editor makes of each character. The characters are presented in their order in the ASCII character set: Control characters come first, then most special characters, then the digits, upper and then lower case characters.

For each character we tell a meaning it has as a command and any meaning it has during an insert. If it has only meaning as a command, then only this is discussed. Section numbers in parentheses indicate where the character is discussed; a `f' after the section number means that the character is mentioned in a footnote.


^@ (NULL)
Not a command character. If typed as the first character of an insertion it is replaced with the last text inserted, and the insert terminates. Only 128 characters are saved from the last insert; if more characters were inserted the mechanism is not available. A ^@ cannot be part of the file due to the editor implementation ( 8.5 f ).
^A
Unused.
^B
Backward window. A count specifies repetition. Two lines of continuity are kept if possible ( 2.1 , 6.1 , 8.2 ).
^C
Unused.
^D
As a command, scrolls down a half-window of text. A count gives the number of (logical) lines to scroll, and is remembered for future ^D and ^U commands ( 2.1 , 8.2 ) . During an insert, backtabs over autoindent white space at the beginning of a line ( 6.6 , 8.5 ) ; this white space cannot be backspaced over.
^E
Exposes one more line below the current screen in the file, leaving the cursor where it is if possible. (post-Version 3 only.)
^F
Forward window. A count specifies repetition. Two lines of continuity are kept if possible ( 2.1 , 6.1 , 8.2 ) .
^G
Equivalent to :fCR, printing the current file, whether it has been modified, the current line number and the number of lines in the file, and the percentage of the way through the file that you are.
^H (BS)
Same as left arrow. (see h) . During an insert, eliminates the last input character, backing over it but not erasing it; it remains so you can see what you typed if you wish to type something only slightly different ( 3.1 , 8.5 ) .
^I (TAB)
Not a command character. When inserted it prints as some number of spaces. When the cursor is at a tab character it rests at the last of the spaces which represent the tab. The spacing of tabstops is controlled by the tabstop option ( 4.1 , 6.6 ) .
^J (LF)
Same as down arrow (see j) .
^K
Unused.
^L
The ASCII formfeed character, this causes the screen to be cleared and redrawn. This is useful after a transmission error, if characters typed by a program other than the editor scramble the screen, or after output is stopped by an interrupt ( 5.4 , 8.2 f ) .
^M [CR]
A carriage return advances to the next line, at the first non-white position in the line. Given a count, it advances that many lines ( 2.3 ) . During an insert, a [CR] causes the insert to continue onto another line ( 3.1 ) .
^N
Same as down arrow (see j) .
^O
Unused.
^P
Same as up arrow (see k) .
^Q
Not a command character. In input mode, ^Q quotes the next character, the same as ^V, except that some teletype drivers will eat the ^Q so that the editor never sees it.
^R
Redraws the current screen, eliminating logical lines not corresponding to physical lines (lines with only a single @ character on them). On hardcopy terminals in open mode, retypes the current line ( 5.4 , 8.2 , 8.8 ).
^S
Unused. Some teletype drivers use ^S to suspend output until ^Q is entered.
^T
Not a command character. During an insert, with autoindent set and at the beginning of the line, inserts shiftwidth white space.
^U
Scrolls the screen up, inverting ^D which scrolls down. Counts work as they do for ^D, and the previous scroll amount is common to both. On a dumb terminal, ^U will often necessitate clearing and redrawing the screen further back in the file ( 2.1 , 8.2 ) .
^V
Not a command character. In input mode, quotes the next character so that it is possible to insert non-printing and special characters into the file ( 4.2 , 8.5 ).
^W
Not a command character. During an insert, backs up as b would in command mode; the deleted characters remain on the display (see ^H) ( 8.5 ) .
^X
Unused.
^Y
Exposes one more line above the current screen, leaving the cursor where it is if possible. (No mnemonic value for this key; however, it is next to ^U which scrolls up a bunch.) (post-Version 3 only.)
^Z
If supported by the Unix system, stops the editor, exiting to the top level shell. Same as :stopCR. Otherwise, unused.
^[ (ESC)
Cancels a partially formed command, such as a z when no following character has yet been given; terminates inputs on the last line (read by commands such as : / and ?); ends insertions of new text into the buffer. If an ESC is given when quiescent in command state, the editor rings the bell or flashes the screen. You can thus hit ESC if you don't know what is happening till the editor rings the bell. If you don't know if you are in insert mode you can type ESCa, and then material to be input; the material will be inserted correctly whether or not you were in insert mode when you started ( 1.5 , 3.1 , 8.5 ).
^\
Unused.
^]
Searches for the word which is after the cursor as a tag. Equivalent to typing :ta, this word, and then a [CR]. Mnemonically, this command is ``go right to'' ( 8.3 ) .
^^ (control up-caret)
Equivalent to :e # [CR], returning to the previous position in the last edited file, or editing a file which you specified if you got a `No write since last change diagnostic' and do not want to have to type the file name again ( 8.3 ) . (You have to do a :w before [CTRL]^ will work in this case. If you do not wish to write the file you should do :e! #[CR] instead.)
^_
Unused. Reserved as the command character for the Tektronix 4025 and 4027 terminal.
SPACE
Same as right arrow (see l) .
!
An operator, which processes lines from the buffer with reformatting commands. Follow ! with the object to be processed, and then the command name terminated by [CR]. Doubling ! and preceding it by a count causes count lines to be filtered; otherwise the count is passed on to the object after the !. Thus 2!}fmtCR reformats the next two paragraphs by running them through the program fmt. If you are working on LISP, the command !%grindCR,* given at the beginning of a function, will run the text of the function through the LISP grinder ( 6.7 , 8.3 ) . To read a file or the output of a command into the buffer use :r ( 8.3 ) . To simply execute a command use :! ( 8.3 ) .
* Both fmt and grind are Berkeley programs and may not be present at all installations.

"
Precedes a named buffer specification. There are named buffers 1-9 used for saving deleted text and named buffers a-z into which you can place text ( 4.3 , 6.3 ) .
#
The macro character which, when followed by a number, will substitute for a function key on terminals without function keys ( 6.9 ) . In input mode, if this is your erase character, it will delete the last character you typed in input mode, and must be preceded with a \ to insert it, since it normally backs over the last input character you gave.
$
Moves to the end of the current line. If you :se listCR, then the end of each line will be shown by printing a $ after the end of the displayed text in the line. Given a count, advances to the count'th following end of line; thus 2$ advances to the end of the following line.
%
Moves to the parenthesis or brace { } which balances the parenthesis or brace at the current cursor position.
&
A synonym for CR, by analogy with the ex & command.
'
When followed by a ' returns to the previous context at the beginning of a line. The previous context is set whenever the current line is moved in a non-relative way. When followed by a letter a-z, returns to the line which was marked with this letter with a m command, at the first non-white character in the line. (see 2.2 , 5.3 ) . When used with an operator such as d, the operation takes place over complete lines; if you use `, the operation takes place from the exact marked place to the current cursor position within the line.
(
Retreats to the beginning of a sentence, or to the beginning of a LISP s-expression if the lisp option is set. A sentence ends at a . ! or ? which is followed by either the end of a line or by two spaces. Any number of closing ) ] " and ' characters may appear after the . ! or ?, and before the spaces or end of line. Sentences also begin at paragraph and section boundaries (see {and [[ below) . A count advances that many sentences ( 4.2 , 6.8 ) .
)
Advances to the beginning of a sentence. A count repeats the effect. (see (above for the definition of a sentence) ( 4.2 , 6.8 ) .
*
Unused.
+
Same as [CR] when used as a command.
,
Reverse of the last f F t or T command, looking the other way in the current line. Especially useful after hitting too many ; characters. A count repeats the search.
-
Retreats to the previous line at the first non-white character. This is the inverse of + and

RETURN. If the line moved to is not on the screen, the screen is scrolled, or cleared and redrawn if this is not possible. If a large amount of scrolling would be required the screen is also cleared and redrawn, with the current line at the center ( 2.3 ) .


.
Repeats the last command which changed the buffer. Especially useful when deleting words or lines; you can delete some words/lines and then hit . to delete more and more words/lines. Given a count, it passes it on to the command being repeated. Thus after a 2dw, 3. deletes three words ( 3.3 , 6.3 , 8.2 , 8.4 ) .
/
Reads a string from the last line on the screen, and scans forward for the next occurrence of this string. The normal input editing sequences may be used during the input on the bottom line; an returns to command state without ever searching. The search begins when you hit [CR] to terminate the pattern; the cursor moves to the beginning of the last line to indicate that the search is in progress; the search may then be terminated with a DEL or RUB, or by backspacing when at the beginning of the bottom line, returning the cursor to its initial position. Searches normally wrap end-around to find a string anywhere in the buffer.

When used with an operator the enclosed region is normally affected. By mentioning an offset from the line matched by the pattern you can force whole lines to be affected. To do this give a pattern with a closing a closing / and then an offset +n or -n.

To include the character / in the search string, you must escape it with a preceding \. A ^ at the beginning of the pattern forces the match to occur at the beginning of a line only; this speeds the search. A $ at the end of the pattern forces the match to occur at the end of a line only. More extended pattern matching is available, see section ( 8.4 ) ; unless you set nomagic in your .exrc file you will have to preceed the characters . [ * and ~ in the search pattern with a \ to get them to work as you would naively expect ( 1.5 , 2.2 , 6.1 , 8.2 , 8.4 ) .


0
Moves to the first character on the current line. Also used, in forming numbers, after an initial 1-9.
1-9
Used to form numeric arguments to commands ( 2.3 , 8.2 ) .
:
A prefix to a set of commands for file and option manipulation and escapes to the system. Input is given on the bottom line and terminated with an [CR], and the command then executed. You can return to where you were by hitting DEL or RUB if you hit : accidentally ( see primarily 6.2 and 8.3 ) .
;
Repeats the last single character find which used f F t or T. A count iterates the basic scan ( 4.1 ) .
<
An operator which shifts lines left one shiftwidth, normally 8 spaces. Like all operators, affects lines when repeated, as in <<. Counts are passed through to the basic object, thus 3<< shifts three lines ( 6.6 , 8.2 ) .
=
Reindents line for LISP, as though they were typed in with lisp and autoindent set ( 6.8 ) .
>
An operator which shifts lines right one shiftwidth, normally 8 spaces. Affects lines when repeated as in >>. Counts repeat the basic object ( 6.6 , 8.2 ) .
?
Scans backwards, the opposite of / (see /description above for details on scanning) ( 2.2 , 6.1 , 8.4 ) .
@
A macro character ( 6.9 ) . If this is your kill character, you must escape it with a \ to type it in during input mode, as it normally backs over the input you have given on the current line ( 3.1 , 3.4 , 8.5 ) .
A
Appends at the end of line, a synonym for $a ( 8.2 ) .
B
Backs up a word, where words are composed of non-blank sequences, placing the cursor at the beginning of the word. A count repeats the effect ( 2.4 ) .
C
Changes the rest of the text on the current line; a synonym for c$.
D
Deletes the rest of the text on the current line; a synonym for d$.
E
Moves forward to the end of a word, defined as blanks and non-blanks, like B and W. A count repeats the effect.
F
Finds a single following character, backwards in the current line. A count repeats this search that many times ( 4.1 ) .
G
Goes to the line number given as preceding argument, or the end of the file if no preceding count is given. The screen is redrawn with the new current line in the center if necessary ( 8.2 ) .
H
Home arrow. Homes the cursor to the top line on the screen. If a count is given, then the cursor is moved to the count'th line on the screen. In any case the cursor is moved to the first non-white character on the line. If used as the target of an operator, full lines are affected ( 2.3 , 3.2 ) .
I
Inserts at the beginning of a line; a synonym for ^i.
J
Joins together lines, supplying appropriate white space: one space between words, two spaces after a ., and no spaces at all if the first character of the joined on line is ). A count causes that many lines to be joined rather than the default two ( 6.5 , 8.1 f ) .
K
Unused.
L
Moves the cursor to the first non-white character of the last line on the screen. With a count, to the first non-white of the count'th line from the bottom. Operators affect whole lines when used with L ( 2.3 ) .
M
Moves the cursor to the middle line on the screen, at the first non-white position on the line ( 2.3 ) .
N
Scans for the next match of the last pattern given to / or ?, but in the reverse direction; this is the reverse of n.
O
Opens a new line above the current line and inputs text there up to an ESC. A count can be used on dumb terminals to specify a number of lines to be opened; this is generally obsolete, as the slowopen option works better ( 3.1 ) .
P
Puts the last deleted text back before/above the cursor. The text goes back as whole lines above the cursor if it was deleted as whole lines. Otherwise the text is inserted between the characters before and at the cursor. May be preceded by a named buffer specification "x to retrieve the contents of the buffer; buffers 1-9 contain deleted material, buffers a-z are available for general use ( 6.3 ) .
Q
Quits from vi to ex command mode. In this mode, whole lines form commands, ending with a RETURN. You can give all the : commands; the editor supplies the : as a prompt ( 8.7 ) .
R
Replaces characters on the screen with characters you type (overlay fashion). Terminates with an ESC.
S
Changes whole lines, a synonym for cc. A count substitutes for that many lines. The lines are saved in the numeric buffers, and erased on the screen before the substitution begins.
T
Takes a single following character, locates the character before the cursor in the current line, and places the cursor just after that character. A count repeats the effect. Most useful with operators such as d ( 4.1 ) .
U
Restores the current line to its state before you started changing it ( 3.5 ) .
V
Unused.
W
Moves forward to the beginning of a word in the current line, where words are defined as sequences of blank/non-blank characters. A count repeats the effect ( 2.4 ) .
X
Deletes the character before the cursor. A count repeats the effect, but only characters on the current line are deleted.
Y
Yanks a copy of the current line into the unnamed buffer, to be put back by a later p or P; a very useful synonym for yy. A count yanks that many lines. May be preceded by a buffer name to put lines in that buffer ( 8.4 ) .
ZZ
Exits the editor. (Same as :xCR.) If any changes have been made, the buffer is written out to the current file. Then the editor quits.
[[
Backs up to the previous section boundary. A section begins at each macro in the sections option, normally a `.NH' or `.SH' and also at lines which which start with a formfeed ^L. Lines beginning with { also stop [[; this makes it useful for looking backwards, a function at a time, in C programs. If the option lisp is set, stops at each ( at the beginning of a line, and is thus useful for moving backwards at the top level LISP objects. ( 4.2 , 6.1 , 6.6 , 8.2 ) .
\
Unused.
]]
Forward to a section boundary (see [[for a definition) ( 4.2 , 6.1 , 6.6 , 8.2 ) .
^ (up-caret)
Moves to the first non-white position on the current line ( 4.4 ) .
_
Unused.
`
When followed by a ` returns to the previous context. The previous context is set whenever the current line is moved in a non-relative way. When followed by a letter a-z, returns to the position which was marked with this letter with a m command. When used with an operator such as d, the operation takes place from the exact marked place to the current position within the line; if you use ', the operation takes place over complete lines ( 2.2 , 5.3 ) .
a
Appends arbitrary text after the current cursor position; the insert can continue onto multiple lines by using RETURN within the insert. A count causes the inserted text to be replicated, but only if the inserted text is all on one line. The insertion terminates with an ESC ( 3.1 , 8.2 ) .
b
Backs up to the beginning of a word in the current line. A word is a sequence of alphanumerics, or a sequence of special characters. A count repeats the effect ( 2.4 ) .
c
An operator which changes the following object, replacing it with the following input text up to an ESC. If more than part of a single line is affected, the text which is changed away is saved in the numeric named buffers. If only part of the current line is affected, then the last character to be changed away is marked with a $. A count causes that many objects to be affected, thus both 3c) and c3) change the following three sentences ( 8.4 ) .
d
An operator which deletes the following object. If more than part of a line is affected, the text is saved in the numeric buffers. A count causes that many objects to be affected; thus 3dw is the same as d3w ( 3.3 , 3.4 , 4.1 , 8.4 ) .
e
Advances to the end of the next word, defined as for b and w. A count repeats the effect ( 2.4 , 3.1 ) .
f
Finds the first instance of the next character following the cursor on the current line. A count repeats the find ( 4.1 ) .
g
Unused. Arrow keys h, j, k, l, and H.
h
Left arrow. Moves the cursor one character to the left. Like the other arrow keys, either h, the left arrow key, or one of the synonyms (^H) has the same effect. On v2 editors, arrow keys on certain kinds of terminals (those which send escape sequences, such as vt52, c100, or hp) cannot be used. A count repeats the effect ( 3.1 , 8.5 ) .
i
Inserts text before the cursor, otherwise like a ( 8.2 ) .
j
Down arrow. Moves the cursor one line down in the same column. If the position does not exist, vi comes as close as possible to the same column. Synonyms include ^J (linefeed) and ^N.
k
Up arrow. Moves the cursor one line up. ^P is a synonym.
l
Right arrow. Moves the cursor one character to the right. SPACE is a synonym.
m
Marks the current position of the cursor in the mark register which is specified by the next character a-z. Return to this position or use with an operator using ` or ' ( 5.3 ) .
n
Repeats the last / or ? scanning commands ( 2.2 ) .
o
Opens new lines below the current line; otherwise like O ( 3.1 ) .
p
Puts text after/below the cursor; otherwise like P ( 6.3 ) .
q
Unused.
r
Replaces the single character at the cursor with a single character you type. The new character may be a RETURN; this is the easiest way to split lines. A count replaces each of the following count characters with the single character given; (see R above which is the more usually useful iteration of r) ( 3.2 ) .
s
Changes the single character under the cursor to the text which follows up to an ESC; given a count, that many characters from the current line are changed. The last character to be changed is marked with $ as in c ( 3.2 ) .
t
Advances the cursor upto the character before the next character typed. Most useful with operators such as d and c to delete the characters up to a following character. You can use . to delete more if this doesn't delete enough the first time ( 4.1 ) .
u
Undoes the last change made to the current buffer. If repeated, will alternate between these two states, thus is its own inverse. When used after an insert which inserted text on more than one line, the lines are saved in the numeric named buffers ( 3.5 ) .
v
Unused.
w
Advances to the beginning of the next word, as defined by b ( 2.4 ) .
x
Deletes the single character under the cursor. With a count deletes deletes that many characters forward from the cursor position, but only on the current line ( 6.5 ) .
y
An operator, yanks the following object into the unnamed temporary buffer. If preceded by a named buffer specification, "x, the text is placed in that buffer also. Text can be recovered by a later p or P ( 8.4 ) .
z
Redraws the screen with the current line placed as specified by the following character: RETURN specifies the top of the screen, . the center of the screen, and - at the bottom of the screen. A count may be given after the z and before the following character to specify the new screen size for the redraw. A count before the z gives the number of the line to place in the center of the screen instead of the default current line. ( 5.4 ) .
{
Retreats to the beginning of the beginning of the preceding paragraph. A paragraph begins at each macro in the paragraphs option, normally `.IP', `.LP', `.PP', `.QP' and `.bp'. A paragraph also begins after a completely empty line, and at each section boundary (see [[above) ( 4.2 , 6.8 , 8.6 ) .
|
Places the cursor on the character in the column specified by the count ( 8.1 , 8.2 ) .
}
Advances to the beginning of the next paragraph (see {for the definition of paragraph) ( 4.2 , 6.8 , 8.6 ) .
~
Unused.
^? (DEL)
Interrupts the editor, returning it to command accepting state ( 1.5 , 8.5 )