2.8. Keyboard Habits

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In this chapter we have seen that bash provides command-line editing with two modes: vi and emacs. You may be wondering why these two editors were chosen. The primary reason is because vi and emacs are the most widely used editors for UNIX. People who have used either editor will find familiar editing facilities.

If you are not familiar with either of these editors, you should seriously consider adopting emacs-mode keyboard habits. Because it is based on control keys and doesn't require you to think in terms of a "command mode" and "insert mode," you will find emacs-mode easier to assimilate. Although the full emacs is an extremely powerful editor, its command structure lends itself very well to small subsetting: there are several "mini-emacs" editors floating around for UNIX, MS-DOS, and other systems.

The same cannot be said for vi, because its command structure is really meant for use in a full-screen editor. vi is quite powerful too, in its way, but its power becomes evident only when it is used for purposes similar to that for which it was designed: editing source code in C and LISP. As mentioned earlier, a vi user has the power to move mountains in few keystrokes but at the cost of being unable to do anything meaningful in very few keystrokes. Unfortunately, the latter is most desired in a command interpreter, especially nowadays when users are spending more time within applications and less time working with the shell. In short, if you don't already know vi, you will probably find its commands obscure and confusing.

Both bash editing modes have quite a few commands; you will undoubtedly develop keyboard habits that include just a few of them. If you use emacs-mode and you aren't familiar with the full emacs, here is a subset that is easy to learn yet enables you to do just about anything:

  • For cursor motion around a command line, stick to CTRL-A and CTRL-E for beginning and end of line, and CTRL-F and CTRL-B for moving around.

  • Delete using DEL (or whatever your "erase" key is) and CTRL-D; as with CTRL-F and CTRL-B, hold down to repeat if necessary. Use CTRL-K to erase the entire line.

  • Use CTRL-P and CTRL-N (or the up and down arrow keys) to move through the command history.

  • Use CTRL-R to search for a command you need to run again.

  • Use TAB for filename completion.

After a few hours spent learning these keystrokes, you will wonder how you ever got along without command-line editing.

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    Learning the bash Shell
    Learning the bash Shell: Unix Shell Programming (In a Nutshell (OReilly))
    ISBN: 0596009658
    EAN: 2147483647
    Year: 2005
    Pages: 139

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