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I want to switch to vi editing mode in a readline environment. But I don't want to use 'set -o vi'. I want to temporarily switch using a keyboard shortcut. The man page says I can do this with M-C-j. But that doesn't work for me.

I'm using Ubuntu and an xterm. Doesn't work under gnome-terminal either.

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3 Answers 3

I'd confirm that the keyboard mapping Meta+Control+j is in fact correct on your system. You can use this command to list all the keybinds for the various modes of Bash. On my system there wasn't a keybinding either.

$ bind -P| grep edit
edit-and-execute-command can be found on "\C-x\C-e".
emacs-editing-mode is not bound to any keys
vi-editing-mode is not bound to any keys

You can do the following so that when you type Esc+e it will toggle between the 2 modes.

$ set -o emacs
$ bind '"\ee": vi-editing-mode'
$ set -o vi
$ bind '"\ee": emacs-editing-mode'

The bind command now shows this:

in vi mode

$ bind -P |grep edit
edit-and-execute-command is not bound to any keys
emacs-editing-mode can be found on "\ee".
vi-editing-mode is not bound to any keys

in emacs mode

$ bind -P |grep edit
edit-and-execute-command can be found on "\C-x\C-e".
emacs-editing-mode is not bound to any keys
vi-editing-mode can be found on "\ee".

Now you can use Esc+e to toggle between the 2 different modes.

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Note that you have to be quick when typing ESC E. If you pause you will go from vi-insert to vi-command mode, or just cancell the current vi command. –  spelufo Feb 20 at 3:05

Bash explicitly disables this and a few other Readline shortcuts. See the initialize_readline() function in the bash source code (http://www.catonmat.net/download/bashline.c):

   /* In Bash, the user can switch editing modes with "set -o [vi emacs]",
      so it is not necessary to allow C-M-j for context switching.  Turn
      off this occasionally confusing behaviour. */
   rl_unbind_key_in_map (CTRL('J'), emacs_meta_keymap);
   rl_unbind_key_in_map (CTRL('M'), emacs_meta_keymap);
#if defined (VI_MODE)
  rl_unbind_key_in_map (CTRL('E'), vi_movement_keymap);

I don't seem to be able to override this behavior using the Readline configuration file (.inputrc).

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Here's what I ended up using for my ~/.inputrc, based on slm's answer.

set show-mode-in-prompt on

set keymap emacs
"\ea": vi-editing-mode

set keymap vi-command
"k": history-search-backward
"j": history-search-forward
"z": emacs-editing-mode
"\ea": emacs-editing-mode

set keymap vi-insert
"\ea": emacs-editing-mode
"\C-l": clear-screen
"\C-e": end-of-line
"\C-k": kill-line

set editing-mode vi

I tried the $if mode= syntax, but I think that is resolved statically (one time, when reading the file), so it doesn't work as I expected. So we need to switch to each keymap and modify its key bindings, even if previously set on another keymaps. At the end I say which mode I want to start with.

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