I'm wondering if the ed editor is useful any longer for interactive editing. I know that the diff command can produce patches as ed scripts and that ed is a last resort when the baud rate is super slow. But are there any other reasons to learn and use ed?


As a general purpose editor, probably not, but as a way to get yourself out of a pinch, it's good to know a few basics. The good news is that if you know your way around vim, it's likely you can use that knowledge to blunder around in ed. The times are changing, but there are still systems that it might be your best editor or connection scenarios that call for it. I've used it from my super-slick smartphone logged into a modern linux box when the connection was bad enough that running a full editor was taking forever and I really needed to just change a line and get out.

  • I personally favor ex over ed; although both are specified by POSIX, ex has a lot more features, and is actually often the same binary as vi (since vi is the "visual editor" for ex). – Wildcard Dec 12 '16 at 2:24

If you happen to be working on a terminal that doesn't support fancy things like scrollback (for example, an actual teletype), then ed really shines.


I've been known to occasionally use ex (vi in non visual mode, not ed) to do small edition when logged remotely through a high latency line (and I put then telnet in line mode). Bigger edition and I'm using emacs locally. The dismiss of telnet in favor of ssh even for inside the intranet remote session has been the raison I stopped doing that.

A long time ago, I've used a line editor on a this kind of terminals; it wasn't ed nor ex.


ed is great for all kinds of editing and fun to use.

vim and emacs are a little too complicated.

  • I guess this is ment as a joke and does not help (-1) – Nikodemus RIP Dec 15 '11 at 12:28
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    I'm tempted to call it not an answer, but I'm rolling with "vim and emacs are a little too complicated" as a reason to use ed. Some more information would certainly be useful though – Michael Mrozek Dec 15 '11 at 18:03

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