When I install just about any distribution of linux it's accompanied with an unorthodox version of vi. I most recently dealt with this on Ubuntu 14.04. I can vi a file but a number of the "hot" keys are different. I have to reinstall vim via $ sudo apt-get install vim and after that everything works fine.

Before using apt-get is it even vim that I'm using? Why does this happen? Are there instructions for this "basic" version of vim?

** EDIT **

If I $ vi I see a short writeup which states "version 7.4.52". Then I upgraded and it was still at the same version however I noticed that the writeup is a bit different. There's a couple commands missing after the upgrade and I believe one of them was to switch a command mode. Maybe that command mode is enabled by default in this other version?

  • 1
    Have you tried "man vi"? Many variants of vi exist. Vim is the most advanced and largest of those.
    – Otheus
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 17:28

1 Answer 1


This depends on the whims of the vendor; some (e.g. Redhat) include a "minimal vim" that behaves in a compatible fashion to vi, to be specific "mostly like Vi" per the -C option docs in the vim manual. Others could install nvi (this is what OpenBSD ships with) or ex-vi (likely the most orthodox version, and thus least likely to be installed), though I suspect most will install a vim-that-behaves-mostly-like-vi, in which case you'll want to peruse the vim-in-compatible-mode docs.

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