I believe I can do something like export EDITOR=vi, but I'm not sure what exactly to enter, and where.

How can I set "vi" as my default editor?

  • 6
    just export EDITOR=vim in your bashrc or zshrc or ..rc – Kent Apr 23 '13 at 23:31
  • often must be set up for programs in addition to this such as git – timpone Apr 24 '13 at 0:39
  • 4
    In Ubuntu (as said), try run: select-editor. – Pablo A Feb 21 '17 at 17:50

You should add it to your shell’s configuration file. For Bash, this is ~/.bashrc or ~/.bash_profile. You should also set $VISUAL, as some programs (correctly) use that instead of $EDITOR (see VISUAL vs. EDITOR). Additionally, unless you know why, you should set it to vim instead of vi.

TL;DR, add the following to your shell configuration (probably ~/.bashrc):

export VISUAL=vim
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  • Not working for me! I still see a number after: "sudo crontab -e" instead of editing crontab! – Mohsen Abasi Jun 26 '18 at 9:34
  • @MohsenAbasi What do you mean “I still see a number?”. Check that EDITOR is in both your environment (env | grep EDITOR) and is passed to sudo (sudo env | grep EDITOR), as your system’s sudo security policy may prohibit it (see man sudo for more details). – Andrew Marshall Jun 26 '18 at 17:18
  • I mean that I still see just a number (not opening 'vim' editor) after executing: 'sudo crontab -e'. Since there is no default editor for editing cron jobs in my Ubuntu. To have a default editor, your solution does nothing for me. Only solution of 'DobesVandermeer' works. – Mohsen Abasi Jun 27 '18 at 6:08

You could also set your default text editor by using the following command.

sudo update-alternatives --config editor
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  • 3
    This set the default for git too, which was exactly what I needed. – Kzqai Mar 9 '16 at 18:26
  • This set the default for ranger too, which was exactly what I needed. PS: just for helping index for people who is trying to do the same. – wviana Dec 6 '16 at 16:42
  • 1
    Only this worked for me on Ubuntu server 18.04 – user3751385 Sep 17 '18 at 17:55

As mentioned by Pablo Bianchi in a comment, you can run


And it will ask you which editor to use. If you don't see vim as an option, run

apt install vim

And try again.

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  • That shows a list of editors but it doesn't allow me to change anything (At least on 18.04). – Alexis Wilke May 4 at 20:09

If bash is your shell, then insert it into .bash_profile in your home directory; if zsh is your shell, then insert it into .zprofile; for other shells see the according documentation.

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