Ode to ed (Unix standard text editor)

Encouraged by Eric S. Raymond’s book The Art of Unix Programming I have started using ed. My affection for it keeps growing. To begin with, it is the prime example of minimality, a property that is cherished all over the Unix world (Windows people don’t care about minimality). Also, ed is part of the POSIX standard, so you will find it on virtually every Un*x-like system. It is the standard text editor of Un*x.

Its famously terse interface teaches you a mental discipline that I find helpful in creating files, and I find that my .tex files (math texts, letters, or otherwise) do get more concise when I use ed to edit them.

Moreover, ed is (almost) orthogonal, which means that for many tasks there is *one* way (or very few ways) to do the task. In other editors, such as emacs or vi you have dozens of ways to do things, and you have no chance of remembering all commands. In ed, there are just essentially 24 commands (and you can do almost everything with a subset of 13 commands) every one consisting of a single letter, plus some arguments. You can’t get terser than that!

Also, using ed primarily, you are outside the raging editor wars (usually vi vs emacs), and, in some ways, *above* them. Oh – just one more thing: have you ever wondered what editor the source code of Unix itself was written in…?


About dominiczypen

I'm interested in general topology, order theory, and graph theory. This link takes you to my preprints on arXiv.
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