Cover by Linda Lamb, Elbert Hannah, Arnold Robbins

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Customizing vi

vi operates differently on various terminals. On modern Unix systems, vi gets operating instructions about your terminal type from the terminfo terminal database. (On older systems, vi uses the original termcap database.)[29]

There are also a number of options that you can set from within vi that affect how it operates. For example, you can set a right margin that will cause vi to wrap lines automatically, so you don’t need to hit ENTER.

You can change options from within vi by using the ex command :set. In addition, whenever vi is started up, it reads a file in your home directory called .exrc for further operating instructions. By placing :set commands in this file, you can modify the way vi acts whenever you use it.

You can also set up .exrc files in local directories to initialize various options that you want to use in different environments. For example, you might define one set of options for editing English text, but another set for editing source programs. The .exrc file in your home directory will be executed first, and then the one in your current directory.

Finally, any commands stored in the environment variable EXINIT will be executed by vi on startup. The settings in EXINIT take precedence over those in the home directory.exrc file.

The :set Command

There are two types of options that can be changed with the :set command: toggle options, which are either on or off, and options that take a numeric or string value (such as the location of a margin or the ...

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