elvis(1) General Commands Manual elvis(1)
elvis - a clone of the ex/vi text editor
elvis [-V...] [-a] [-r] [-e] [-i] [-s|-] [-b] [-R] [-S|-SS] [-f session] [-o logfile] [-G gui] [-c command|+command] [-t tag] [-w scroll]
[-B blksize] [file]...
Elvis is a text editor. It is intended to be a modern replacement for the classic ex/vi editor of UNIX fame. Elvis supports many new fea-
tures, including multiple edit buffers, multiple windows, multiple user interfaces (including an X11 interface), and a variety of display
To exit Elvis, you can give the command ":q" in each of its windows. If you've modified the buffer in a window, and you want to abandon
those changes, then give the command ":q!" instead.
For more information please take a look at Elvis' help pages. These pages should have been installed together with Elvis. To view the
help pages, start Elvis and give the command ":help".
If this does not show you the main help file then something is wrong. Perhaps the help pages were installed in the wrong place. In that
case, search for a file named "elvis.html" using either GNU's locate(1) or the standard find(1) program. Hopefully this will show you
where the file is located. You can then view it with...
If the help pages aren't installed on your system but you have access to the Internet, then you can view the help pages via HTTP by run-
-V "Verbose" mode, causes Elvis to output more status messages. You can use multiple -V flags to get even more detailed information.
-VVV can be handy when Elvis isn't initializing itself quite the way you expected. See also the -ologfile option, described below.
-a Instructs Elvis to load all files named on the command line simultaneously with a separate window for each.
-r This is used for recovering an edit session after a crash. Each Elvis process uses a single "session file" to store the contents of
all edit buffers. While Elvis is running, a flag is set near the beginning of the session file so that other Elvis processes won't
try to use it at the same time. If an Elvis process dies abnormally, though, it will leave the session file lying around with that
flag set; the -r flag allows Elvis to open a session file even if it is marked as being in use.
-e Causes Elvis to start each window in ex mode, instead of visual command mode. Invoking Elvis as "ex" implies this.
-i Causes Elvis to start each window in input mode, instead of visual command mode. Novice users may prefer this.
-b This sets the "binary" option, which causes new buffers to be marked as "readeol=binary". Without -b, Elvis will try to guess the
format by examining the first hundred bytes or so of the file.
-R This sets the "defaultreadonly" option, which causes all new buffers to be marked as "readonly" so you won't accidentally overwrite
the original file.
-S Sets security=safer, making Elvis paranoid about certain potentially harmful commands. The intent is to protect the user against
writing by malicious scripts. The ./.exrc file and modelines are executed with security=safer temporarily regardless of whether -S
was given. The -S flag is just used to make Elvis permanently paranoid, for the duration of this process.
-SS Sets security=restricted. This is more extreme security than "-S". The intent is to protect the system against reading by mali-
Makes Elvis use the session file named "session" instead of the default file. Session files are discussed in the description of the
-r flag, above.
Redirects messages and trace information out to logfile instead of going to stdout/stderr as usual. This is useful under Windows95,
where stdout/stderr don't show anywhere. If you're having trouble configuring WinElvis, try running "WinElvis -VVV -o log" and then
you can find the trace and error messages in the file "log".
-G gui Makes Elvis use the named gui user interface instead of the default. To see a list of supported user interfaces, give the command
After loading the first file, interpret command as an ex command line. Several ex command lines can be sent in one line, separated
by "|". This is good to know, because only a single -ccommand or +command flag can be used.
-s Read an ex script from stdin, and execute it. This is similar to the -Gscript flag, except that -s has the additional side-effect
of bypassing all initialization scripts.
-t tag Causes editing to begin at the location where the given tag is defined. See the ctags(1) command for more information about tags.
This sets the "window" option, which has very little effect in Elvis.
If a new session file is created, this causes it to use blocks of size blksize.
In addition, the following options are also supported to maintain backward compatibility, although their future use is discouraged.
Like -c command, this causes the ex command to be executed after the first file is loaded. If the command is omitted, it is under-
stood to be "$", which causes the cursor to move to the last line of the file.
- Like -s, this causes Elvis to read a script from stdin and execute it.
The termcap interface is the one you'll use most often on non-graphic terminals. It looks and acts a heck of a lot like the traditional
vi. The biggest addition is the support for multiple windows. For more information on how to use multiple windows, start Elvis and give
the command ":help ^W". The short form of that help is: ^Ws splits the screen to form an additional window, ^Wq closes the window, and
^W^W switches the cursor from one window to another.
If your terminal supports ANSI color escape sequences, then you can use the ":color" command to assign different colors to various fonts.
You must assign a "normal" color first, e.g., ":color normal yellow on blue".
The DOS and (text mode) Win32 version of the termcap interface support the mouse. The mouse behaves almost exactly like the X11 mouse,
described below. The only differences are that the mouse can't be used to cut & paste to the clipboard, and on a two-button mouse you can
simulate a middle button by simultaneously pressing the left and right buttons.
The x11 interface is used under X-Windows on UNIX systems. It provides a scrollbar and mouse support, and allows you to select which fonts
To specify a normal font, use -font fontname or -fn fontname. Proportional fonts are not properly supported, but they aren't rejected with
an error message either. If you don't specify a normal font, then Elvis will use a font named "fixed" by default. (This default can be
overridden by a "set font=..." command in the elvis.ini file. The default elvis.ini file does this, making the new default font be
To specify a bold font, use -fb fontname. The specified font should have the same size character cell as the normal font, but Elvis does
not verify this. If you don't specify a bold font, then Elvis will fake it by smearing the normal font rightward one pixel.
To specify an italic font, use -fi fontname. The specified font should have the same size character cell as the normal font, but Elvis
does not verify this. If you don't specify an italic font, then Elvis will fake it by sliding the top half of the normal font rightward
If you want to use Courier fonts, there is a shortcut: -courier size will use the normal, bold, and italic versions of the Courier font in
the requested size.
You can force Elvis to use only black and white with the -mono flag; this is the default if your display only has one bitplane. For color
displays, -fg color and -bg color can be used to set the normal text color and the background color, respectively.
Elvis has a built-in icon, which is generally a good thing. Some window managers won't allow you to assign a new icon to a program that
has a built-in one, so Elvis has a -noicon flag which disables the built-in icon.
The -fork client causes Elvis to run in the background, so that your shell prompt returns immediately.
The -client option causes Elvis to look for an already-running Elvis process on the same X server and, if there is one, send the new argu-
ments to it. This causes the old Elvis process to create new windows for file arguments. The new Elvis process then exits, leaving the
old one to do the real work and allowing your shell program to prompt for a new command immediately. For the sake of uniformity, if
-client fails to find an existing Elvis process, then a new Elvis process starts up as though you had used the -fork argument instead.
The -client option is implemented in an interesting way: the client Elvis simply sends a series of ex commands to an existing window of the
server Elvis. For each file name argument, the client Elvis sends a ":split file" command. For -ttag, the client Elvis sends a ":stag
tag" command. For -ccommand, the client Elvis simply sends the command, and this results in some quirks. First, the server Elvis tempo-
rarily sets security=safer while the command is executed, for security reasons. Second, the command is executed by the server's existing
window, not the new one, so (for example) "elvis -client -c 20 foo" creates a new window for the file "foo", and then moves the OLD WIN-
DOW's cursor to line 20 of whatever file it was showing.
I've tried to reach a balance between the mouse behavior of xterm(1) and what makes sense for an editor. To do this right, Elvis has to
distinguish between clicking and dragging.
Dragging the mouse always selects text. Dragging with button 1 pressed (usually the left button) selects characters, dragging with button
2 (the middle button) selects a rectangular area, and dragging with button 3 (usually the right button) selects whole lines. These opera-
tions correspond to Elvis' v, ^V, and V commands, respectively. When you release the button at the end of the drag, the selected text is
immediately copied into an X11 cut buffer, so you can paste it into another application such as xterm. The text remains selected, so you
can apply an operator command to it.
Clicking button 1 cancels any pending selection, and moves the cursor to the clicked-on character. Clicking button 3 moves the cursor
without canceling the pending selection; you can use this to extend a pending selection.
Clicking button 2 "pastes" text from the X11 cut butter. If you're entering an ex command line, the text will be pasted into the command
line as though you had typed it. If you're in visual command mode or input mode, the text will be pasted into your edit buffer. When
pasting, it doesn't matter where you click in the window; Elvis always inserts the text at the position of the text cursor.
Double-clicking button 1 simulates a ^] keystroke, causing Elvis to perform tag lookup on the clicked-on word. If Elvis happens to be dis-
playing an HTML document, then tag lookup pursues hypertext links so you can double-click on any underlined text to view the topic that
describes that text. Double-clicking button 3 simulates a ^T keystroke, taking you back to where you did the last tag lookup.
If your mouse has a scroll wheel, then Elvis can be configured to use it. For instructions on doing this, start Elvis and give the command
Elvis has commands which can examine any environment variable. Because of this, a comprehensive list of environment variables isn't possi-
ble. The following list contains the environment variables which have hardcoded meaning in Elvis.
BASH or BASH_VERSION
Under Unix/Linux, Elvis tests for the presence of these variables to decide whether or not the /bin/sh shell supports process con-
trol, especially the ^Z key. The values of these variables doesn't matter, only the fact that they exist.
For the "termcap" user interface, this overrides the number of columns specified in the termcap/terminfo entry.
For the "x11" user interface, this indicates which display it should run on.
If set to "light" or "dark", its value is used as the default value for the background option.
If set, its value is used to select the default user interface. You can still override it by using the -Ggui command line flag.
If ELVISPATH is defined in the environment, then its value is copied into the elvispath option, which is a list of directories that
Elvis should search through when looking for its support files. If ELVISPATH is undefined, Elvis will use a default list which usu-
ally includes the your home directory, and maybe a system-wide default location.
EXINIT If defined, the value of this option is typically interpreted as a series of EX commands when Elvis starts up. This behavior isn't
built into Elvis though; it is handled by the standard elvis.ini file.
HOME This is your home directory. Its value is used as the default value for the home option, which is used in ~ substitution in file
HOMEDRIVE and HOMEPATH
For Windows, if HOME is unset then HOMEDRIVE and HOMEPATH are checked; if they're set then they're concatenated to form the default
value of the home option.
The "syntax" display mode uses this as a list of directories to search through when looking for a header file such as <stdio.h>.
LC_ALL, LC_MESSAGES, and LANG
If LANG is defined, then Elvis will look for its message translations in $LANG/elvis.msg, and only use just plain elvis.msg if it
can't find $LANG/elvis.msg. The LC_MESSAGES and LC_ALL environment variables work similarly, and take precedence over LANG.
LINES For the "termcap" user interface, this overrides the number of lines specified in the termcap/terminfo entry.
This stores your login name. It is used when reading via the FTP protocol, to choose the default login information.
OLDPWD This stores the name of the previous directory you were in. Its value is stored in the prevdir option, which is used for ~- substi-
tution in file names.
PATH The usual search path for programs.
This is a list of directories where Elvis might be able to create the session file. Elvis uses the first writable directory from
the list, and ignores all others.
SHELL or COMSPEC
This is the name of your command-line interpreter. Elvis needs to know this so you can run programs from inside Elvis. SHELL is
used in Unix/Linux, and COMSPEC is used in MS-DOS.
This is a path for tags files, used by the :tag command. For Microsoft it is semicolon-delimited; for all others it is colon-delim-
ited. Each entry in the path can be either a filename, or the name of a directory containing a file named tags.
TERM For the termcap interface, this is the name of the terminal's termcap/terminfo entry. Also, if its value is "kvt" or ends with "-r"
or "-rv", then the background option will be "light" by default; else it will be "dark".
For the termcap interface, this can either store the name of a termcap file or the actual contents of a termcap entry.
TMP This is where Elvis stores its temporary files other than session files.
Elvis uses this when choosing the default value of the background option. If the WINDOWID environment variable exists, then Elvis
assumes it is running in an xterm-like terminal emulator, and those emulators usually have a light background.
XENVIRONMENT, XFILESEARCHPATH, and XUSERFILESEARCHPATH
These are used by the "x11" user interface, when loading Elvis' resources.
~ This is your home directory. Whenever Elvis sees a ~ at the start of a pathname, it replaces the ~ with the value of the "home"
option. The "home" option is initialized from the HOME environment variable; if HOME is unset then some operating systems will set
"home" to the the directory where the Elvis program resides.
lib In this man-page, "lib" is a placeholder for the name of a directory in which Elvis' configuration files reside. The "elvispath"
option's value is a list of directories that Elvis will check for each configuration file.
These are the default names for sessions files. Session files store the contents of all edit buffers for a given edit session. You
can instruct Elvis to use a specific session file via the -fsession command-line flag. Note that sessions specified via -fsession
normally reside in the current directory, but when Elvis chooses its own session file name, it will place it in the first writable
directory named in the SESSIONPATH environment variable.
tags This file stores the tags for the files in a directory. It is used by the :tag command, among others.
This file contains EX commands which are executed whenever Elvis starts up. Elvis searches through the ELVISPATH for the file.
~/.exrc, ~/.elvisrc, or ~elvis.rc
The .exrc or .elvisrc (for UNIX) or elvis.rc (for non-UNIX) file in your home directory will generally be executed as a series of EX
commands, unless the EXINIT environment variable is defined. This behavior isn't built into Elvis though; it is handled by the
standard elvis.ini file.
.exrc, .elvisrc, or elvis.rc
The .exrc or .elvisrc (for UNIX) or elvis.rc (for non-UNIX) file in the current directory is interpreted as a series of EX commands,
but only if the exrc option has been set. This behavior isn't built into Elvis; it is handled by the standard elvis.ini file.
This file contains EX commands which are executed Before Reading a File. Typically this is used to distinguish a binary file from a
text file by examining the file name extension of the file. The "readeol" option is then set accordingly.
This file contains EX commands which are executed After Reading a File. If the current directory doesn't contain an elvis.arf file,
then Elvis searches through the ELVISPATH for the file. Typically, this is used to set the bufdisplay option for a buffer, based on
the file name extension of the file.
This file contains EX commands which are executed Before Writing a File. Typically, lib/elvis.bwf is used to perform an RCS "check-
out" command before writing a file.
This contains a series of ":digraph" commands which set up the digraph table appropriately for the ISO Latin-1 symbol set. The
lib/elvis.ini file executes this script during initialization, except under OS/2, MS-DOS, or text-mode Win32.
This contains a series of ":digraph" commands which set up the digraph table appropriately for the PC-8 symbol set. This is the
normal symbol set for MS-DOS, OS/2, and text-mode Win32 (although the graphical Win32 uses lib/elvis.lat). The lib/elvis.ini file
executes this script during initialization under MS-DOS.
This file's data is used for mapping the Elvis' terse error messages into verbose messages.
Elvis doesn't use this file directly; it is simply meant to serve as a resource from which you can extract the terse form of one of
elvis' messages; you can then add the terse form and your own custom verbose form to the lib/elvis.msg file.
This file controls how Elvis' "syntax" display mode highlights the text for a given language.
This file contains a series of ex command. This file is sourced by lib/elvis.ini if Elvis is using its X11 user interface. It con-
figures up the toolbar and default colors.
This contains a set of aliases. If your copy of Elvis is configured to support aliases (i.e., if it isn't the MS-DOS version) then
these aliases will be loaded automatically. They are partly intended to serve as examples of what aliases can do and how to write
them, but mostly these aliases are intended to be truly useful. To see a list of the aliases, give the command ":alias".
These files contain the online documentation.
These contain the man pages -- shorter summaries of the programs, with descriptions of the command-line flags.
guix11/*.xpm and guix11/elvis.xbm
These contain icon images for use with X-windows. The "elvis.xbm" image is a 2-color bitmap, and it is compiled into Elvis. The
other files, such as "elvis.xpm," contain color images. The "insticon.sh" shell script (which is invoked as part of the "make
install" operation) tries to copy these into appropriate directories.
ex(1), vi(1), ctags(1)
You should also view the on-line documentation, via ":help".