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Difference Between Emacs and Vi

Emacs vs Vi

Nowadays, the hottest contenders in computer software are the web browsers. Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome are fighting for a bigger share in a metaphorical browser war. Back in the old days, something similar happened in the “editor wars” between Emacs and Vi. Emacs and Vi are two text editors that were very popular in the Unix and Unix-like operating systems. The main difference between the two is speed. Vi has historically been the faster of the two starting up in less time and is just generally the more responsive of the two. Vi also takes up much less memory than Emacs; this is at a time when 8MB is considered to be a huge amount of RAM.

The advantage of Emacs over Vi is its extensive customizability. Emacs lets the user choose from a wide variety of macros to integrate into his work flow and reduce the effort needed in his process. Vi lacks this level of customizability and relies on its simplistic and straightforward process. Emacs is also capable of emulating Vi in what they call “viper mode”; thereby making it easier for Vi users to use Emacs. Vi, with its simplicity, lacks such capabilities.

As computer technology developed, new advancements like the GUI (Graphical User Interface) were developed. Emacs adapted and developed its own GUI to make it easier for people to learn and use the editor. In comparison, Vi did not develop its own GUI. This is partly due to the appearance of Vi variants that took over. A good example is Vi iMproved, also known as Vim, which gradually became more popular than Vi as it added more features and improvements that are not found in Vi. There are also variants of Emacs, but those have not caused the software to fall by the wayside.

With modern computers, text editors aren’t what you would call “heavy applications.” They require very little processing power and memory, and it is only in features that they vary. Because of this, these two are virtually identical as Vi variants have already added features previously missing in Vi.


1.Vi is lighter and faster than Emacs.
2.Emacs is more customizable than Vi.
3.Emacs is able to emulate Vi but not the other way around.
4.Emacs later developed a GUI while Vi didn’t.
5.Emacs continued developing while Vi was succeeded by variants.

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