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Which editor do you use when opening files like .bash_profile, etc?

Ben Halpern
A Canadian software developer who thinks he’s funny. He/Him.
・1 min read

And is it the same editor you use for the majority of your software development?

Discussion (159)

irreverentmike profile image
Mike Bifulco

Confusingly, this is the only thing I use vim for. Everything else is in a different tool.

ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

I don't find this to be overly odd. I was actually specifically curious as to whether this was a thing.

faraazahmad profile image
Syed Faraaz Ahmad

I think since some people (myself included) think of vim as an editor just for quick edits, we use it for just that

Thread Thread
ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

What about the thought that stuff like vi is often the default way to do these things, it becomes your standard procedure, even if for code editing you've always used other types of editors?

I feel like this scenario could play out because folks may not switch off of the approximate default behavior.

Thread Thread
ennor profile image
Enno Rehling (恩諾)

What if the situation in which we edit these files is one where we're on an ssh connection in a console window where vim is the most powerful choice that isn't a desktop application? And then that becomes default behavior for config files, like you suggest.

philnash profile image
Phil Nash

I used to do this in vim, I think because I thought it was quicker. Since I have VS Code open almost all of the time, especially if I'm doing something to .bash_profile, it's just as quick to open in Code and easier (well, more comfortable) to edit.

Also, I have tended to use the terminal from within VS Code more these days, so the whole open and edit process can happen in the same program and I like that.

mgh87 profile image
Martin Huter

For me it's the same. The only downside is that my vim skills don't evolve as fast as I want them to.

molly profile image
Molly Struve (she/her)

SAME! I have never even considered opening it in Sublime which is my main editor of choice when I am coding

pandaa880 profile image
Prashant Chaudhari

I do the same.. but i use nvim.

pmsuntuwarg profile image
Mahesh Sunuwar

I use the same, and never thought about other tool to edit it.

thomasbnt profile image
Thomas Bnt


sn0n profile image
Rob Foraker • Edited

100% nano, and if using a current release of nano, -lmx is nice °>°

nikoheikkila profile image
Niko Heikkilä

code -r /path/to/file

This opens the file with VS Code to the same workspace as rest of the files making it a really fast process. Then just save and close it like usual. I'm only using Vim when I'm working over SSH.

alexandreramosdev profile image
Alexandre Ramos dos Santos

Cool. I don't know it

deciduously profile image
Ben Lovy

nano -w

If you're just going in and out, why get fancy. You still get emacs-like keyboard nav at a fraction of the cost.

equiman profile image
Camilo Martinez

On Linux I like use more nano than vim

dance2die profile image
Sung M. Kim

but now I see many people using VS Code to open, I will give that a try too 😀

guin profile image
Angelika Jarosz

Vim, but i also use vim as my regular editor.

ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

I feel like if you use a terminal editor, it's probably the obvious choice.

I'm curious if folks who use standalone editors choose terminal apps in these contexts.

dmfay profile image
Dian Fay

It is (I do everything except Java in NeoVim); but also, if I'm just looking something up and don't mean to make changes, we've got other shell tools. I use less and grep/rg a lot with history files and so on.

Thread Thread
ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

Makes sense

jeankaplansky profile image
Jean Kaplansky

Vi. It was the only editor in town other than emacs when I first learned to edit anything on the computer.

I still use Vim for CLI stuff and VS Code for other stuff. Don’t know why I don’t use Vim for writing anymore. Probably years of other options making their way into MY $PATH.

eddinn profile image
Edvin Dunaway


rpalo profile image
Ryan Palo

Vim, and I’ll use that as my regular editor if it’s just a few files I’m throwing together to try something, or if it is on a less powerful computer. It works good but looking at multiple files and projects, I can’t be as productive. I know the shortcuts and the plugins. It just doesn’t work as well as vs code for me.

Vs code is definitely my high productivity, big brain space editor of choice. It is just generally a little slower if I’m just tweaking a few lines or doing a quick search and replace.

Although, vs code does have some amazing command line flags that make it ideal for git commit message editor, diff viewer, and more.

ascasson profile image
Anthony Casson

I do some hefty customization with my bash_profile, so opening up in VS Code (along with everything else) is nice. I don't use vim and nano would fine if I had a smaller file. It's not much to do code ~/.bash_profile.

mrmlk profile image
Mike Lee

VIM, despite the fact I was a massive emacs fan back in the day.
Just because VIM is definitely going to be on every terminal I end up defaulting to it on the command line.

I don't use it anyway else, I'd prefer an IDE like InteliJ.

mgh87 profile image
Martin Huter

You can also use Emacs in vi mode 😄

bmann profile image
Boris Mann

For the longest time, my answer was nano.

Then, I’ve been trying to get better at using dotfiles across multiple operating systems — Mac, Chromebook, Linux servers.

This means I treat the files more like a program, so I use my usual editor, VSCode.

However, when I am editing on the command line, I’ve been using micro — think of it as an upgraded nano that also has mouse support and a bunch more features. Including that you just download the binary and don’t need admin access to use it.

murtezayesil profile image
Ali Mürteza Yeşil

Nano : if I am on terminal
IntelliJ : for practicing Java
Gedit : writing diary, editing files launched from file manager and just about everything else

BONUS : echo $TEXT >> $FILE_PATH for just adding a line at the EOF

ferricoxide profile image
Thomas H Jones II

vi has been a tough habit to break. I use it pretty much anywhere I can (thank you Cygwin/Moba). And, when I can't use it, I pray that, at the very least, I can install a copy of Notepad++ (harder, these days, now that Windows 10+ more-easily affords enterprise-managed systems the ability to allow only the installation of whitelisted tools).

bhupesh profile image
Bhupesh Varshney 👾

Sublime text

darrenvong profile image
Darren Vong

Nano or VS Code, with using only VS Code looking likely going forward after seeing some of the comments here. Slightly controversial perhaps, but I never bothered to learn vim since I just want to open something that works and code away, rather than having to learn another language before I can do that 😂

vgrovestine profile image
Vincent Grovestine • Edited

Bash scripts => nano (vi only if I'm absolutely stuck on a system that's not mine)

.htaccess files and quick HTML/CSS edits => xed (aka gedit)

Markdown => Remarkable

Everything else => VS Code

aleccool213 profile image
Alec Brunelle • Edited

I swear by Micro. It has made editing in the command line a joy.


  • Common keybindings (ctrl-s, ctrl-c, ctrl-v, ctrl-z...)
  • Extremely good mouse support
  • Copy and paste with the system clipboard
arswaw profile image

Nano makes a lot of sense in its control scheme.

swarupkm profile image
Swarup Kumar Mahapatra

Well I use visual studio code for this too.
All i need to is >code ~/.bash_profile

However inside servers, there is no other choice but to use VIM.

darkain profile image
Vincent Milum Jr

The closest thing to that is my .cshrc file. I used to edit it via nano, now I edit it through GitHub. Yeah, my console profile is a git repo now!

All of my actual work though is done in Sublime. Because Sublime is BEST!

ennor profile image
Enno Rehling (恩諾)

It's either vim or jed, depending on what's installed.

For coding, I use IDEs with more language-specific support, either Visual Studio or PhpStorm. Never got into pimping out vim with plugins, or didn't find them to be as good when I tried.

smonff profile image
🌌 Sébastien Feugère ☔ • Edited

I think it is important to use an editor that makes syntax colouring and apply rules of indentations and use of spaces/tabs coherent with the rest of the file. It even makes more sense if it is files like YAML for configuration.

By the way, I use Emacs for this. It is kind of the same than using Vim, except you can exit it.

gabedunn profile image
Gabe Dunn

I used to use nano for this, but more recently I've been using neovim. I've been using WebStorm for my main IDE, but I've been working to introduce neovim more often, and it is perfect for dotfiles. I also just saw someone in this thread mention micro, and that looks really cool as well.

shindakun profile image
Steve Layton • Edited

Just like @irreverentmike for quick edits to text config files I almost always use vim. Most other text type files I'll use vscode.

tam360 profile image

for files like .bashrc, i use bash's nano editor.

jmcp profile image
James McPherson

While my primary text editor is emacs (and I'm getting up to speed on VS Code), when I want to edit a config file I'm almost always going to use vim. It's minimal, I've frequently needed to do edits over trans-Pacific ssh connections and the edits I've needed to make are generally < 10 lines. I can also pretty much guarantee that vim or vi are available on the remote end, too.

vonheikemen profile image


I use Neovim/Sublime text for coding.

This is like the perfect use case for micro, it's a terminal based editor but it has the same keybindings that modern editors have like ctrl+s for save, ctrl+z for undo, ctrl+x for cut and it even has multiple cursor support. (If someone is getting it, download the nightly build)

robertbernstein profile image
Robert Bernstein

VS Code for everything these days. I just started using the Insider Build so I could try out the Remote Development Extension Pack.

aspittel profile image
Ali Spittel

Nano or VS Code depending on how many edits I want to make!

ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

Makes sense, Nano for speed, Code for going bigger.

jonathanspeek profile image
Jonathan Speek

If it's something quick, vim. If I'm doing a bunch of stuff, I'll use VS Code (my main editor).

yaser profile image
Yaser Al-Najjar

Notepad++ ❤

I feel like VSCode is a bit too much for such files.

mallenjenz profile image
mallen-jenz • Edited

Same here, using Moba term which gives a File Explorer like interface in ssh connections, opens file in Notepad++ on my PC then saves back to same opened from directory on the remote server

ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

Do you think this feeling is a matter of practicality and productivity or more of a personal taste/aesthetic/feelings?

yaser profile image
Yaser Al-Najjar

Both actually 😁

VSCode has many extra features (side panel for git & file explorer).

But, notepad++ gives you just the text front of you so you can make changes or peek into the file as quick as possible... save & quit.

My thinking is generally like this: Do I need to open the whole folder and play with it?

  • Yes, open folder with VSCode
  • No, open that specific file with Notepad++.
jsalvador profile image
Juanjo Salvador

I used to be a nano fan, but since I don't have nano at my company servers, I become a vim user. So, I'm gonna say vim.

Esc + :wq :P

flrnd profile image
Florian Rand

:x (less typing 😂)

learnbyexample profile image

I don't have a usecase for IDE as of now

I use gvim (don't like vim on terminal) as my only editor. Even though I spent significant time learning many of its magic stuff, I've fallen off track since leaving my job. These days, I'm mostly using it for markdown files and short programs. No plugins.

jdorfman profile image
Justin Dorfman

.bash_profile = nano
VS Code

amanhimself profile image
Aman Mittal

Vscode and nano for terminal.

karlredman profile image
Karl N. Redman

vim with plugins

I don't edit anything outside of vim. It's just most efficient for me. I have no arguments about vim being good or bad for other people. I only know that I run circles around others when in group editing situations [even without plugins].

With that said, my first question to potential programming employees in the past has been "what editor do you you use?". I've never cared what the answer was beyond that there IS an answer.

Personally I hate mouse / cursor interaction. It's bothersome to me. But I'm not going to say that my method of interacting with clunky computers is better than others. The answer should always be, 'whatever works'.

bugmagnet profile image
Bruce Axtens

Whatever's handy at the time: VSCode, Notepad++. Occasionally WEE. I use the first two interchangeably for software development.

davefollett profile image
Dave Follett

vi or emacs

stephanie profile image
Stephanie Handsteiner

Same. 😁

flrnd profile image
Florian Rand

I use only neovim (vi) for everything, but I guess is old habits. If I recall correctly, in last stack overflow surveys, vim is more common around sysadmins/devops, which in a way confirm your suspicions.

redfred7 profile image
Fred Heath

I've recently switched to micro editor as my goto editor for everyday tasks, such as configuration editing, quick shell scripts, etc. It's brilliant.

However, I'm sticking with Sublime for any major development work, for the extra features and IDE-like convenience.

pranay_rauthu profile image
pranay rauthu

I feel any editor which can open quickly is fine. If the editor can be opened from terminal it becomes really easy for terminal users. I generally use vscode. editors like vscode, sublime have fast load times & also they can be accessed from terminal

luchoster profile image
Lucho Suarez • Edited

Vim, but I use VIM for everything though :)

tedhagos profile image
Ted Hagos

vim before, but nowadays, I use VS Code for almost everything, including .bash_profile files

nancycantu profile image

nano if I'm looking at something fast, Sublime Text is I will be using it for a while

I use Sublime for most of my development

detunized profile image
Dmitry Yakimenko • Edited

If it's a regular file, then I'd use Sublime (via subl). It it requires sudo, then nano or now more and more micro (

joehobot profile image
Joe Hobot • Edited

Vi and seldom do I use vsc (if it requires more than few lines of editing)

Update: Reading through commends I notice more people use vim than vi curious as to why?

briankephart profile image
Brian Kephart

I don't usually edit files like these, so on the rare occasions I do, I have to find them first. So, TextEdit from the Finder.

ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

This is close to how I am with these things, but I do think it pays to get in the habit of messing with these files when it's useful for your productivity in the long run.

hugo__df profile image
Hugo Di Francesco

vim because it feels the most natural to open a path starting from the HK e directory

Although I guess I could use code ~/.zshrc I prefer vim ~/.zshrc

sunnysingh profile image
Sunny Singh

For quick edits, nano

When setting up some complex multiline function, VS Code.

kpollich profile image
Kyle Pollich

Most of the time I use vim for config files like that. But if I'm making more involved edits I open them in VS Code via the code command.