vis - editor combining vi and sam concepts

Vis aims to be a modern, legacy-free, simple yet efficient editor, combining the strengths of both vi(m) and sam.

It extends vi’s modal editing with built-in support for multiple selections and combines it with sam‘s structural regular expression based command language.

A universal editor, it has decent Unicode support and should cope with arbitrary files, including large, binary or single-line ones.

Efficient syntax highlighting is provided using Parsing Expression Grammars, which can be conveniently expressed using Lua in the form of LPeg.

The editor core is written in a reasonable amount of clean (your mileage may vary), modern and legacy-free C code, enabling it to run in resource-constrained environments. The implementation should be easy to hack on and encourage experimentation. There is also a Lua API for in-process extensions.

Vis strives to be simple and focuses on its core task: efficient text management. Clipboard and digraph handling as well as a fuzzy file open dialog are all provided by independent utilities. There exist plans to use a client/server architecture, delegating window management to your windowing system or favorite terminal multiplexer.

The intention is not to be bug-for-bug compatible with vi(m). Instead, we aim to provide more powerful editing features based on an elegant design and clean implementation.

You might also be interested in my Vis Editor: Combining modal editing with structural regular expressions talk at FOSDEM 18 (Slides , Video).


Build instructions

In order to build vis you will need a C99 compiler, a POSIX.1-2008 compatible environment as well as:

  • libtermkey
  • curses (recommended)
  • Lua >= 5.2 (optional)
  • LPeg >= 0.12 (optional runtime dependency required for syntax highlighting)
  • TRE (optional for more memory efficient regex search)

Assuming these dependencies are met, execute:

$ ./configure && make && sudo make install

By default the configure script will try to auto detect support for Lua. See configure --help for a list of supported options. You can also manually tweak the generated file.

Or simply use one of the distribution provided packages.


End user documentation can be found in the vis(1) manual page and the Wiki. Read the FAQ for common questions. Learn about some differences compared to sam(1) and vim(1), respectively.

C API as well as Lua API documentation is also available.

Non Goals

Some features which will not be implemented:

  • tabs / multiple workspaces / advanced window management
  • file and directory browser
  • support for file archives (tar, zip, …)
  • support for network protocols (ftp, http, ssh …)
  • encryption
  • compression
  • GUIs (neither x11, motif, gtk, win32 …) although the codebase should make it easy to add them
  • VimL
  • right-to-left text
  • ex mode, we have more elegant structural regexp
  • diff mode
  • vimgrep
  • internal spell checker
  • lots of compile time configurable features / #ifdef mess


You can always fetch the current code base from the git repository located at Github or Sourcehut.

If you have comments, suggestions, ideas, a bug report, a patch or something else related to vis then use the Github issue tracker or contact me directly.

Checkout the Developer Overview to get started and do not hesitate to ask question in the #vis-editor IRC channel on freenode.


vis is released under the ISC license.