ed is a line editor that is included with all *nix machines. The language used in ed is the precursor to Vim and other *nix tools, so it is useful in helping to understand the logic behind many of their commands.

$ ed -p ">" path/to/file.txt

This will load the file into the buffer for you to work on. Don't worry, it's not broken.

The optional -p ">" argument says to make the default command prompt for ed > instead of a blank line. This can be any string.


Command Description
q Quit
w Write buffer to current file
e filename Open filename for editing
u Undo (ed only saves one command, so be careful!)
H Toggle between printing error messages or ? on error

If you receive ? after typing a command, type h to see what error occurred.

Traversing The File

Command Description
n Set current line to n in buffer
^n Set current line to n lines before current line
n,m Range of lines from n to m
. Current line in buffer
- Previous line in buffer
+ Next line in buffer
$ Set last line as current line
, From first to last line. Same as 1,$
; From current line to last line. Same as .,$


This can be preceded by an address, address symbol or range. If not preceded by an address, symbol, or range, current line is used. Bookmarks can be placed on any lowercase letter, signified by [x] in the examples.

Command Description
k[x] Mark selected line using lowercase letter
'[x] Recall marked line using lowercase letter

File Editing

The following commands can all be preceded by an address, address symbol or range. If not preceded by an address, symbol, or range, current line is used.

Command Description
p Print line[s]
n Print line[s] with line numbers
t[y] Copy line[s] to line after y or after current line if not specified.
m[y] Move line[s] to before line y
d Delete line[s]
j Joins the specified line with the following line, or the range of lines together, replacing the first line with their joined text

Each of the following will enter insert mode.

Command Description
i Insert in line before specified line
a Append to end of specified line
c Replace ("change") the specified line
. Exit insert mode

Regular Expressions

Regular expressions in ed follow the standard POSIX Regular Expressions, which have their own quirks.

Command Description
/query Set current line to line of next instance of query
?query Set current line to line of previous instance of query
/ Find the next instance
? Find the previous instance


  1. https://linux.die.net/man/1/ed
  2. https://elly.town/d/blog/2015-10-03-ed-tutorial.txt
  3. https://www.tiltedwindmillpress.com/product/ed/
  4. https://www.gnu.org/software/ed/manual/ed_manual.html
  5. https://www.gnu.org/fun/jokes/ed-msg.html
  6. https://www.tuhs.org/cgi-bin/utree.pl?file=V7/usr/src/cmd/ed.c
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Last modified: 202212070107