ed(1) is line-oriented text editor, originally created in the times when people used teletypes to operate computers.

Nowadays, it is mostly useless, yet I am somewhat capable of using it. Here are the use-cases for using it I had:

  • When the previous text in the shell is needed for me to edit the file and I'm lazy to make an extra effort to have both the text and a visual (visual as in not line-oriented) editor. For example:

    $ ls
    i-need-this-filename  this-one-too
    $ ed ~/important.txt
    some important text that i cannot write without remembering the filenames

    Easy as that.

  • In vim or neovim, when I have an opened terminal pane and I want to quickly edit a file in the same window (using vim terms) without removing the terminal from there.

Both use-cases are questionable, yet I used ed(1) in these cases. What're you gonna do?

So, the fact that ed(1) does not overlay the shell is a useful trait. Another useful trait is that it opens files on the last line. It lets you make quick notes along the way, with no need for extra software!

$ doing something very important
this is an important output
$ ed ~/notes.txt
Here's a very cool idea I had and that I do not want to forget and I'm scared to switch the window to a note-taking program or a browser.

Actually, ed(1) is quite good for adding new text to documents! But actually editing them? Thanks, no.

What's that (1)?

ed(1)'s documentation is available in man. Run man ed to read if, if you have ed(1) installed.

In man, there are 8 standard sections of manuals, numbered from 1 to 8, with 1 corresponding to general commands, which ed(1) seems to be. The man viewer even says ED(1) on top of the document.

I guess that's where that comes from.

Why do I write it like that? Because that's what the person managing https://twitter.com/ed1conf does and I like it and find it fun and funny. I wonder if they were the first to do so.

See also

  • Edbrowse, an ed(1)-inspired editor+browser+mail client.