Emacs vs. Vim: Differences Between the Top Terminal Editors For Linux

Linux comes with several terminal-based text editors such as “nano”, “vim”, “ne” and many others. They are used to create, edit, and modify text and configuration files, but selecting an editor relies on its functionality and performance. So it’s recommended that you choose a text editor that doesn’t slow down your performance. These types of terminal-based editors include “emacs” and “Vim”.

This guide enlists all the possible facts which differentiate the Emacs and Vim top terminal editors of Linux with the following outcomes:

What is Emacs Editor?

Emacs is the oldest text editors tool in Linux that is famous for its unique and powerful editing features. It refers to an open-source, cross-platform that acts as a hybrid between vi and nano text editor. This is because its strengths and features resemble the vi editor, while its help files, menus, and command keys are similar to the nano editor.

Installing Emacs Editor on Linux

The following mentioned commands are helpful to install “Emacs” editor on the desired Linux distributions:

$ sudo yum install emacs       #For RHEL/CentOS/Fedora (Older Versions)
$ sudo dnf install emacs       #For RHEL/CentOS/Fedora (New Versions)
$ sudo apt install emacs       #For Ubuntu/Debian-Based

Launch it after completing the installation procedure as its interface looks like this:

What is Vim Editor?

Vim” is the most popular text editor, also known as “Vi Improved”. It refers to the user-friendly editor beneficial for creating and editing configuration files, text files, scripts, and much more in Linux. It is quite simple and easy to use, with many functionalities.

Install Vim Editor on Linux

Execute the below-typed commands to start installing the  “vim” editor on the specified frequently used Linux distributions:

$ sudo yum install vim       #For RHEL/CentOS/Fedora (Older Versions)
$ sudo dnf install vim       #For RHEL/CentOS/Fedora (New Versions)
$ sudo apt install vim       #For Ubuntu/Debian-Based

The installation is successfully completed here. The “vim” editor comes with the following terminal-based interface:

Difference Between Emacs and Vim

The “Emacs” and the “Vim” editor is different from each other in several important ways that are listed below:

User-Interface Emacs editor supports both command-based and (GUI) Graphical User Interface. The GUI interface gives a user-friendly work environment.Vim editor also supports both GUI and command-based user interfaces. Its CLI comes with two editing modes i.e., “Normal(Command)” and “Insert” mode.
GUI LibrariesEmacs editor utilizes gtk2 or XDisplay libraries for its GUI.Vim uses gnome, athena, gnome2, motif, and neXtaw, in place of gtk2.
Booting-SpeedEmacs text editor takes around 1-2 seconds at boot time.The Vim editor starts instantly without taking too much time.
RAM-UsageEmacs requires large storage space as compared to vim as its GUI takes “7.5MB”.The Vim editor takes less storage and is considered a lightweight text editor.
LearningThe “Emacs” GUI interface looks natural and is easy to learn for users familiar with the GUI support text editors.Vim is quite tricky for beginners because of its various editing modes.
FlexibilityEmacs supports plugins that help increase its functionality. Users can add unlimited extensions like fast navigation, multiple languages, syntax support, and many others.Vim also supports plugins and extensions such as git support, add syntax highlighting, fancy themes, and much more.
CustomizableEmacs is famous for its customizations. It means that the modes, features, fonts, and almost everything can be customized and molded as per requirements. The Vim editor command mode offers the configuration file to set the option, define functions and make macros easily through commands.
ProductivityIn the Emacs editor, the “Ctrl+B” or “Ctrl+F” are used to move the cursor, which slows down productivity because of pressing two keys simultaneously. 
It requires modification in the configuration of the editing environment to enhance its productivity.
File editing is much faster in Vim as the cursor movement in the normal mode can be easily handled by the “H”, “K”, “J”, and “L” keys.

Which One is Better: “Emacs” or “Vim”?

Based on the above-discussed points, the difference between “Emacs” and “Vim” depends on their usage and perspective. If the user is short, “vim” is better, and if you are an extensive text editor user, then “Emacs” is better.


In Linux, “Emacs” comes with a set of the whole environment that includes various tools such as a calculator, text editor, and IRC integration. Whereas “Vim” refers to the fast, dedicated, and straightforward tool that efficiently performs the job. This guide has illustrated the difference between Emacs and Vim,  the top terminal editors for Linux.