Microsoft floats bringing a text editor back to the CLI

We used to use Edlin. And we were happy

Microsoft is considering adding a text editor back into the command line world, thus risking some heated discussions on the subject.

Connor Plante, a Microsoft product manager, began a discussion regarding the feature in GitHub last week. Plante asked if users would even want such a thing if they are using a Command Line Interface (CLI) editor today, and if so – what?

The problem is that 64-bit Windows editions – the standard nowadays – do not ship with a CLI editor. Edit has lingered on in the 32-bit world, according to Plante, but for 64-bit users, there is nothing available out of the box.

Plante said: "A CLI editor is a core tool for system admins, developers, and power users – providing an immediate viable option here is an important quality-of-life improvement."

Since Microsoft's recent updates to notepad.exe have left Windows bereft of something simple for text wrangling, we'd have to agree.

There are some excellent text editors out there for Windows, but options are limited with regard to the command line. Plante suggested bringing edit to 64-bit Windows or going for the likes of Pico, Nano, Vim, or Emacs.

Edlin did not make the example list. A shame – this writer well remembers carefully crafting autoexec.bat and config.sys files in the tool to ensure the latest and greatest DOS-based software would boot without issue. Edit came along from MS-DOS 5 and lingered on throughout 32-bit x86 versions of Windows.

An alternative approach floated by Plante is to improve error handling in the shell so that it recognizes editor commands and prompts to install the missing services.

The discussion in GitHub has been lively. However, we'd contend that most administrators likely already have a preferred tool and will install it regardless of what Microsoft does or doesn't elect to include.

If those same administrators are using Windows as a client to get to their Linux consoles, plenty of options exist, depending on the distribution.

Still, getting some sort of text editor into the CLI would be handy for the occasional user, such as this writer. Just to avoid the lurch into Visual Studio Code or Notepad++. The question, however, has to be Emacs or Vim? Or both? ®

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