How To Get Out Of Vi Mode In Bash

Shell Programming

I remember the first time I encountered this struggle when I switched to a new system that had vi mode enabled by default in the bash shell. It was quite the challenge to figure out how to exit vi mode and get back to the familiar command-line editing. After a bit of trial and error, I finally mastered the art of escaping vi mode in bash. Let me guide you through the process so that you can avoid the frustrations I faced.

Understanding Vi Mode in Bash

First things first, let’s understand what vi mode in bash is all about. When vi mode is enabled, the bash shell uses key bindings similar to the vi text editor. This means that your keyboard inputs are interpreted differently, and you need to use vi-like commands for editing and navigation in the command line.

Escaping Vi Insert Mode

If you find yourself inadvertently in vi insert mode while typing a command, getting out of it is crucial to avoid unexpected behavior. To do this, simply press Ctrl + C. This will cancel the current input and return you to the regular command-line editing mode.

Switching from Vi Command Mode to Insert Mode

Now, let’s say you intentionally entered vi command mode to perform some editing, and you want to return to the regular insert mode to continue typing your command. Press the Esc key to exit vi command mode and switch to vi insert mode. This will allow you to resume normal text input without executing any unintended commands.

Disabling Vi Mode in Bash Temporarily

If you prefer to work in the traditional bash emacs mode for a specific session, you can temporarily disable vi mode by running the command set -o emacs. This will switch the command-line editor to emacs mode until you exit the session.

Permanently Disabling Vi Mode in Bash

If you find vi mode more cumbersome than helpful and want to permanently switch back to the default emacs mode, you can add the line set -o emacs to your .bashrc file. This will ensure that every time you start a bash session, it will be in emacs mode by default.


Escaping vi mode in bash can be a bit perplexing at first, but once you understand the key commands and options available, it becomes second nature. Whether it’s navigating through the vi-like key bindings or making a conscious decision to switch between vi and emacs modes, mastering these techniques can significantly enhance your command-line productivity.