Ive just installed ubuntu 16.04.2 32 bit on a digital ocean server.

Digital ocean has tweaked the ubuntu install a bit, for example they have installed full vim as part of the block image they use in their VPS's. I now want to use this - pre-installed - vim as my default editor. so I run

sudo update-alternatives --config editor

which gives this menu

$ sudo update-alternatives --config editor
There are 4 choices for the alternative editor (providing /usr/bin/editor).

  Selection    Path                Priority   Status
* 0            /bin/nano            40        auto mode
  1            /bin/ed             -100       manual mode
  2            /bin/nano            40        manual mode
  3            /usr/bin/vim.basic   30        manual mode
  4            /usr/bin/vim.tiny    10        manual mode

Press <enter> to keep the current choice[*], or type selection number:

note: vim is not there as an option

Im thinking digital ocean has not added the vim install to the update-alternatives system?
What is the recommended way to get the /user/bin/vim program added to this menu?
I guess I could overwrite the /usr/bin/editor symlink that the alternatives system adds or maybe add a symlink in /etc/alternatives pointing to /usr/bin/vim ? but I would like to try the "official" way before I do my "hack" on top of the digital ocean hack.

3 Answers 3


First set your editor to the right path:

sudo update-alternatives --install /usr/bin/editor editor /usr/local/bin/vim 1 && \
sudo update-alternatives --set editor /usr/local/bin/vim

Then aliases:

sudo update-alternatives --install /usr/bin/vi vi /usr/local/bin/vim 1 && \
sudo update-alternatives --set vi /usr/local/bin/vim

Don't forget the 1 near the end of the first line of both code blocks above.

  • 3
    This should be the accepted answer: it answers the question on how to add a custom editor to the alternatives
    – vanadium
    Commented Jul 18, 2021 at 11:05

This is not modified, but the standard Ubuntu behaviour up to Zesty. If you do a ls -l on vim (/usr/bin/vim), you see that it is a link to /etc/alternatives/vim, which in turn links to /usr/bin/vim.basic.

Execution of vim --version or vim.basic --version also reveals that they are in fact the same full, "giant" vim version 8.0 without GUI.

To answer your question: Menu choice of vim.basic gives you the desired full vim version. It is just that the name is misleading.


You can add any new editor and set it as default by using a single command. In this example you would be adding micro editor, located in /usr/bin/micro as an update alternative editor with a priority of 100. The command is:

sudo update-alternatives --install /usr/bin/editor editor /usr/bin/micro 100

The system will use the editor with the highest priority by default if there isn't any previous selection. So, with this single command, you can add a new editor, and use it as the default editor. All you need is that the priority is larger than any of the previous you have in your update-alternatives list.

  • If micro was installed with brew the path would be /home/linuxbrew/.linuxbrew/bin/micro Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 20:31

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