EDT (text editor)

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There are at least two major text editors named EDT: one was made by Digital Equipment Corporation, the other by RCA for its TSOS operating system for its Spectra series mainframes. The RCA version was later sold to Sperry Univac (which later became Unisys), was released for the VS/9 operating system, and is currently in use on Fujitsu BS2000 OSD Mainframes and the BS2000 Operating system. Other than sharing a name, neither editor had any relation to each other in method of operation, use, or functionality.

Digital's EDT ran on minicomputers, could respond to single keystrokes, and used function keys to implement commands to the editor. RCA/Univac/Fujitsu's EDT ran on mainframes, could only respond to a full line (or multiple lines separated by return) after the transmit key is pressed, and uses commands are entered in the typed-in text when preceded by the command symbol (the at sign "@" which can be changed.)


EDT is a text editor that was developed by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) for use on its PDP-11 series of computers (including RSX-11,[1] RSTS/E[2] and RT-11), and later for its VAX/VMS series as well.[3] EDT was introduced originally as a line-mode editor.[citation needed] The screen mode was developed first as the Keyboard Editor (KED) on RT-11 as part of the FMS-11 project by Darrell Duffy;[citation needed] EDT on the other operating systems was then enhanced to be compatible with KED.[citation needed]

The editor contained both line mode commands and a screen based editor. In screen mode, the default action for the user was to directly update text as he or she typed, with special commands available by pressing keypad commands. Arrow keys allowed for simple navigation, while keypad commands allowed for more complex navigation and searches. As with many user interfaces developed around this time, EDT used the "Gold Key" style of input first developed[citation needed] for the WPS-8 word processing system. "Gold Key" editing used the PF1 keypad key as a prefix key allowing the introduction of a wide variety of commands using both the keypad keys and keys on the main keyboard. Pressing the PF2 keypad key would give on-screen help on the keypad and other key combinations:

/-----------------------------------\      /-----------------------------------\
|   ^    |  DOWN  |        |        |      |        |        | FNDNXT | DEL L  |
|   |    |   |    | <----  |  ----> |      |  GOLD  |  HELP  |        |        |
|   |    |   |    |  LEFT  |  RIGHT |      |        |        |  FIND  | UND L  |
|   UP   |   v    |        |        |      |--------+--------+--------+--------|
\-----------------------------------/      |  PAGE  |  SECT  | APPEND | DEL W  |
DELETE      Delete character               |        |        |        |        |
LINEFEED    Delete to beginning of word    | COMMAND|  FILL  | REPLACE| UND W  |
BACKSPACE   Backup to beginning of line    |--------+--------+--------+--------|
CTRL/A      Compute tab level              | ADVANCE| BACKUP |  CUT   | DEL C  |
CTRL/D      Decrease tab level             |        |        |        |        |
CTRL/E      Increase tab level             | BOTTOM |  TOP   | PASTE  | UND C  |
CTRL/K      Define key                     |--------+--------+--------+--------|
CTRL/R      Refresh screen                 |  WORD  |  EOL   |  CHAR  |        |
CTRL/T      Adjust tabs                    |        |        |        | ENTER  |
CTRL/U      Delete to beginning of line    |CHNGCASE| DEL EOL| SPECINS|        |
CTRL/W      Refresh screen                 |-----------------+--------|        |
CTRL/Z      Exit to line mode              |      LINE       | SELECT |        |
                                           |                 |        |  SUBS  |
Press a key for help on that key.          |    OPEN LINE    | RESET  |        |
To exit, press the spacebar.               \-----------------------------------/

Users could configure default actions or define key sequences for their editor by placing EDT commands in an initialization file which would be executed upon starting the editor.

DEC later developed TPU, a powerful language for designing text editors on its VMS systems. TPU was used to produce a new standard text editor, EVE, as well as to rewrite EDT. EVE included an emulator of the EDT screen mode keypad for the benefit of those who were used to particular key functions. Both EVE and the TPU implementation of EDT are still distributed with OpenVMS.


EDT was also the name of the text editor running on the Unisys VS/9 operating system using the UNIVAC Series 90 mainframe computers,[4] and currently runs on the Fujitsu BS2000 mainframe computer and Operating system. Other than the fact that coincidentally the one from Digital and the one from Univac and now from Fujitsu both have had the same name, the programs were in no way similar, and that editor was not the same as the one made by Digital.

The Univac/Fujitsu EDT editor was a line-based editor, in that it did not use function keys. Unlike editors such as Teco or Emacs, the program is always in text-entry mode, similar to today's word processors.

Commands are sent to the editor by typing in text in the same manner as entering regular text, but the first character of the line (other than a space) was the command symbol, which defaults to the at sign ("@"). When a line began with an @, the remainder of the line was used as a text-editing command. To enter a line of text beginning with @ which was not an editor command, it was necessary to prefix the line with a second @ sign, in which case, the first @ would be stripped off, and the line taken as text rather than a command. It was also possible to issue a command that the command indicator be changed from @ to a different character. One use for this feature would be to write scripts to have EDT perform various actions upon another file. The command set of the editor included the ability to create unattended programmable editing sessions through the use of test, comparison, branch and looping functions.

Even if line numbers were not present in the original file, the editor supplied a pseudo-line number for use in editing each line. Because of the ISAM file format which supported an 8-character index key, line numbers consisted of a floating-point number in the range of 0.0000 to 9999.9999. The usual line number supplied by EDT started at 1.000 and incremented by 1 as a new line was added. Lines could be inserted between other lines by using a fractional number as a command prefix. For example, line 1 of a file would be 1.0000, line 2 would be 2.0000, and to insert a line between 1 and 2, one could type @1.5: followed by the text of the line; the colon would be discarded and the line would be inserted at 1.5000, between 1 and 2. A renumber command was available to renumber all or part of the file.

Commands in EDT generally consisted of a command (which is case insensitive), which may be followed by a range of line numbers that the command was to act upon, and a subfunction indicating how the command was to act. The range was either expressed as a single line number, a range of lines separated by a dash, (e.g. 5-8 would mean any line numbered 5.0000 through 8.9999 inclusive), or a group of lines, each separated by a comma. Some symbols were available to represent various values, such as the ampersand "&" or the word "all" representing every line in the file.

For example, to alter every "To" in a document to the word "From" you would type in



@on & change "To" to "From"

followed by the transmit key (equivalent to Enter on a PC), and the editor would perform the action. Editing was basically full-screen, with actions not taking place until the user pressed the transmit key, a procedure very similar to today's practice of entering text into an input box in a web page, with no action being taken until the user clicks on the submit button.[5]

Univac/Fujitsu's EDT editor provides extremely powerful editing capabilities, including

  • text formatting similar to Runoff (in which commands were given for text editing by preceding lines with a period)
  • possibly one of the first programs (the Univac 90/60 goes back to the late 1960s and early 1970s) to support the use of plugins to allow other programs to use the text the editor held in memory, as well as send commands back to the editor for processing.
  • sort
  • search
  • editing of plain text and files with line numbers
  • direct on-disk editing of files too large to hold in memory

Fujitsu's current release of EDT also supports Unicode, which did not exist when Univac released its version of EDT.


  1. ^ James J. Fullerton (October 1987). "RSX INDIRECT and EDT Grab Bag". 
  2. ^ "Documentation for EDT V3.00" (PDF). 
  3. ^ Arne Vajhøj. "VMS History". 
  4. ^ EDT Text Editor Reference Manual, Cinnaminson, New Jersey: Unisys Corporation, 1975
  5. ^ Current (V17) PDF manuals for Fujitsu EDT editor (Retrieved 2013-08-08)

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