Linux Text Processing
By Levi Reiss

DSL-logoDamn Small Linux can be an excellent tool for learning Linux commands and running the Linux operating system. But what if you are not interested in becoming a computer nerd; can this software still be useful to regular people? The answer is a resounding yes; you can make use of this tiny operating system whether or not you want to learn the sometimes gruesome details of operating systems. This article introduces the text editors that come with your free Damn Small Linux that runs on even obsolete Windows computers. You can use these applications to compose simple text or programs of any level of complexity.

Once you have downloaded and installed Damn Small Linux there are several equivalent ways of launching its text editors. You can click on the DSL button in the lower-left hand corner or on the Apps/ icon toward the top of the screen. Then open the Editors: there are four, Beaver, Nano, Notepad, and vi (actually vim). We will look at these editors in order plus an additional one.


Beaver is my choice for creating and editing the text files used in my Damn Small Linux tutorials. The name Beaver stands for Beaver is an Early AdVanced EditoR which is the kind of joke that many Linux and Unix people find funny. This editor is particularly useful for programming and web page editing. Among Beaver’s special features are color coding and the ability to convert text to Upper Case, Lower Case or to capitalize the first letter of every word. You can convert text among the following formats: Unix, DOS, and Mac. Programmers will be happy to learn that Beaver formats code for the following programming languages: C/C++, HTML, Perl, JavaScript, PHP, and Bash. Unfortunately the Help function is not available. To learn more about this editor access their website at

The nano program is especially used for email messages. It stems from the widely-used Pico email program that is not available for some versions of Linux. I have not had the pleasure of working with nano but am told that many Linux and Unix people like it.

What the Damn Small Linux people call Notepad is actually another text processor that is similar to the DOS/Windows Notepad. I haven’t used it because Beaver is more powerful, and just about as easy to use.

The final application in this group is VIM, vi IMproved. The original vi was a very-widely used text editor for Unix and Linux systems. Today most Unix and Linux people work with other, more sophisticated text editors. When I teach Linux on systems other than Damn Small Linux I teach a reduced version of vi. This editor is cumbersome, but you make like the improved version. Damn Small Linux offers you a choice.

The Office folder contains Ted, a word processor that is compatible with Microsoft Word. Ted saves documents in RTF (rich text format) that can be read by Microsoft Word and other word processors including Open Office. Ted and Beaver belong to different worlds; you can’t take documents back and forth between these two applications.

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet. He loves the occasional glass of wine as exemplified by his wine websites including He teaches Linux and Windows operating systems plus other computer courses at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his new website which teaches you how to download and run Damn Small Linux on Windows computers, even if they are “obsolete.”