NANO(1) General Commands Manual NANO(1)
nano - Nano's ANOther editor, an enhanced free Pico clone
nano [options] [[+line[,column]] file]...
nano is a small and friendly editor. It copies the look and feel of
Pico, but is free software, and implements several features that Pico
lacks, such as: opening multiple files, scrolling per line, undo/redo,
syntax coloring, line numbering, and soft-wrapping overlong lines.
When giving a filename on the command line, the cursor can be put on a
specific line by adding the line number with a plus sign (+) before the
filename, and even in a specific column by adding it with a comma.
As a special case: if instead of a filename a dash (-) is given, nano
will read data from standard input.
Entering text and moving around in a file is straightforward: typing
the letters and using the normal cursor movement keys. Commands are
entered by using the Control (^) and the Alt or Meta (M-) keys. Typing
^K deletes the current line and puts it in the cutbuffer. Consecutive
^Ks will put all deleted lines together in the cutbuffer. Any cursor
movement or executing any other command will cause the next ^K to over-
write the cutbuffer. A ^U will paste the current contents of the cut-
buffer at the current cursor position.
When a more precise piece of text needs to be cut or copied, one can
mark its start with ^6, move the cursor to its end (the marked text
will be highlighted), and then use ^K to cut it, or M-6 to copy it to
the cutbuffer. One can also save the marked text to a file with ^O, or
spell check it with ^T.
Since nano-2.7.0, text can also be selected by holding Shift and moving
the cursor with the arrow keys. Holding down the Alt key too will
increase the stride.
The two lines at the bottom of the screen show some important commands;
the built-in help (^G) lists all the available ones. The default key
bindings can be changed via a nanorc file -- see nanorc(5).
Make the Home key smarter. When Home is pressed anywhere but at
the very beginning of non-whitespace characters on a line, the
cursor will jump to that beginning (either forwards or back-
wards). If the cursor is already at that position, it will jump
to the true beginning of the line.
When saving a file, back up the previous version of it, using
the current filename suffixed with a tilde (~).
-C directory, --backupdir=directory
Make and keep not just one backup file, but make and keep a
uniquely numbered one every time a file is saved -- when backups
are enabled (-B). The uniquely numbered files are stored in the
Use bold text instead of reverse video text.
Convert typed tabs to spaces.
Read a file into a new buffer by default.
Use vim-style file locking when editing files.
Save the last hundred search strings and replacement strings and
executed commands, so they can be easily reused in later ses-
Don't look at the system's nanorc nor at the user's nanorc.
Interpret the numeric keypad keys so that they all work prop-
erly. You should only need to use this option if they don't, as
mouse support won't work properly with this option enabled.
Don't add newlines to the ends of files.
Snip trailing whitespace from the wrapped line when automatic
hard-wrapping occurs or when text is justified.
Disable automatic conversion of files from DOS/Mac format.
Use the blank line below the title bar as extra editing space.
For the 200 most recent files, log the last position of the cur-
sor, and place it at that position again upon reopening such a
file. (The old form of this option, --poslog, is deprecated.)
-Q "characters", --quotestr="characters"
Set the quoting string for justifying. The default is
"^([ \t]*[#:>\|}])+" if extended regular expression support is
available, or "> " otherwise. Note that \t stands for a Tab.
Restricted mode: don't read or write to any file not specified
on the command line; don't read any nanorc files nor history
files; don't allow suspending nor spell checking; don't allow a
file to be appended to, prepended to, or saved under a different
name if it already has one; and don't use backup files. This
restricted mode is also accessible by invoking nano with any
name beginning with 'r' (e.g. "rnano").
Use smooth scrolling: text will scroll line-by-line, instead of
the usual chunk-by-chunk behavior.
-T number, --tabsize=number
Set the size (width) of a tab to number columns. The value of
number must be greater than 0. The default value is 8.
Do quick status-bar blanking: status-bar messages will disappear
after 1 keystroke instead of 25. Note that option -c (--con-
stantshow) overrides this.
Show the current version number and exit.
Detect word boundaries differently by treating punctuation char-
acters as part of a word.
-X "characters", --wordchars="characters"
Specify which other characters (besides the normal alphanumeric
ones) should be considered as part of a word. This overrides
option -W (--wordbounds).
-Y name, --syntax=name
Specify the name of the syntax highlighting to use from among
the ones defined in the nanorc files.
When doing soft line wrapping, wrap lines at whitespace instead
of always at the edge of the screen.
Constantly show the cursor position on the status bar. Note
that this overrides option -U (--quickblank).
Interpret the Delete key differently so that both Backspace and
Delete work properly. You should only need to use this option
if Backspace acts like Delete on your system.
Make the cursor visible in the file browser, putting it on the
highlighted item. Useful for braille users.
Show a summary of the available command-line options and exit.
Indent new lines to the previous line's indentation. Useful
when editing source code.
Make the 'Cut Text' command (normally ^K) cut from the current
cursor position to the end of the line, instead of cutting the
Display line numbers to the left of the text area.
Enable mouse support, if available for your system. When
enabled, mouse clicks can be used to place the cursor, set the
mark (with a double click), and execute shortcuts. The mouse
will work in the X Window System, and on the console when gpm is
running. Text can still be selected through dragging by holding
down the Shift key.
Treat any name given on the command line as a new file. This
allows nano to write to named pipes: it will start with a blank
buffer, and will write to the pipe when the user saves the
"file". This way nano can be used as an editor in combination
with for instance gpg without having to write sensitive data to
-o directory, --operatingdir=directory
Set the operating directory. This makes nano set up something
similar to a chroot.
Preserve the XON and XOFF sequences (^Q and ^S) so they will be
caught by the terminal.
Obsolete option. Recognized but ignored.
-r number, --fill=number
Hard-wrap lines at column number. If this value is 0 or less,
wrapping will occur at the width of the screen less number col-
umns, allowing the wrap point to vary along with the width of
the screen if the screen is resized. The default value is -8.
This option conflicts with -w (--nowrap) -- the last one given
-s program, --speller=program
Use this alternative spell checker command.
Save a changed buffer without prompting (when exiting with ^X).
Save a file by default in Unix format. This overrides nano's
default behavior of saving a file in the format that it had.
(This option has no effect when you also use --noconvert.)
Just view the file and disallow editing: read-only mode.
Disable the hard-wrapping of long lines. This option conflicts
with -r (--fill) -- the last one given takes effect.
Don't show the two help lines at the bottom of the screen.
Enable the suspend ability.
Enable 'soft wrapping'. This will make nano attempt to display
the entire contents of any line, even if it is longer than the
screen width, by continuing it over multiple screen lines.
Since '$' normally refers to a variable in the Unix shell, you
should specify this option last when using other options (e.g.
'nano -wS$') or pass it separately (e.g. 'nano -wS -$').
-b, -e, -f, -j
Ignored, for compatibility with Pico.
Several of the above options can be switched on and off also while nano
is running. For example, M-L toggles the hard-wrapping of long lines,
M-$ toggles soft-wrapping, M-# toggles line numbers, M-M toggles the
mouse, M-I auto-indentation, and M-X the help lines. See at the end of
the ^G help text for a complete list.
nano will read two configuration files: first the system's nanorc (if
it exists), and then the user's nanorc (if it exists), either ~/.nanorc
or $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/nano/nanorc or ~/.config/nano/nanorc, whichever is
encountered first. See nanorc(5) for more information on the possible
contents of those files.
If no alternative spell checker command is specified on the command
line nor in one of the nanorc files, nano will check the SPELL environ-
ment variable for one.
In some cases nano will try to dump the buffer into an emergency file.
This will happen mainly if nano receives a SIGHUP or SIGTERM or runs
out of memory. It will write the buffer into a file named nano.save if
the buffer didn't have a name already, or will add a ".save" suffix to
the current filename. If an emergency file with that name already
exists in the current directory, it will add ".save" plus a number
(e.g. ".save.1") to the current filename in order to make it unique.
In multibuffer mode, nano will write all the open buffers to their
respective emergency files.
Justifications (^J) are not yet covered by the general undo system. So
after a justification that is not immediately undone, earlier edits
cannot be undone any more. The workaround is, of course, to exit with-
The recording and playback of keyboard macros works correctly only on a
terminal emulator, not on a Linux console (VT), because the latter is a
Please report any other bugs that you encounter via:
/usr/share/doc/nano/ (or equivalent on your system)
Chris Allegretta and others (see the files AUTHORS and THANKS for
details). This manual page was originally written by Jordi Mallach for
the Debian system (but may be used by others).
January 2018 version 2.9.3 NANO(1)
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