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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 overwrite the cutbuffer. A ^U will paste the current contents of the cutbuffer 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.

On some terminals, text can be selected also by holding down Shift while using the arrow keys. Holding down the Ctrl or Alt key too will increase the stride. Any cursor movement without Shift being held will cancel such a selection.

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).


-A, --smarthome
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 backwards). If the cursor is already at that position, it will jump to the true beginning of the line.
-B, --backup
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 specified directory.
-D, --boldtext
Use bold text instead of reverse video text.
-E, --tabstospaces
Convert typed tabs to spaces.
-F, --multibuffer
Read a file into a new buffer by default.
-G, --locking
Use vim-style file locking when editing files.
-H, --historylog
Save the last hundred search strings and replacement strings and executed commands, so they can be easily reused in later sessions.
-I, --ignorercfiles
Don't look at the system's nanorc nor at the user's nanorc.
-K, --rebindkeypad
Interpret the numeric keypad keys so that they all work properly. You should only need to use this option if they don't, as mouse support won't work properly with this option enabled.
-L, --nonewlines
Don't automatically add a newline when a file does not end with one.
-M, --trimblanks
Snip trailing whitespace from the wrapped line when automatic hard-wrapping occurs or when text is justified.
-N, --noconvert
Disable automatic conversion of files from DOS/Mac format.
-O, --morespace
Use the blank line below the title bar as extra editing space.
-P, --positionlog
For the 200 most recent files, log the last position of the cursor, and place it at that position again upon reopening such a file.
-Q "regex", --quotestr="regex"
Set the regular expression for matching the quoting part of a line. This is used when justifying. The default value is "^([ \t]*([#:>|}]|//))+". Note that \t stands for an actual Tab.
-R, --restricted
Restricted mode: don't read or write to any file not specified on the command line. This means: don't read or write history files; don't allow suspending; don't allow 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 make backup files. Restricted mode can also be activated by invoking nano with any name beginning with 'r' (e.g. "rnano").
-S, --smooth
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.
-U, --quickblank
Do quick status-bar blanking: status-bar messages will disappear after 1 keystroke instead of 25. Note that option -c (--constantshow) overrides this.
-V, --version
Show the current version number and exit.
-W, --wordbounds
Detect word boundaries differently by treating punctuation characters 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.
-Z, --zap
Let an unmodified Backspace or Delete erase the marked region (instead of a single character, and without affecting the cutbuffer).
-a, --atblanks
When doing soft line wrapping, wrap lines at whitespace instead of always at the edge of the screen.
-c, --constantshow
Constantly show the cursor position on the status bar. Note that this overrides option -U (--quickblank).
-d, --rebinddelete
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.
-g, --showcursor
Make the cursor visible in the file browser (putting it on the highlighted item) and in the help viewer. Useful for braille users and people with poor vision.
-h, --help
Show a summary of the available command-line options and exit.
-i, --autoindent
Automatically indent a newly created line to the same number of tabs and/or spaces as the previous line (or as the next line if the previous line is the beginning of a paragraph).
-k, --cutfromcursor
Make the 'Cut Text' command (normally ^K) cut from the current cursor position to the end of the line, instead of cutting the entire line.
-l, --linenumbers
Display line numbers to the left of the text area.
-m, --mouse
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.
-n, --noread
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 disk first.
-o directory, --operatingdir= directory
Set the operating directory. This makes nano set up something similar to a chroot.
-p, --preserve
Preserve the XON and XOFF sequences (^Q and ^S) so they will be caught by the terminal.
-q, --quiet
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 columns, 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 takes effect.
-s program, --speller=program
Use this alternative spell checker command.
-t, --tempfile
Save a changed buffer without prompting (when exiting with ^X).
-u, --unix
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.)
-v, --view
Just view the file and disallow editing: read-only mode. This mode allows the user to open also other files for viewing, unless --restricted is given too.
-w, --nowrap
Disable the hard-wrapping of long lines. This option conflicts with -r (--fill) -- the last one given takes effect.
-x, --nohelp
Don't show the two help lines at the bottom of the screen.
-y, --afterends
Make Ctrl+Right stop at word ends instead of beginnings.
-z, --suspend
Enable the suspend ability.
-$, --softwrap
Enable 'soft wrapping'. This will make nano attempt to display the entire contents of any line, even if it is longer than the screen width, by continuing it over multiple screen lines. Since '$' 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 environment 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 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 without saving.

The recording and playback of keyboard macros works correctly only on a terminal emulator, not on a Linux console (VT), because the latter does not by default distinguish modified from unmodified arrow keys.

Please report any other bugs that you encounter via:

When nano crashes, it will save any modified buffers to emergency .save files. If you are able to reproduce the crash and you want to get a backtrace, define the environment variable NANO_NOCATCH.




/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).
version 3.2 November 2018