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JOE - Joe´s Own Editor


joe [global-options] [ [local-options] filename ]...
jstar [global-options] [ [local-options] filename ]...
jmacs [global-options] [ [local-options] filename ]...
rjoe [global-options] [ [local-options] filename ]...
jpico [global-options] [ [local-options] filename ]...


JOE is a powerful console screen editor. It has a "mode-less" user interface which is similar to many user-friendly PC editors. Users of Micro-Pro´s WordStar or Borland´s "Turbo" languages will feel at home. JOE is a full featured UNIX screen-editor though, and has many features for editing programs and text.

JOE also emulates several other editors. JSTAR is a close imitation of WordStar with many "JOE" extensions. JPICO is a close imitation of the Pine mailing system´s PICO editor, but with many extensions and improvements. JMACS is a GNU-EMACS imitation. RJOE is a restricted version of JOE, which allows you to edit only the files specified on the command line.

Although JOE is actually five different editors, it still requires only one executable, but one with five different names. The name of the editor with an "rc" appended gives the name of JOE´s initialization file, which determines the personality of the editor.

JOE is free software; you can distribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation. JOE is available over the Internet from


To start the editor, type joe followed by zero or more names of files you want to edit. Each file name may be preceded by a local option setting (see the local options table which follows). Other global options, which apply to the editor as a whole, may also be placed on the command line (see the global options table which follows). If you are editing a new file, you can either give the name of the new file when you invoke the editor, or in the editor when you save the new file. A modified syntax for file names is provided to allow you to edit program output, standard input/output, or sections of files or devices. See the section Filenames below for details.

Once you are in the editor, you can type in text and use special control-character sequences to perform other editing tasks. To find out what the control-character sequences are, read the rest of this man page or type ^K H for help in the editor.

Now for some obscure computer-lore:

The ^ means that you hold down the Control key while pressing the following key (the same way the Shift key works for uppercase letters). A number of control-key sequences are duplicated on other keys, so that you don´t need to press the control key: Esc will work in place of ^[, Del will work in place of ^?, Backspace will work in place of ^H, Tab will work in place of ^I, Return or Enter will work in place of ^M and Linefeed will work in place of ^J. Some keyboards may give you trouble with some control keys. ^_, ^^ and ^@ can usually be entered without pressing shift (i.e., try ^-, ^6 and ^2). Other keyboards may reassign these to other keys. Try: ^., ^, and ^/. ^Space can usually be used in place of ^@. ^\ and ^] are interpreted by many communication programs, including telnet and kermit. Usually you just hit the key twice to get it to pass through the communication program.

On some keyboards, holding the Alt key down while pressing another key is the same as typing Esc before typing the other key.

Once you have typed ^K H, the first help window appears at the top of the screen. You can continue to enter and edit text while the help window is on. To page through other topics, hit Esc , and Esc . (that is, Esc , and Esc .). Use ^K H to dismiss the help window.

You can customize the keyboard layout, the help screens and a number of behavior defaults by copying JOE´s initialization file (usually /etc/joe/joerc) to .joerc in your home directory and then by modifying it. See the section joerc below.

To have JOE used as your default editor for e-mail and News, you need to set the EDITOR and VISUAL environment variables in your shell initialization file (.cshrc or .profile) to refer to JOE (JOE usually resides as /usr/bin/joe).

There are a number of other obscure invocation parameters which may have to be set, particularly if your terminal screen is not updating as you think it should. See the section Environment variables below.

Command Line Options

These options can also be specified in the joerc file. Local options can be set depending on the file-name extension. Programs (.c, .h or .p extension) usually have autoindent enabled. Wordwrap is enabled on other files, but rc files have it disabled.

An option is enabled when it´s given like this:


An option is disabled when it´s given like this:


Some options take arguments. Arguments are given like this:

-lmargin 5

The following global options may be specified on the command line:

  • asis
    Characters with codes above 127 will be sent to the terminal as-is, instead of as inverse of the corresponding character below 128. If this does not work, check your terminal server. This option has no effect if UTF-8 encoding is used.

  • assume_256color
    Assume ANSI-like terminal emulator supports 256 colors even if termcap entry says it doesn´t.

  • assume_color
    Assume ANSI-like terminal emulator supports color even if termcap entry says it doesn´t.

  • text_color color
    Set color for text.

  • status_color color
    Set color for status bar.

  • help_color color
    Set color for help.

  • menu_color color
    Set color for menus.

  • prompt_color color
    Set color for prompts.

  • msg_color color
    Set color for messages.

  • autoswap
    Automatically swap ^K B with ^K K if necessary to mark a legal block during block copy/move commands.

  • backpath path
    Sets path to a directory where all backup files are to be stored. If this is unset (the default) backup files are stored in the directory containing the file.

  • baud nnn
    Set the baud rate for the purposes of terminal screen optimization (overrides value reported by stty). JOE inserts delays for baud rates below 19200, which bypasses tty buffering so that typeahead will interrupt the screen output. Scrolling commands will not be used for 38400 baud and above. This is useful for X-terms and other console ttys which really aren´t going over a serial line.

  • beep
    Enable beeps when edit commands return errors, for example when the cursor goes past extremes.

  • break_links
    When enabled, JOE first deletes the file before writing it in order to break hard-links and symbolic-links.

  • break_hardlinks
    When enabled, and the file is not a symbolic links, JOE first deletes the file before writing it in order to break hard-links.

  • brpaste
    When JOE starts, send command to the terminal emulator that enables "bracketed paste mode" (but only if the terminal seems to have the ANSI command set). In this mode, text pasted into the window is bracketed with ESC [ 2 0 0 ~ and ESC [ 2 0 1 ~.

  • columns nnn
    Set number of columns in terminal emulator (in case termcap entry is wrong). This is only useful on old system which don´t have the "get window size" ioctl.

  • csmode
    Enable continued search mode: Successive ^K Fs repeat the current search instead of prompting for a new one.

  • dopadding
    Enable JOE to send padding NULs to the terminal (for very old terminals).

  • exask
    When set, ^K X prompts for a new name before saving the file.

  • floatmouse
    When set, mouse clicks can position the cursor beyond the ends of lines.

  • guess_crlf
    When set, JOE tries to guess the file format MS-DOS or UNIX.

  • guess_indent
    When set, JOE tries to guess the indentation character and indentation step based on the contents of the file. The algorithm is to find the greatest common factor of the three most common indentations found in the file.

  • guess_non_utf8
    When set, enable guessing of non-UTF-8 files in UTF-8 locales.

  • guess_utf8
    When set, enable guessing of UTF-8 files in non-UTF-8 locales.

  • guess_utf16
    When set, enable guessing of UTF-16 files. If a UTF-16BE or UTF-16LE file is detected, it is converted to UTF-8 during load, and converted back to UTF-16 during save.

  • helpon
    When set, start off with the on-line help enabled.

  • help_is_utf8
    When set, the help text in the joerc file is assumed to be UTF-8.

  • icase
    Search is case insensitive by default when set.

  • joe_state
    Enable reading and writing of ~/.joe_state file

  • joexterm
    Set this if xterm was configured with --paste64 option for better mouse support.

  • keepup
    The column number on the status line is updated constantly when this is set, otherwise it is updated only once a second.

  • language language
    Sets language for aspell.

  • lightoff
    Automatically turn off ^K B ^K K highlighting after a block operation.

  • lines nnn
    Set number of lines in terminal emulator (in case termcap entry is wrong). This is only useful on old system which don´t have the "get window size" ioctl.

  • marking
    Enable marking mode: highlights between ^K B and cursor.

  • menu_above
    Put menus above prompt instead of below them.

  • menu_explorer
    Stay in menu when a directory is selected (otherwise the directory is added to the path and the cursor jumps back to the prompt).

  • menu_jump
    Jump into the file selection menu when Tab Tab is hit.

  • mid
    If this option is set and the cursor moves off the window, the window will be scrolled so that the cursor is in the center. This option is forced on slow terminals which don´t have scrolling commands.

  • left nn
    This sets the number of columns the screen scrolls to the left when cursor moves past the left edge or when the crawll command is issued. If nn is negative, then it´s the fraction of the screen to scroll. For example, -2 means scroll 1/2 the screen.

  • right nn
    This sets the number of columns the screen scrolls to the right when cursor moves past the right edge or when the crawlr command is issued. If nn is negative, then it´s the fraction of the screen to scroll. For example, -3 means scroll 1/3 the screen.

  • mouse
    Enable xterm mouse support.

  • nobackups
    Disable backup files.

  • nocurdir
    Disable current-directory prefix in prompts.

  • noexmsg
    Disable exiting message ("File not changed so no update needed")

  • nolinefeeds
    Disable sending linefeeds to preserve screen history in terminal emulator´s scroll-back buffer (only relevant when notite mode is enabled).

  • nolocks
    Disable EMACS compatible file locks.

  • nomodcheck
    Disable periodic file modification check.

  • nonotice
    This option prevents the copyright notice from being displayed when the editor starts.

  • nosta
    This option eliminates the top-most status line. It´s nice for when you only want to see your text on the screen or if you´re using a vt52.

  • notagsmenu
    Disable selection menu for tags search with multiple results.

  • notite
    Disable ti and te termcap sequences which are usually set up to save and restore the terminal screen contents when JOE starts and exits.

  • pastehack
    If keyboard input comes in as one block assume it´s a mouse paste and disable autoindent and wordwrap.

  • noxon
    Disable ^S and ^Q flow control, possibly allowing ^S and ^Q to be used as editor keys.

  • orphan
    Orphan extra files given on the command line instead of creating windows for them (the files are loaded, but you need to use switch-buffer commands to access them).

  • pg nnn
    Set number of lines to keep during Page Up and Page Down (use -1 for 1/2 window size).

  • regex
    Use standard regular expression syntax by default, instead of the JOE syntax (where special characters have their meaning only when preceded with backslash).

  • restore
    Set to have cursor positions restored to last positions of previously edited files.

  • rtbutton
    Swap left and right mouse buttons.

  • search_prompting
    Show previous search string in search command (like in PICO).

  • skiptop nnn
    When set to N, the first N lines of the terminal screen are not used by JOE and are instead left with their original contents. This is useful for programs which call JOE to leave a message for the user.

  • square
    Enable rectangular block mode.

  • transpose
    Transpose rows with columns in all menus.

  • title
    Display context (titles) in status line. When enabled this shows the first line of the function that the cursor is in on the status line. The syntax file context.jsf identifies which lines are title lines.

  • type
    Select file type, overriding the automatically determined type. The file types are defined in the ftyperc file.

  • undo_keep nnn
    Sets number of undo records to keep (0 means infinite).

  • usetabs
    Set to allow rectangular block operations to use tabs.

  • wrap
    Enable search to wrap to beginning of file.

The following local options may be specified on the command line:

  • +nnn
    The cursor starts on the specified line.

  • autoindent
    Enable auto-indent mode. When you hit Enter on an indented line, the indentation is duplicated onto the new line.

  • c_comment
    Enable ^G skipping of C-style comments /.../

  • cpara characters
    Sets list of characters which can indent paragraphs.

  • cnotpara characters
    Sets list of characters which begin lines which are definitely not part of paragraphs.

  • cpp_comment
    Enable ^G skipping of C++-style comments // ...

  • crlf
    JOE uses CR-LF as the end of line sequence instead of just LF. This is for editing MS-DOS or VMS files.

  • encoding encoding
    Set file encoding (like utf-8 or 8859-1).

  • flowed
    Set to force an extra space after each line of a paragraph but the last.

  • force
    When set, a final newline is appended to the file if there isn´t one when the file is saved.

  • french
    When set, only one space is inserted after periods in paragraph reformats instead of two.

  • hex
    Enable hex-dump mode.

  • highlight
    Enable syntax highlighting.

  • highlighter_context
    Enable use of syntax file to identify comments and strings which should be skipped over during ^G matching.

  • indentc nnn
    Sets the indentation character for shift left and shift right (^K , and ^K .). Use 32 for Space, 9 for Tab.

  • indentfirst
    When set, the smart home key jumps to the indentation point first, otherwise it jumps to column 1 first.

  • istep nnn
    Sets indentation step.

  • linums
    Enable line number display.

  • lmargin
    Set left margin.

  • lmsg
    Define left-side status bar message.

  • overwrite
    Enable overtype mode. Typing overwrites existing characters instead of inserting before them.

  • picture
    Enable "picture" mode- allows cursor to go past ends of lines.

  • pound_comment
    ^G ignores # ... comments.

  • purify
    Fix indentation if necessary before shifting or smart backspace. For example, if indentation uses a mix of tabs and spaces, and indentc is space, then indentation will be converted to all spaces before the shifting operation.

  • rdonly
    Set read-only mode.

  • rmargin nnn
    Set right margin.

  • rmsg string
    Define right-side status bar message.

  • semi_comment
    ^G ignores ; ... comments.

  • single_quoted
    ^G ignores ´...´

  • smartbacks
    Enable smart backspace and tab. When this mode is set backspace and tab indent or unindent based on the values of the istep and indentc options.

  • smarthome
    Home key first moves cursor to beginning of line, then if hit again, to the first non-blank character.

  • smsg string
    Define status command format when cursor is on a character.

  • spaces
    Insert spaces when Tab key is hit.

  • syntax syntax
    Set syntax for syntax highlighting.

  • tab nnn
    Set tab stop width.

  • text_delimiters word delimiter list
    Give list of word delimiters which ^G will step through.

For example, "begin=end:if=elif=else=endif" means that ^G will jump between the matching if, elif, else and endif.

  • vhdl_comment
    ^G ignores -- ... comments

  • wordwrap
    JOE wraps the previous word when you type past the right margin.

  • zmsg string
    Define status command format when cursor is at end of file.

  • xmsg string
    Define startup message (usually the copyright notice).

  • aborthint string
    Give the key sequence to show in prompts for abort (usually ^C).

  • helphint string
    Give the key sequence to show in prompts for help (usually ^K H).

Colors and attributes

Combine attributes and up to one foreground color and one background color to create arguments for color options like text_color. For example: bold+bg_green+blue

  • Attributes: bold, inverse, blink, dim, underline, and italic
  • Foreground colors: white, cyan, magenta, blue, yellow, green, red, or black
  • Background colors: bg_white, bg_cyan, bg_magenta, bg_blue, bg_yellow, bg_green, bg_red or bg_black

With a 16 color or 256 color terminal emulator (export TERM=xterm-16color), these brighter than normal colors become available:

  • Background: bg_WHITE, bg_CYAN, bg_MAGENTA, bg_BLUE, bg_YELLOW, bg_GREEN, bg_RED or bg_BLACK

With a 256 color terminal emulator (export TERM=xterm-256color), these become available:

  • fg_RGB and bg_RGB, where R, G and B rand from 0 - 5. So: fg_500 is bright red.
  • fg_NN and bg_NN give shades of grey, where the intensity, NN, ranges from 0 - 23.

Status line definition strings

-lmsg defines the left-justified string and -rmsg defines the right-justified string. The first character of -rmsg is the background fill character.

-smsg defines the status command (^K Space). -zmsg defines it when the cursor is at the end of the file. The last character of smsg or zmsg is the fill character.

The following escape sequences can be used in these strings:

%t  12 hour time
%u  24 hour time
%T  O for overtype mode, I for insert mode
%W  W if wordwrap is enabled
%I  A if autoindent is enabled
%X  Rectangle mode indicator
%n  File name
%m  ´(Modified)´ if file has been changed
%*  ´*´ if file has been changed
%R  Read-only indicator
%r  Row (line) number
%c  Column number
%o  Byte offset into file
%O  Byte offset into file in hex
%a  Ascii value of character under cursor
%A  Ascii value of character under cursor in hex
%w  Width of character under cursor
%p  Percent of file cursor is at
%l  No. lines in file
%k  Entered prefix keys
%S  ´*SHELL*´ if there is a shell running in window
%M  Macro recording message
%y  Syntax
%e  Encoding
%x  Context (first non-indented line going backwards)
%dd day
%dm month
%dY year
%Ename%  value of environment variable
%Tname%  value of option (ON or OFF for Boolean options)

These formatting escape sequences may also be given:

\i  Inverse
\u  Underline
\b  Bold
\d  Dim
\f  Blink
\l  Italic

Basic Editing

When you type characters into the editor, they are normally inserted into the file being edited (or appended to the file if the cursor is at the end of the file). This is the normal operating mode of the editor. If you want to replace some existing text, you have to delete the old text before or after you type in the replacement text. The Backspace key can be used for deleting text: move the cursor to right after the text you want to delete and hit Backspace a number of times.

Hit the Enter or Return key to insert a line-break. For example, if the cursor was in the middle of a line and you hit Enter, the line would be split into two lines with the cursor appearing at the beginning of the second line. Hit Backspace at the beginning of a line to eliminate a line-break.

Use the arrow keys to move around the file. If your keyboard doesn´t have arrow keys (or if they don´t work for some reason), use ^F to move forwards (right), ^B to move backwards (left), ^P to move to the previous line (up), and ^N to move to the next line (down). The right and left arrow keys simply move forwards or backwards one character at a time through the text: if you´re at the beginning of a line and you press left-arrow, you will end up at the end of the previous line. The up and down arrow keys move forwards and backwards by enough characters so that the cursor appears in the same column that it was in on the original line.

If you want to indent the text you enter, you can use the Tab key. This inserts a special control character which makes the characters which follow it begin at the next tab stop. Tab stops normally occur every 8 columns, but this can be changed with the ^T D command. PASCAL and C programmers often set tab stops on every 4 columns.

If for some reason your terminal screen gets messed up (for example, if you receive a mail notice from biff), you can have the editor refresh the screen by hitting ^R.

There are many other keys for deleting text and moving around the file. For example, hit ^D to delete the character the cursor is on instead of deleting backwards like Backspace. ^D will also delete a line-break if the cursor is at the end of a line. Type ^Y to delete the entire line the cursor is on or ^J to delete just from the cursor to the end of the line.

Hit ^A to move the cursor to the beginning of the line it´s on. Hit ^E to move the cursor to the end of the line. Hit ^U or ^V for scrolling the cursor up or down 1/2 a screen´s worth.
"Scrolling" means that the text on the screen moves, but the cursor stays at the same place relative to the screen. Hit ^K U or ^K V to move the cursor to the beginning or the end of the file. Look at the help screens in the editor to find even more delete and movement commands.

If you make a mistake, you can hit ^_ to "undo" it. On most keyboards you hit just ^- to get ^_, but on some you might have to hold both the Shift and Control keys down at the same time to get it. If you "undo" too much, you can "redo" the changes back into existence by hitting ^^ (type this with just ^6 on most keyboards).

Cursor position history

If you were editing in one place within the file, and you then temporarily had to look or edit some other place within the file, you can get back to the original place by hitting ^K -. This command actually returns you to the last place you made a change in the file. You can step through a history of places with ^K - and ^K =, in the same way you can step through the history of changes with the "undo" and "redo" commands.

Save and exit

When you are done editing the file, hit ^K X to exit the editor. You will be prompted for a file name if you hadn´t already named the file you were editing.

When you edit a file, you actually edit only a copy of the file. So if you decide that you don´t want the changes you made to a file during a particular edit session, you can hit ^C to exit the editor without saving them.

If you edit a file and save the changes, a backup copy of that file is created in the current directory, with a ~ appended to the name, which contains the original version of the file.

File operations

You can hit ^K D to save the current file (possibly under a different name from what the file was called originally). After the file is saved, you can hit ^K E to edit a different file.

If you want to save only a selected section of the file, see the section on Blocks below.

If you want to include another file in the file you´re editing, use ^K R to insert it.


Wherever JOE expects you to enter a file name, whether on the command line or in prompts within the editor, you may also type:


To read or write data to or from a shell command. For example, use joe ´!ls´ to get a copy of your directory listing to edit or from within the editor use ^K D !mail to send the file being edited to me.


Use this to have JOE append the edited text to the end of the file "filename."


Use this to access a fixed section of a file or device. START and SIZE may be entered in decimal (ex.: 123) octal (ex.: 0777) or hexadecimal (ex.: 0xFF). For example, use joe /dev/fd0,508,2 to edit bytes 508 and 509 of the first floppy drive in Linux.


Use this to get input from the standard input or to write output to the standard output. For example, you can put JOE in a pipe of commands: quota -v | joe | mail root, if you want to complain about your low quota.

Using JOE in a shell script

JOE used to use /dev/tty to access the terminal. This caused a problem with idle-session killers (they would kill JOE because the real tty device was not being accessed for a long time), so now JOE only uses /dev/tty if you need to pipe a file into JOE, as in:

echo "hi" | joe

If you want to use JOE in a shell script which has its stdin/stdout redirected, but you do not need to pipe to it, you should simply redirect JOE´s stdin/stdout to /dev/tty:

joe filename  </dev/tty >/dev/tty

Word wrap and formatting

If you type past the right edge of the screen in a C or PASCAL language file, the screen will scroll to the right to follow the cursor. If you type past the right edge of the screen in a normal file (one whose name doesn´t end in .c, .h or .p), JOE will automatically wrap the last word onto the next line so that you don´t have to hit Enter. This is called word-wrap mode. Word-wrap can be turned on or off with the ^T W command. JOE´s initialization file is usually set up so that this mode is automatically turned on for all non-program files. See the section below on the joerc file to change this and other defaults.

Aside for Word-wrap mode, JOE does not automatically keep paragraphs formatted like some word-processors. Instead, if you need a paragraph to be reformatted, hit ^K J. This command "fills in" the paragraph that the cursor is in, fitting as many words in a line as is possible. A paragraph, in this case, is a block of text separated above and below by a blank line.

The margins which JOE uses for paragraph formatting and word-wrap can be set with the ^T L and ^T R commands. If the left margin is set to a value other than 1, then when you start typing at the beginning of a line, the cursor will immediately jump to the left margin.

There are a number of options which control the paragraph reformatter and word wrapper:

  • The cpara option provides a list of characters which can indent a paragraph. For example, in e-mail quoted matter is indicated by > at the beginnings of line, so this character should be in the cpara list.
  • The cnotpara option provides a list of characters which, if they are the first non-whitespace character of a line, indicate that the line is not to be included as part of a paragraph for formatting. For example, lines beginning with ´.´ in nroff can not be paragraph lines.
  • Autoindent mode affects the formatter. If autoindent is disabled, only the first line will be indented. If autoindent is enabled, the entire paragraph is indented.
  • french determines how many spaces are inserted after periods.
  • When flowed is enabled, a space is inserted after each but the last line of the paragraph. This indicates that the lines belong together as a single paragraph in some programs.
  • When overtype is enabled, the word wrapper will not insert lines.


If you want to center a line within the margins, use the ^K A command.

Spell checker

Hit Esc N to check the spelling of the word the cursor is on using the aspell program (or ispell program if you modify the joerc file). Hit Esc L to check the highlighted block or the entire file if no block is highlighted.

JOE passes the language and character encoding to the spell checker. To change the language, hit ^T V. For example, use en_US for English.

Overtype mode

Sometimes it´s tiresome to have to delete old text before or after you insert new text. This happens, for example, when you are changing a table and you want to maintain the column position of the right side of the table.
When this occurs, you can put the editor in overtype mode with ^T T.
When the editor is in this mode, the characters you type in replace existing characters, in the way an idealized typewriter would. Also, Backspace simply moves left instead of deleting the character to the left, when it´s not at the end or beginning of a line. Overtype mode is not the natural way of dealing with text electronically, so you should go back to insert-mode as soon as possible by typing ^T T again.

If you need to insert while you´re in overtype mode, hit ^@. This inserts a single Space into the text.

Control and Meta characters

Each character is represented by a number. For example, the number for ´A´ is 65 and the number for ´1´ is 49. All of the characters which you normally see have numbers in the range of 32 - 126 (this particular arbitrary assignment between characters and numbers is called the ASCII character set). The numbers outside of this range, from 0 to 255, aren´t usually displayed, but sometimes have other special meanings. The number 10, for example, is used for the line-breaks. You can enter these special, non-displayed control characters by first hitting ^Q and then hitting a character in the range @ A B C ... X Y Z [ ^ ] \ _ to get the number 0 - 31, and ? to get 127. For example, if you hit ^Q J, you´ll insert a line-break character, or if you hit ^Q I, you´ll insert a Tab character (which does the same thing the Tab key does). A useful control character to enter is 12 (^Q L), which causes most printers to advance to the top of the page. You´ll notice that JOE displays this character as an underlined L. You can enter the characters above 127, the meta characters, by first hitting ^\. This adds 128 to the next (possibly control) character entered. JOE displays characters above 128 in inverse-video. Some foreign languages, which have more letters than English, use the meta characters for the rest of their alphabet. You have to put the editor in asis mode to have these passed untranslated to the terminal.

Note: JOE now normally passes all 8-bits to the terminal unless the locale is set to C or POSIX. If the locale is C or POSIX, then the asis flag determines if meta characters are shown in inverse video or passed directly to the terminal.

Note: In older version of JOE, you had to use Esc ´ to enter control characters.

Character sets and UTF-8

JOE natively handles two classes of character sets: UTF-8 and byte coded (like ISO-8859-1). For these character sets, the file is loaded as-is into memory, and is exactly preserved during save, even if it contains UTF-8 coding errors.

It can not yet natively handle other major classes such as UTF-16 or GB2312. There are other restrictions: character sets must use LF (0x0A) or CR-LF (0x0D - 0x0A) as line terminators, space must be 0x20 and tab must be 0x09. Basically, the files must be UNIX or MS-DOS compatible text files.

This means EBCDIC will not work properly (but you would need to handle fixed record length lines anyway) and character sets which use CR terminated lines (MACs) will not yet work.

JOE now supports UTF-16 (both big endian and little endian). It supports UTF-16 by converting to UTF-8 during load, and converting back to UTF-16 during save.

The terminal and the file can have different encodings. JOE will translate between the two. Currently, one of the two must be UTF-8 for translation to work.

The character set for the terminal and the default character set assumed for files is determined by the ´LC_ALL´ environment variable (and if that´s not set, LC_CTYPE and LANG are also checked).

For example, if LC_ALL is set to:


Then the character set will be ISO-8859-1.

If LC_ALL is set to:


The character set will be UTF-8.

Hit ^T E to change the coding for the file. Hit Tab Tab at this prompt to get a list of available codings. There are a number of built-in character sets, plus you can install character sets in the ~/.joe/charmaps and /usr/share/joe/charmaps directories.

Check: /usr/share/i18n/charmaps for example character set files. Only byte oriented character sets will work. Also, the file should not be gzipped (all of the charmap files in /usr/share/i18n/charmaps on my computer were compressed). The parser is very bad, so basically the file has to look exactly like the example one in /usr/share/joe/charmaps.

You can hit ^K Space to see the current character set.

You can hit ^Q x to enter a Unicode character if the file coding is UTF-8.


Most prompts record a history of the responses you give them. You can hit up and down arrow to step through these histories.

Prompts are actually single line windows with no status line, so you can use any editing command that you normally use on text within the prompts. The prompt history is actually just other lines of the same "prompt file". Thus you can can search backwards though the prompt history with the normal ^K F command if you want.

Since prompts are windows, you can also switch out of them with ^K P and ^K N.

Completion and selection menus

You can hit Tab in just about any prompt to request JOE to complete the word you are typing. If JOE beeps, there are either no completions or many. As with the "bash" shell, hit Tab twice to bring up a list of all the possibilities. This list is actually a menu, but by default, the cursor does not jump into it since it is usually easier to just type in your selection. You can, however, jump into the menu window with ^K P (move to previous window) and use the arrow keys and <Enter> to make your selection. Also in a menu, you can hit the first letter of any of the items to make the cursor jump directly to it. The ^T option menu works like this.

If the menu is too large to fit in the window, you can hit Page Up and Page Down to scroll it (even if you have not jumped into it).

Tab completion works in the search and replace prompts as well. In this case, JOE tries to complete the word based on the contents of the buffer. If you need search for the Tab character itself, you can enter it with ^Q Tab.

Also, you can hit Esc Enter in a text window to request JOE to complete the word you are typing. As with the search prompt, JOE tries to complete the word based on the contents of the buffer. It will bring up a menu of possibilities if you hit Esc Enter twice.

Where am I?

Hit ^K Space to have JOE report the line number, column number, and byte number on the last line of the screen. The number associated with the character the cursor is on (its ASCII code) is also shown. You can have the line number and/or column number always displayed on the status line by placing the appropriate escape sequences in the status line setup strings. Edit the joerc file for details.

What if I hit <strong>^K</strong> by accident?

Hit the space bar. This runs an innocuous command (it shows the line number on the status bar).

Temporarily suspending the editor

If you need to temporarily stop the editor and go back to the shell, hit ^K Z. You might want to do this to stop whatever you´re editing and answer an e-mail message or read this man page, for example. You have to type fg or exit (you´ll be told which when you hit ^K Z) to return to the editor.

Searching for text

Hit ^K F to have the editor search forwards or backwards for a text fragment (string) for you. You will be prompted for the text to search for. After you hit Enter, you are prompted to enter options.
You can just hit Enter again to have the editor immediately search forwards for the text, or you can enter one or more of these options:


Search backwards instead of forwards.


Treat uppercase and lower case letters as the same when searching. Normally uppercase and lowercase letters are considered to be different.


(where nnn is a number) If you enter a number, JOE searches for the Nth occurrence of the text. This is useful for going to specific places in files structured in some regular manner.


Replace text. If you enter the r option, then you will be further prompted for replacement text. Each time the editor finds the search text, you will be prompted as to whether you want to replace the found search text with the replacement text. You hit: y to replace the text and then find the next occurrence, n to not replace this text, but to then find the next occurrence, r to replace all of the remaining occurrences of the search text in the remainder of the file without asking for confirmation (subject to the nnn option above), or ^C to stop searching and replacing.

You can also hit B or Backspace to back up to the previously found text (if it had been replaced, the replacement is undone).


The search covers all loaded buffers. So to replace all instances of "foo" with "bar" in all .c files in the current directory:

joe *.c

^K F
foo <Enter>
ra <Enter>
bar <Enter>

The search covers all files in the grep or make error list. You can use a UNIX command to generate a list of files and search and replace through the list. So to replace all instances of "foo" with "bar" in all .c files which begin with f. You can also use "ls" and "find" instead of grep to create the file list.

Esc G

grep -n foo f*.c <Enter> ^K F
foo <Enter>
re <Enter>
bar <Enter>

JOE will use the standard syntax for regular expressions if this option is given. In the standard syntax, these characters have their special meanings directly, and do not have to be escaped with backslash: ., *, +, ?, {, }, (, ), |, ^, $ and [.


JOE will use the JOE syntax for regular expressions instead of the standard syntax. This overrides the "-regex" option.


JOE will send debug information about the regular expression to the startup log. The log can be viewed with the showlog command.

You can hit ^L to repeat the previous search.

You can hit ^K H at the search and replace options prompt to bring up a list of all search and replace options.

Regular Expressions

A number of special character sequences may be entered as search text:


This finds zero or more of the item to the left. For example, if you give AB\*C as the search text, JOE will try to find an A followed by any number of Bs, and then a C.


This finds one or more of the item to the left. For example, if you give AB\+C as the search text, JOE will try to find an A followed by one or more Bs, and then a C.


This indicates that the item to the left is optional. For example, if you give AB\?C as the search text, JOE will find AC or ABC.


This indicates that JOE should try to find a string with a specific number of occurrences of the item to the left. For example, AX\{2,5}B will match these strings: AXXB, AXXXB, AXXXXB, and AXXXXXB. Min can be left out to indicate 0 occurrences. Max (and the comma) can be left out to indicate any number of occurrences.


This finds exactly one character. For example, if you give A\.B as the search text, JOE will find AXB, but not AB or AXXB.


This works like ., but matches a balanced C-language expression. For example, if you search for malloc(\!\*), then JOE will find all function calls to malloc, even if there was a ) within the parenthesis.


This finds the item on the left or the item on the right. For example, if you give A\|B as the search text, JOE will try to find either an A or a B.

\( \)

Use these to group characters together. For example, if you search for \(foo\)\+, then JOE will find strings like "foo", and "foofoofoo".

^ \$

These match the beginnings and endings of lines. For example, if you give ^test\$, then JOE with find test on a line by itself.


These match the beginnings and endings of words. For example, if you give \is\\, then JOE will find the word "is" but will not find the "is" in "this".


This matches any single character which appears within the brackets. For example, if \[Tt]his is entered as the search string, then JOE finds both This and this. Ranges of characters can be entered within the brackets. For example, \[A-Z] finds any uppercase letter. If the first character given in the brackets is ^, then JOE tries to find any character not given in the the brackets. To include - itself, include it as the last or first character (possibly after ^).


Matches a single \.


This finds the special end-of-line or line-break character.

A number of special character sequences may also be given in the replacement string:


This gets replaced by the text which matched the search string. For example, if the search string was \\*\\, which matches words, and you give "\&", then JOE will put quote marks around words.

\1 - \9

These get replaced with the text which matched the Nth grouping; the text within the Nth set of \( \).

\l, \u

Convert the next character of the replacement text to lowercase or uppercase.

\L, \U

Convert all following replacement text to lowercase or uppercase. Conversion stops when \E is encountered.


Use this if you need to put a \ in the replacement string.


Use this if you need to put a line-break in the replacement string.

Some examples:

Suppose you have a list of addresses, each on a separate line, which starts with "Address:" and has each element separated by commas. Like so:

Address: S. Holmes, 221b Baker St., London, England

If you wanted to rearrange the list, to get the country first, then the city, then the person´s name, and then the address, you could do this:

Type ^K F to start the search, and type:


to match "Address:", the four comma-separated elements, and then the end of the line. When asked for options, you would type r to replace the string, and then type:


To shuffle the information the way you want it. After hitting return, the search would begin, and the sample line would be changed to:

Address: England, London, S. Holmes, 221b Baker St.

Escape sequences

JOE understands the following escape sequences withing search and replacement strings:


This matches a specific Unicode code point given in hexadecimal.


This matches a specific character specified in hexadecimal.


This matches a specific character specified in octal.


This matches any character in the named Unicode category or block.

The block names, such as "Latin-1 Supplement" or "Arabic" can be found here:

Unicode Blocks

The category names such as "Ll" can be found here:

Unicode Categories

Note that a single letter matches all of the category names which start with that letter. For example, \p{N} (any number) include \p{Nd} (decimal digit), \p{Nl} (letter number) and \p{No} (other number).


This matches any Unicode digit. This is the same as \p{Nd}.


This matches anything except for a Unicode digit. This is the same as \[^\p{Nd}].


This matches any word character. This is the same as \[^\p{C}\p{P}\p{Z}].


This matches anything except for a word character. This is the same as \[\p{C}\p{P}\p{Z}].


This matches any space character. This is the same as \[\t\r\f\n\p{Z}].


This matches anything except for a spacing character. This is the same as \[^\t\r\f\n\p{Z}].


This matches an identifier start character. This is the same as \[\p{L}\p{Pc}\p{Nl}].


This matches anything except for an identifier start character. This is the same as \[^\p{L}\p{Pc}\p{Nl}].


This matches an identifier continuation character. This is the same as \[\i\p{Mn}\p{Mc}\p{Nd}\x{200c}\x{200d}].


This matches anything except for an identifier continuation character. This is the same as \[^\i\p{Mn}\p{Mc}\p{Nd}\x{200c}\x{200d}].

  • \t Tab
  • \n Newline
  • \r Carriage return
  • \b Backspace
  • \a Alert
  • \f Formfeed
  • \e Escape
  • \\ Backslash

Incremental search

Use Esc S to start an increment search forwards, or Esc R to start an incremental search backwards. As you type the search string, the cursor will jump to the first text that matches the regular expression you have entered so far.

Hit Esc S or Esc R again to find the next occurrence of the text or to switch the direction of the search.

^S, ^\ and ^L have the same effect as Esc S. ^R has the same effect as Esc R. These keys are to support JMACS.

Hit Backspace to undo the last incremental search action. The last action could be a repeat of a previous search or the entering of a new character.

Use ^Q to insert control characters into the search text. Previously, ` could also be used for this.

Hit any other key to exit the increment search.

Goto matching delimiter

Hit ^G to jump between matching delimiters. This works on both character delimiters (like ´(´ and ´)´) and word delimiters for languages like Pascal and Verilog which use "begin" and "end" to delimit blocks. It also works for matching start and end tags in XML. If a word is not known, ^G starts a search with the word moved into the search prompt.

For ^G to work on word delimiters, the cursor must be positioned on the first letter of the word. So in XML, if the cursor is on the < in <foo>, it will jump to the >. But if it is one the ´f´, it will jump to the matching </foo>. Likewise, in C, ^G will jump between #if, #else and #endif, but you need to position the cursor on the letter, not the ´#´.

^G is smart enough to skip delimiters found in quoted or commented-out matter. You need to tell JOE how your language indicates this: see the ftyperc file for examples of how this is done.

The are a number of options which control the behavior of ^G. These options control which kinds of comments ^G can skip over:

  • c_comment
  • cpp_comment
  • pount_comment
  • semi_comment
  • vhdl_comment

These options determine which kinds of strings ^G can skip over:

  • single_quoted
  • double_quoted

This option allows an annotated syntax file to determine which text can be counted as comments or strings which can be skipped over by ^G:


This option enables the use of syntax files to identify comments and strings which should be skipped over during ^G matching. The syntax file states should be annotated with the string and comment keywords for this to work.


This option provides a list of word delimiters to match. For example, "begin=end:if=elif=else=endif" means that ^G will jump between the matching if, elif, else and endif. It will also jump between begin and end.

^G has a built-in table for matching character delimiters- it knows that ( goes with ).

^G has a built-in parser to handle start/end tag matching for XML.


If you want to move, copy, save or delete a specific section of text, you can do it with highlighted blocks. First, move the cursor to the start of the section of text you want to work on, and press ^K B. Then move the cursor to the character just after the end of the text you want to affect and press ^K K. The text between the ^K B and ^K K should become highlighted. Now you can move your cursor to someplace else in your document and press ^K M to move the highlighted text there.
You can press ^K C to make a copy of the highlighted text and insert it to where the cursor is positioned. ^K Y to deletes the highlighted text. ^K W, writes the highlighted text to a file.

A very useful command is ^K /, which filters a block of text through a UNIX command. For example, if you select a list of words with ^K B and ^K K, and then type ^K / sort, the list of words will be sorted. Another useful UNIX command for ^K /, is tr. If you type ^K / tr a-z A-Z, then all of the letters in the highlighted block will be converted to uppercase.

How do I deselect a highlighted region?

After you are finished with some region operations, you can just leave the highlighting on if you don´t mind it (but don´t accidentally hit ^K Y). If it really bothers you, however, just hit ^K B ^K K, to turn the highlighting off.

Beginning with JOE 4.2, you can hit ^C to cancel the region selection.

New ways of selecting regions

The classic way is to hit ^K B at the beginning and ^K K at the end. These set pointers called markb and markk. Once these are set you can jump to markb with Esc B and jump to markk with Esc K.

New way: hit Ctrl-Right Arrow to start selecting rightward. Each time you hit Ctrl-Right Arrow, the block is extended one more to the right. This uses a simple macro: "begin_marking,rtarw,toggle_marking".

Unfortunately, there is no standard way to get the keysequence given by the terminal emulator when you hit Ctrl-Right Arrow. Instead you have to determine this sequence yourself and enter it directly in the joerc file. Some examples are given for Xterm and gnome-terminal. Hit ^Q Ctrl-Right Arrow within JOE to have the sequence shown on your screen. Note that Putty uses Esc Esc [ C which will not appear with ^Q Right Arrow (also Esc Esc is the set bookmark command, so you need to unbind it to do this in Putty).

Also you can hit Ctrl-Delete to cut and Ctrl-Insert to paste if the sequence for these keys are known.

The mouse can also be used to select text if mouse support is enabled in JOE.

Indenting program blocks

Auto-indent mode is toggled with the ^T I command. The joerc file is normally set up so that files with names ending with .p, .c or .h have auto-indent mode enabled. When auto-indent mode is enabled and you hit Enter, the cursor will be placed in the same column that the first non-whitespace character was on in the original line.

You can use the ^K , and ^K . commands to shift a block of text to the left or right. If no highlighting is set when you give these commands, the program block (as indicated by indentation) that the cursor is located in will be selected, and will be moved by subsequent ^K , and ^K . commands.

The number of columns these commands shift by and the character used for shifting can be set through the istep and indentc options. These options are available in the ^T menu. Also, ^T = can be used to quickly select from a number of common values for indentation step and character.

JOE has a number of additional options related to indenting programs:

  • smartbacks
    Enable smart backspace and tab. When this mode is set Backspace and Tab indent or unindent based on the values of the istep and indentc options.

  • smarthome
    The Home and ^A keys first move the cursor to the beginning of the line, then if hit again, to the first non-blank character.

  • indentfirst
    Smart home goes to first non-blank character first, instead of going to the beginning of the line first.

  • purify
    Fix indentation if necessary before shifting or smart backspace. For example, if indentation uses a mix of tabs and spaces, and indentc is space, then indentation will be converted to all spaces before the shifting operation.

  • guess_indent
    When set, JOE tries to guess the indentation character and indentation step based on the contents of the file. The algorithm is to find the greatest common factor of the three most common indentations found in the file.

Rectangle mode

Type ^T X to have ^K B and ^K K select rectangular blocks instead of stream-of-text blocks. This is also known as columnar mode. This mode is useful for moving, copying, deleting or saving columns of text. You can also filter columns of text with the ^K / command- if you want to sort a column, for example. The insert file command, ^K R is also affected.

When rectangle mode is selected, overtype mode is also useful (^T T). When overtype mode is selected, rectangles will replace existing text instead of getting inserted before it. Also the delete block command (^K Y) will clear the selected rectangle with Spaces and Tabs instead of deleting it. Overtype mode is especially useful for the filter block command (^K /), since it will maintain the original width of the selected column.

Picture mode

Use ^T P to enter or exit picture mode. Picture mode helps with ASCII drawings.

Picture mode controls how JOE handles the case where the cursor is past the ends of lines. This happens when you use the up or down arrow keys to move the cursor from the end of a long line to a short line.

If you attempt to type a character in this case:

If picture mode is off, the cursor will jump to the end of the line and insert it there.

If picture mode is on, the line is filled with spaces so that the character can be inserted at the cursor position.


You can edit more than one file at the same time or edit two or more different places of the same file. To do this, hit ^K O, to split the screen into two windows. Use ^K P or ^K N to move the cursor into the top window or the lower window. Use ^K E to edit a new file in one of the windows. A window will go away when you save the file with ^K X or abort the file with ^C. If you abort a file which exists in two windows, one of the window goes away, not the file.

You can hit ^K O within a window to create even more windows. If you have too many windows on the screen, but you don´t want to eliminate them, you can hit ^K I. This will show only the window the cursor is in, or if there was only one window on the screen to begin with, try to fit all hidden windows on the screen. If there are more windows than can fit on the screen, you can hit ^K N on the bottom-most window or ^K P on the top-most window to get to them.

If you gave more than one file name to JOE on the command line, each file will be placed in a different window.

You can change the height of the windows with the ^K G and ^K T commands.

Windowing system model

JOE has an unusual model for its windowing system. Basically you have a ring of windows, but only a section of this ring may fit on the screen. The windows not on the screen still exist, they are just scrolled off. When you hit ^K N on the bottom window of the screen, it scrolls further windows from the ring onto the screen, possibly letting the top window scroll out of view.

Native JOE tries to keep each loaded buffer in a window, so users can find all of the buffers by scrolling through the windows. The explode command (^K I) either expands all windows to the size of the screen so that only one window can fit on the screen, or shrinks them all as much as possible to fit many on the screen.

On the other hand, JOE supports "orphan" buffers- files loaded into the editor, but which are not in a window. ^C normally closes a window and discards the buffer that was in it. If you hit ^C on the last remaining window, it will normally exit the editor. However, if there are orphan buffers, ^C will instead load them into this final window to give you a chance to explicitly discard them. If the orphan option is given on the command line, as in joe -orphan *.c, then JOE only loads the first file into a window and leaves all the rest as orphans.

orphan also controls whether the edit command ^K E creates a new window for a newly loaded file, or reuses the current window (orphaning its previous occupant).

The bufed command prompts for a name of a buffer to switch into a window. Its completion list will show all buffers, including orphans and buffers which appear in other windows. Esc V and Esc U (nbuf and pbuf commands) allow you to cycle through all buffers within a single window.

Windows maintain a stack of occupants to support the pop-up shell window feature. When a pop-up window is dismissed, the previous buffer is returned to the window.

Scratch buffers

Scratch buffers are buffers which JOE does not worry about trying to preserve. JOE will not ask to save modified scratch buffers. Pop-up shell windows, the startup log and compile and grep message windows are scratch buffers. You can create your own scratch buffer with the scratch command.

The following commands load scratch buffers:

  • showlog Show startup log
  • mwind Show message window (compile / grep messages from Esc C and Esc G commands).

Keyboard macros

Macros allow you to record a series of keystrokes and replay them with the press of two keys. This is useful to automate repetitive tasks. To start a macro recording, hit ^K [ followed by a number from 0 to 9. The status line will display (Macro n recording...). Now, type in the series of keystrokes that you want to be able to repeat. The commands you type will have their usual effects. Hit ^K ] to stop recording the macro. Hit ^K followed by the number you recorded the macro in to execute one iteration of the key-strokes.

For example, if you want to put "**" in front of a number of lines, you can type:

^K [ 0 ^A **down arrow\ ^K ]

Which starts the macro recording, moves the cursor to the beginning of the line, inserts "**", moves the cursor down one line, and then ends the recording. Since we included the key-strokes needed to position the cursor on the next line, we can repeatedly use this macro without having to move the cursor ourselves, something you should always keep in mind when recording a macro.

Keyboard macro subroutines

If you find that the macro you are recording itself has a repeated set of key-strokes in it, you can record a macro within the macro, as long as you use a different macro number. Also you can execute previously recorded macros from within new macros.

Query suspend

If your macro includes a prompt for user input, and you want the user to fill in the prompt every time the macro is executed, hit ^K ? at the point in the macro recording where the user action is required. Keyboard input will not be recorded at this point. When the user completes the prompt, macro recording will continue.

When the macro is executed, the macro player will pause at the point where ^K ? was entered to allow user input. When the user completes the prompt, the player continues with the rest of the macro.


You can use the repeat command, ^K \, to repeat a macro, or any other edit command or even a normal character, a specified number of times. Hit ^K \, type in the number of times you want the command repeated and press Enter. The next edit command you now give will be repeated that many times. For example, to delete the next 20 lines of text, type:

^K \ 20return^Y

Macros and commands

A macro is a comma separated list of commands. When the macro is executed, each command is executed until either the end of the list is reached, or one of the commands fails (non-zero return value from the command). Failed commands beep if you have beeps enabled (^T B).

Hit Esc D to insert the current set of keyboard macros as text into the current buffer. For example, the "**" insert macro above looks like this:

home,"**",dnarw ^K 0    Macro 0

You could insert this into your .joerc file and change the key sequence (the K 0) to something more permanent.

Define your own

You can bind macros to key sequences or define your own named macros in the joerc file. For example, this will define a macro called foo:

:def foo eof,bol

foo will position the cursor at the beginning of the last line of the file. eof jumps to the end of the file. bol jumps to the beginning of a line. Once a macro has been named this way it will show up in the completion list of the Esc X command prompt.

Command prompt

You can execute a macro directly by typing it into the command prompt. Hit Esc X to bring up the command prompt. Hit Tab at this prompt for a completion list of all available commands.

Here is a complete list of commands.

Macro don´t stop modifier

Sometimes, you expect commands to sometimes fail, but want the rest of the commands in the list to be executed anyway. To mark a command which is allowed to fail, postfix it with ´!´. For example, here a macro which hits down page in the window above:


If prevw fails, the macro is aborted as usual. Even if pgdn fails (already at end of buffer), nextw will be executed so that the cursor is returned to the original window.

Macro repeat argument modifiers

Repeat arguments can be specified with ^K \. When a command is executed with a repeat argument, it is repeatedly executed the specified number of times. If the repeat argument is negative, an opposite command (if one exists) is executed instead. For example, if you repeat "rtarw" -3 times, "ltarw" will be repeated 3 times. If a negative argument is given for a command which does not have an opposite, the repeat argument is ignored.

Normally, if a repeat argument is specified for a macro, the macro is simply repeated the given number of times. If a negative argument is given, the argument is ignored.

Sometimes you want to allow negative arguments for macros and have their behavior modified. To do this, postfix each command within the macro which should be switched to its opposite for negative arguments with ´-´. For example, here is the page down other window macro:


Now if you execute this with an argument of -2, it will be repeated twice, but pgup will be executed instead of pgdn. (note that several postfix modifiers can be placed after each command).

Sometimes when a repeat argument is given to macro, you want only one of the commands in the list to be repeated, not the entire macro. This can be indicated as follows:


If this is executed with an argument of 2, prevw is executed once, pgdn is executed twice, and nextw is executed once.

Finally, even more complex semantics can be expressed with the "if" command:


ltarw, else,
rtarw, endif

When the macro is executed, the "arg" math variable is set to the given repeat argument. The "argset" variable is set to true if the user set an argument, even if it´s 1. If no argument was given, argset is false.

If any command in the list is postfixed with ~ (if above), the macro is not repeated, even if there is an argument. ´arg´ is still set to the given repeat count, however.

´psh´/´query´ interaction

The ´psh´ command saves the ^K B and ^K K positions on a stack. When the macro completes, (or when the ´pop´ command is called) the positions are restored.

The ´query´ command suspends macro execution until the current dialog is complete. It also suspends the automatic ´pop´ which happens at the end of a macro- so if the macro ends in a dialog you often want to call ´query´ to prevent the ^K B ^K K positions from being restored too early.

Tags search

If you are editing a large C program with many source files, you can use the ctags program to generate a tags file. This file contains a list of program symbols and the files and positions where the symbols are defined.

First, create the tags file with the "ctags" program. For example:

ctags *.c *.h

This will create a file called "tags" in the current directory.

JOE looks for the "tags" file in the current directory. If there is none, it will try to open the file specified by the TAGS environment variable.

Paths in the tags file are always relative to location of the tags file itself.

The tags file contains a list of identifier definition locations in one of these formats:

identifier filename /search-expression/[;comments]
identifier filename ?search-expression?[;comments]
identifier filename line-number[;comments]

Some versions of ctags include class-names in the identifiers:


In this case, JOE will match on any of these strings:


Some versions of ctags include a filename in the identifier:


In this case JOE will only find the identifier if the buffer name matches the filename.

The search-expression is a vi regular expression, but JOE only supports the following special characters:

^ at the beginning means expression starts at beginning of line
$ at the end means expression ends at end of line
\x quote x (suppress meaning of /, ?, ^ or $)

Type ^K ; to bring up a tags search prompt. If the cursor had been on an identifier, the prompt is pre-loaded with it. Tab completion works in this prompt (it uses the tags file to find completions).

When you hit Enter, the tags search commences:

If there is one and only one match, JOE will jump directly to the definition.

If there are multiple matches, then the behavior is controlled by the notagsmenu option. If notagsmenu is enabled JOE jumps to the first definition. If you hit ^K ; again before hitting any other keys, JOE jumps to the next definition, and so on. The "tagjump" command also performs this function.

If notagsmenu is disabled, JOE brings up a menu of all the matches. You select the one you want and JOE jumps to it. If you hit ^K ; again before hitting any other keys, the same menu re-appears with the cursor left in the original location.

You can hit ^K - to move the cursor back to the original location before the tags search (often ^C will work as well).

Since ^K ; loads the definition file into the current window, you probably want to split the window first with ^K O, to have both the original file and the definition file loaded.


JOE has a built-in calculator which can be invoked with Esc M.

Math functions

sin, cos, tan, exp, sqrt, cbrt, ln, log, asin, acos, atan, sinh, cosh, tanh, asinh, acosh, atanh, int, floor, ceil, abs, erf, erfc, j0, j1, y0, y1


  • e
    Set to ´e´

  • pi
    Set to ´pi´

  • top
    Set to line number of top window line

  • lines
    Set to number of lines in file

  • line
    Set to current line number

  • col
    Set to current column number

  • byte
    Set to current byte number

  • size
    Set to buffer size

  • height
    Set to window height

  • width
    Set to window width

  • char
    Set to ASCII val of character under cursor

  • markv
    True if there is a valid block set (^KB ... ^KK)

  • rdonly
    True if file is read-only

  • arg
    Current repeat argument

  • argset
    True if a repeat argument was given

  • is_shell
    True if executed in an active shell window

  • no_windows
    No. buffer windows on the screen

  • ans
    Result of previous expression


  • hex
    Hex display mode

  • dec
    Decimal display mode

  • ins
    Insert ´ans´ into buffer

  • sum
    Sum of numbers in block

  • cnt
    Count numbers in block

  • avg
    Average value of numbers in block

  • dev
    Standard deviation of numbers in block

  • eval
    Evaluate math expressions in block (or whole file if no block set).

  • joe(...)
    Execute a JOE macro (argument in same format as joerc file macros). Return value of JOE macro is returned (for macro success, return true (non-zero)).

For example:

joe(sys,"[ 1 == 1 ]",rtn)

([ 1 == 1 ]) is a shell command. "[" is a synonym for the "test" UNIX command.

Returns true.

Remember: argument for JOE macro command "if" is a math expression. So for example, the macro:

if,"joe(sys,\"[ 1 == 1 ]\",rtn)",then,"TRUE",endif

Types TRUE into the buffer.


  • !x
    Logical not of x.

  • x
    Raise x to power of y.

  • a*b

  • a/b

  • a%b

  • a+b

  • a-b

  • a<b
    True if a is less than b.

  • a<=b
    True if a is less than or equal to b.

  • a>b
    True if a is greater than b.

  • a>=b
    True if a is greater than or equal to b.

  • a==b
    True if a equals b.

  • a!=b
    True if a does not equal b.

  • a&&b
    True if both a and b are true.

  • a||b
    True if ether a or b are true.

  • a?b:c
    If a is true return b, otherwise return c.

  • a=b
    Assign b to a.

  • a:b
    Execute a, then execute b.

&&, || and ? : work as in C and sh as far as side effects: if the
is expression separator.

Shell windows

Hit ^K ´ to run a command shell in one of JOE´s windows. When the cursor is at the end of a shell window (use ^K V if it´s not), whatever you type is passed to the shell instead of the buffer. Any output from the shell or from commands executed in the shell is appended to the shell window (the cursor will follow this output if it´s at the end of the shell window). This command is useful for recording the results of shell commands- for example the output of make, the result of grepping a set of files for a string, or directory listings from FTP sessions. Besides typeable characters, the keys ^C, Backspace, Del, Return and ^D are passed to the shell. Type the shell exit command to stop recording shell output. If you press ^C in a shell window, when the cursor is not at the end of the window, the shell is killed.

If you use Bash, you can hit: ^Q Up Arrow and ^Q Down Arrow to scroll through Bash´s history buffer. Other keys work as well: try ^Q ^A to go to beginning of line or ^Q ^E to go to end of line. Unfortunately JOE only emulates a dumb terminal, so you have to use a lot of imagination to do any editing beyond hitting backspace.

In general, any character quoted with ^Q is sent to the shell.

Also sent to the shell: Tab, Backspace, Enter, ^C and ^D.

Pop-up shell windows

Hit F1 - F4 to open and switch between shell windows.

Pop-up shell windows use a full terminal emulator so that when you type "man ls" it´s formatted correctly (it works well enough so that some interactive programs can be used). Even so, the shell window is still an edit buffer.

The old shell window (with no terminal emulation) still exists: use ^K ´ to invoke it as usual. This is useful to see control sequences emitted by a program.

More of the keys get passed to the running program in pop-up shell windows compared with the older one. There is a :vtshell section of the joerc file to control which ones. In particular arrow keys and Ctrl-C are passed to the program. It means you can easily step through bash history with the arrow keys, or abort programs the normal way with Ctrl-C.

On the other hand, loss of Ctrl-C means it´s less obvious how to close the window. One way is to move the cursor off of the shell data entry point (with Ctrl-P), and then hit Ctrl-C. Another is to hit ^K Q. Finally, you can type ´pop´ at the command prompt.

If you need to pass a key to the shell that JOE normally uses, quote it. For example, if you invoke "emacs -nw" in the shell window, you can exit it with:

^Q ^X ^C

To quickly position the cursor back to the point where data is entered into the shell, hit ^K V.

When you open a shell window, a JOE-specific startup-script is sourced. It´s located in /etc/joe/ (also /etc/joe/shell.csh). It contains some aliases which allow you to control JOE with fake shell commands. I have these commands so far:

  • clear
    erase shell window (delete buffer contents)

  • joe file
    edit a file in JOE

  • math 1+2
    evaluate equation using JOE´s calculator

  • cd xyz
    change directory, keep JOE up to date

  • markb
    same as ^KB

  • markk
    same as ^KK

  • mark command
    execute shell command, mark it´s output

  • parse command
    execute shell command, parse it´s output for file names and line numbers (for find or grep)

  • parser comman
    execute shell command, parse it´s output for errors (for gcc)

  • release
    release parsed errors

  • pop
    dismiss shell window (same as ^K Q)

These work by emitting an escape sequence recognized by the terminal emulator: Esc { joe_macro }. When this is received, the macro is executed. For security, only macros defined in the joerc file which begin with "shell_" can be executed this way.

Use cases

Pop-up shell windows have a number of nice use cases:

Use it to browse manual pages
Hit F1 and type "man fopen". Use ´b´ (´u´) and space to control more (or less) while viewing the manual. You can leave the manual on the screen in one window while editing in another window.
Use it to switch directories
Hit F1 and navigate to the directory while using cd. Once you are in the right place, hit ^K E to load a file (or type "edit file" from the shell).
Use it in conjunction with the error parser to find files
Hit F1 and navigate to a directory. Use grep or find (or both) to generate a list of files):

parse grep -n FIXME *.c


markb; find . | xargs grep -n FIXME; markk; parse

(Note that you can´t say this:

parse find . | xargs grep -n FIXME

...the issue is that only the words to the left of the pipe symbol are passed as arguments to the parse command).

Now use ^P to position the cursor on one of the lines of the list. Hit Esc Space to have JOE edit the file and jump to the specified line (also you can use Esc - and Esc = to step through the list).

Use it in conjunction with search and replace to edit many files
Once JOE has a list of files (from above), use search and replace with the ´e´ option to visit all of them:

^K F
Find: <text>
Options: re
Replace: <replacement text>
Build your project

Easily capture errors from a build with:

parserr make

Hit Esc = and Esc - to step through the errors.

How it works..

  • There is a new mode "ansi". (Esc X mode ansi). When this mode is enabled, the screen updater hides escape sequences which are in the buffer. Otherwise you get a big mess from the sequences surrounding colored output from ´ls´.
  • There is a new built-in syntax: "ansi". (^T Y ansi). This syntax parses the ANSI color control sequences so that text gets colored.
  • There is a terminal emulator to interpret control sequences from the shell program. It emulates a terminal by modifying the contents of an edit buffer.
  • When the edit window is resized we tell the shell by issuing the TIOCSSIZE or TIOCSWINSZ ioctl. This way, the program running in the shell knows the window size.

Compiler and grep/find parsers

JOE has two parsers which can be used to generate the error list (list of file names / line numbers).

The "parserr" command parses the entire buffer, or if the block is set, just the highighted block for compiler error messages. The messages should be in this format:

<junk> <junk> line-number <junk> : <junk>

The file name needs to be made of numbers, letters, ´/´, ´.´ and ´-´. It must have at leat one ´.´ in it. There needs to be a colon somewhere after the line number. Lines not in this format are ignored.

The "gparse´ command parses the entire buffer, or if the block is set, just the highlighted block for a list of filenames or filenames with line numbers from "grep -n", "find" and similar programs.


Once JOE has the error list, there are a number of things you can do with it:

  • Visit the files/locations in the list with Esc - and Esc =
  • Search and replace across all files in the list by using the ´e´ search and replace option.
  • Clear the list by using the "release" command.

Also, you can use Esc Space (´jump´ command) to parse the line the cursor is on and jump to the parsed filename and line number. ´jump´ uses the grep/find parser unless ´parserr´ had been previously issued in the buffer.


Hit Esc G to bring up the prompt. Enter a command which results in file names with line numbers, for example: ´grep -n fred *.c´. This will list all instances of ´fred´ in the *.c files. You need the ´-n´ to get the line numbers.

Now you can hit Esc Space on one of the lines to jump to the selected file. Also, you can use Esc = and Esc - to step through each line.


Hit Esc C to save all modified files and then bring up the compile prompt. Enter the command you want to use for the compiler (typically "make -w"). The compiler will run in a shell window. When it´s complete, the results are parsed.

The ´-w´ flag should be given to "make" so that it prints messages whenever it changes directories. The message are in this format:

make[1]: Entering directory `/home/jhallen/joe-editor-mercurial/joe´

If there are any errors or warnings from the compiler you can hit Esc Space on one of the lines to jump to the selected file. Also, you can use Esc = and Esc - to step through each line.

Syntax highlighting

To enable highlight use ^T H.

To select the syntax, use ^T Y. You can hit Tab Tab at the prompt for a completion list.

JOE tries to determine the syntax to use based on the name and contents of the file. The configuration file /etc/joe/ftyperc contains the definitions.

Each syntax is defined by a file located /usr/share/joe/syntax/.

How JOE syntax highlighting works

from c.jsf, slightly modified

A deterministic state machine that performs lexical analysis of the target language is provided in a syntax file. (This is the "assembly language" of syntax highlighting. A separate program could in principal be used to convert a regular expression NFA syntax into this format).

Each state begins with:

:<name> <color-name> <context>

name\ is the state´s name.

color-name\ is the color used for characters eaten by the state (really a symbol for a user definable color).

context\ tells JOE if the current character is part of a comment or a string. This allows JOE to skip over comments and strings when matching characters such as parentheses. To use this feature, the highlighter_context option must be applied to the files highlighted by the corresponding syntax. To apply the option, add it to ftyperc for those file entries.

The valid contexts are:

  • comment This character is part of a comment. Example: /* comment */
  • string This character is part of a string. Examples: "string" ´c´ ´string´

The comment and string delimiters themselves should be marked with the appropriate context. The context is considered to be part of the color, so the recolor=-N and recolormark options apply the context to previous characters.

The first state defined is the initial state.

Within a state, define transitions (jumps) to other states. Each jump has the form:

<character-list> <target-state-name> [<option>s]

There are three ways to specify character-list\s, either * for any character not otherwise specified, % or & to match the character in the delimiter match buffer (% matches the saved character exactly, while & matches the opposite character, for example ( will match ) when & is used) or a literal list of characters within quotes (ranges and escape sequences allowed: see Escape Sequences). When the next character matches any in the list, a jump to the target-state is taken and the character is eaten (we advance to the next character of the file to be colored).

The * transition should be the first transition specified in the state.

There are several options:

  • noeat - Do not eat the character, instead feed it to the next state (this tends to make the states smaller, but be careful: you can make infinite loops). ´noeat´ implies ´recolor=-1´.
  • recolor=-N - Recolor the past N characters with the color of the target-state. For example once /* is recognized as the start of C comment, you want to color the /* with the C comment color with recolor=-2.
  • mark - Mark beginning of a region with current position.
  • markend - Mark end of region.
  • recolormark - Recolor all of the characters in the marked region with the color of the target-state. If markend is not given, all of the characters up to the current position are recolored. Note that the marked region can not cross line boundaries and must be on the same line as recolormark.
  • buffer - Start copying characters to a string buffer, beginning with this one (it´s OK to not terminate buffering with a matching ´strings´, ´istrings´ or ´hold´ option- the buffer is limited to leading 23 characters).
  • save_c - Save character in delimiter match buffer.
  • save_s - Copy string buffer to delimiter match buffer.
  • strings - A list of strings follows. If the buffer matches any of the given strings, a jump to the target-state in the string list is taken instead of the normal jump.
  • istrings - Same as strings, but case is ignored. Note: strings and istrings should be the last option on the line. They cause any options which follow them to be ignored.
  • hold - Stop buffering string- a future ´strings´ or ´istrings´ will look at contents of buffer at this point. Useful for distinguishing commands and function calls in some languages ´write 7´ is a command ´write (´ is a function call- hold lets us stop at the space and delay the string lookup until the ( or 7.

The format of the string list is:

"string" <target-state> [<options>s]
"string" <target-state> [<options>s]
"&" <target-state> [<options>s] # matches contents of delimiter match buffer

(all of the options above are allowed except "strings", "istrings" and "noeat". noeat is always implied after a matched string).

Weirdness: only states have colors, not transitions. This means that you sometimes have to make dummy states with

* <next-state> noeat

just to get a color specification.

Delimiter match buffer is for perl and shell: a regex in perl can be s<..>(...) and in shell you can say: <<EOS ....... EOS. The idea is that you capture the first delimiter into the match buffer (the < or first "EOS") and then match it to the second one with "&" in a string or character list.


Highlighter state machines can now make subroutine calls. This works by template instantiation: the called state machine is included in your current state machine, but is modified so that the return address points to the called. There is still no run-time stack (the state is represented as a single integer plus the saved delimiter string).

Recursion is allowed, but is self limited to 5 levels.

Note: this recursion limit is obsolete. Subroutines now do use a stack so the call-depth is limitless.

To call a subroutine, use the ´call´ option:

"\"" fred call=string(dquote)

The subroutine called ´string´ is called and the jump to ´fred´ is ignored. The ´dquote´ option is passed to the subroutine.

If you use recolor along with call, the color used is that of the first state of the subroutine.

The subroutine itself returns to the caller like this:

"\"" whatever return

If we´re in a subroutine, it returns to the target state of the call ("fred" in the above example). If we´re not in a subroutine, it jumps to "whatever".

If you use recolor along with return, the color used is from the returned state ("fred" in the example above).

There are several ways of delimiting subroutines which show up in how it is called. Here are the options:

  • call=string() - A file called string.jsf is the subroutine. The entire file is the subroutine. The starting point is the first state in the file.
  • call=library.string() - A file called library.jsf has the subroutine. The subroutine within the file is called string.
  • call=.string() - There is a subroutine called string in the current file.

When a subroutine is within a file, but is not the whole file, it is delimited as follows:

.subr string

Option flags can be passed to subroutines which control preprocessor-like directives. For example:

.ifdef dquote

"\"" idle return
"´" idle return

.else is also available. .ifdefs can be nested.

The joerc file

^T options, the help screens and the key-sequence to editor command bindings are all defined in JOE´s initialization file. If you make a copy of this file (which normally resides in /etc/joe/joerc) to $HOME/.joerc, you can customize these setting to your liking. The syntax of the initialization file should be fairly obvious and there are further instructions in it.

The joerc file has a directive to include another file (:include). This facility is used to include a file called ftyperc (usually located in /etc/joe/ftyperc). ftyperc has the file type table which determines which local options (including syntax for the highlighter) are applied to each file type.

Initialization file loading sequence

If the path for an initialization file begins with ´/´ (you can specify this with the include directive), JOE only tries to load it from the absolute path. Otherwise, JOE tries to load initialization files (the joerc file and any files included in it, typically ftyperc) from three places:

  • "$HOME/.joerc" - The user´s personalized joerc file.
  • "/etc/joe/joerc" - The system´s joerc file. The exact path is fixed during the build, and is determined by the --sysconfdir configure script option.
  • "*joerc" - Built-in file This means JOE searches for the file in a table of files linked in with the JOE binary (they are in the builtins.c file). A built-in joerc file is provided so that the editor will run in cases where system´s joerc is inaccessible.

If the system´s joerc file is newer than the user´s joerc file, JOE will print a warning in the startup log. Previous versions of JOE would prompt the user for this case- the idea was that JOE may be unusable with an out of date initialization file.

joerc file sections

The joerc file is broken up into a number of sections:

  • Global options Options which are not file specific, like noxon.
  • File name and content dependent options Options which depend on the file type, such as autoindent. The ftyperc file is included in this section.
  • ^T menu system definition Use :defmenu to define a named menu of macros. The menu command brings up a specific named menu. ^T is a macro which brings up the root menu: menu,"root",rtn.
  • Help screen contents Each help screen is named. The name is used to implement context dependent help.
  • Key bindings Key binding tables are defined. You can define as many as you like (you can switch to a specific one with the keymap command), but the following must be provided:
  • main Editing windows
  • prompt Prompt windows
  • query Single-character query prompts
  • querya Single-character query for quote
  • querysr Single-character query for search and replace
  • shell Shell windows
  • vtshell Terminal emulator shell windows

Key binding tables can inherit bindings from already defined tables. This allows you to group common key bindings into a single table which is inherited by the others.

Mode command

Many options can be controlled with the ^T menu. This menu is defined in the joerc file. Each option in the ^T menu just executes a macro. Usually the macro is the mode command. You can execute the mode command directly with:

Esc X mode <enter>

Hit Tab Tab for a completion list of all options.

This command calls up a named menu of macros which was defined in the joerc file.

Esc X menu <enter>

As usual, hit Tab Tab at the prompt for a completion list of the menus which exist.

^T is bound to the simple macro menu,"root",rtn- it brings up the root of the options menu system.

Xterm Mouse support

There are two levels of mouse support. The -mouse option enables the first level, which will work with any stock Xterm. If -joexterm is also set, mouse support is enhanced, but you need a recent version of XTerm, and it needs to be ./configured with the --enable-paste64 option.

When -mouse is set, you can:

  • Left-click in a text window to set the cursor position. Left-click in a different window to move the cursor to a different window.
  • Select text with the mouse. Left-click and drag to select some text- it will be as if you had used ^K B and ^K K to mark it. Left-click (but don´t drag) to position the cursor somewhere else. Middle click to copy the selected text to the cursor- it will be as if you had hit ^K C. If you drag past the edge of the text window, the window will auto-scroll to select more text. Unfortunately, Xterm does not send any codes when the cursor is outside of the Xterm frame itself, so this only works if the mouse is still contained within the Xterm frame. I´ve sent a patch to the Xterm maintainer to improve this, but he has not taken it yet.
  • Resize windows with the mouse: click and hold on a status line dividing two windows to move it.
  • Select menu entries (such as any completion menu or the ^T options menu): click on the menu item to position the cursor on it. Double-click on a menu item to select it (same as hitting return with cursor on it).
  • If your mouse has a wheel, turning the wheel will scroll the window with the cursor.

Unfortunately, when -mouse is selected, cut and paste between X windows does not work as it normally does in a shell window (left-click and drag to select, middle click to paste). Instead, you have to hold the shift key down to do this: shift-left-click and drag to select, and shift-middle click to paste. Note that pasting text into JOE this way has problems: any ` characters will get messed up because ` means quote the following control character. Also if auto-indent is enabled, pasted text will not be indented properly.

Note: these problems with pasting have been resolved in recent versions of JOE.

  • JOE enables "bracketed paste" mode in Xterm so that pasted text is bracketed with an escape sequence. This sequence causes JOE to disable the autoindent, wordwrap and spaces modes for the paste, and restores them when the paste is complete.
  • Even if the terminal emulator does not have this bracketed paste mode, JOE detects pasted text by timing: If text arrives all at once (all in the same buffer), the text is assumed to be pasted text and autoindent and wordwrap are temporarily disabled.

When -joexterm is set (and you have ./configured Xterm with --enable-paste64):

Cut & paste are properly integrated with X. Text selected with left-click-drag is available for pasting into other X windows (even if the selected text is larger than the text window). Text selected in other X windows can be pasted into JOE with middle-click. There are no problems pasting text containing ` or with auto-indent.

--enable-paste64 allows an application program to communicate Base-64 encoded selection data to and from the Xterm. The program has full control over what is in the selection data and when it is received or sent.

Color Xterm support

JOE can make use of monochrome Xterm, 8-color Xterm, 16-color Xterm, 88-color Xterm and 256-color Xterm. The number of colors which Xterm supports is determined by which "configure" script options are set before the Xterm source code is compiled. The termcap or terminfo entry must support how your Xterm is configured. On my Slackware Linux distribution, you have to set the TERM environment variable to one of these:

  • xterm
  • xterm-color
  • xterm-16color
  • xterm-88color
  • xterm-256color

If the termcap/terminfo entry is missing, you can add the "-assume_256color" option to the joerc file. Note that this was broken for terminfo in versions of JOE below 3.4.

When it is working, the command: "joe -assume_256color -text_color bg_222" should have a gray background.

Hex edit mode

When this mode is selected (either put -hex on the command line, or look for "Hex edit mode" after hitting ^T), the buffer is displayed as a hex dump, but all of the editing commands operate the same way. It is most useful to select overtype mode in conjunction with hex dump (hit ^T T). Then typing will not insert.

  • To enter the hex byte 0xF8 type ^Q x F 8
  • You can use ^K C to copy a block as usual. If overtype mode is selected, the block will overwrite the destination data without changing the size of the file. Otherwise it inserts.
  • Hit Esc X byte <Enter>, to jump to a particular byte offset. Hex values can be entered into this prompt like this: 0x2000.
  • Search, incremental search, and search & replace all operate as usual.

Environment variables

For JOE to operate correctly, a number of other environment settings must be correct. The throughput (baud rate) of the connection between the computer and your terminal must be set correctly for JOE to update the screen smoothly and allow typeahead to defer the screen update. Use the stty nnn command to set this. You want to set it as close as possible to actual throughput of the connection. For example, if you are connected via a 1200 baud modem, you want to use this value for stty. If you are connected via 14.4k modem, but the terminal server you are connected to connects to the computer a 9600 baud, you want to set your speed as 9600 baud. The special baud rate of 38400 or extb is used to indicate that you have a very-high speed connection, such as a memory mapped console or an X-window terminal emulator. If you can´t use stty to set the actual throughput (perhaps because of a modem communicating with the computer at a different rate than it´s communicating over the phone line), you can put a numeric value in the BAUD environment variable instead (use setenv BAUD 9600 for csh or BAUD=9600; export BAUD for sh).

The TERM environment variable must be set to the type of terminal you´re using. If the size (number of lines/columns) of your terminal is different from what is reported in the TERMCAP or TERMINFO entry, you can set this with the stty rows nn cols nn command, or by setting the LINES and COLUMNS environment variables. The terminal size is variable on modern systems and is determined by an ioctl, so these parameters often have no effect.

JOE normally expects that flow control between the computer and your terminal to use ^S/^Q handshaking (i.e., if the computer is sending characters too fast for your terminal, your terminal sends ^S to stop the output and ^Q to restart it). If the flow control uses out-of-band or hardware handshaking or if your terminal is fast enough to always keep up with the computer output and you wish to map ^S/^Q to edit commands, you can set the environment variable NOXON to have JOE attempt to turn off ^S/^Q handshaking. If the connection between the computer and your terminal uses no handshaking and your terminal is not fast enough to keep up with the output of the computer, you can set the environment variable DOPADDING to have JOE slow down the output by interspersing PAD characters between the terminal screen update sequences.

Here is a complete list of the environment variables:

  • BAUD
    Tell JOE the baud rate of the terminal (overrides value reported by stty).

    Set number of columns in terminal emulator (in case termcap entry is wrong). This is only useful on old system which don´t have the "get window size" ioctl.

    Enable JOE to send padding NULs to the terminal when set (for very old terminals).

  • HOME
    Used to get path to home directory for ~ expansion and also to find ~/.joerc file ~/.joe directory.

    Used to get hostname to put in EMACS compatible locks.

    Gives terminal type: JOE will use this instead of TERM if it´s set.

  • LANG
    Sets locale (like en_US.utf-8). JOE uses the first of these which is set: LC_ALL, LC_CTYPE, LANG.

  • LC_ALL
    Sets locale (like en_US.utf-8). JOE uses the first of these which is set: LC_ALL, LC_CTYPE, LANG.

    Sets locale (like en_US.utf-8). JOE uses the first of these which is set: LC_ALL, LC_CTYPE, LANG.

    Set number of lines in terminal emulator (in case termcap entry is wrong). This is only useful on old system which don´t have the "get window size" ioctl.

    Disable ^S and ^Q flow control, possibly allowing ^S and ^Q to be used as editor keys.

    Path to shell (like /bin/sh). This is used in several places: If you are on a system with no job control, this shell is invoked when you hit ^K Z. Also this is the shell which is run in shell windows. If SHELL is not set (Cygwin) or if it´s set to /bin/sh, JOE invokes the first of these which exists: /bin/bash, /usr/bin/bash, /bin/sh.

    If this is set, it is appended to the file name instead of ~ to create the backup file name.

  • TAGS
    If set to a path to a file, JOE tries to use this as the "tags" file if there is no "tags" file in the current directory.

  • TEMP
    If set, gives path to directory to open swapfile instead of /tmp

    Used by JOE´s built-in termcap file parser (not used for terminfo). A termcap entry can be placed directly in this variable (which will be used if it matches TERM), or if it begins with /, it gives a list of paths to termcap files to search.

    Gives list of paths to termcap files to search when TERMCAP has a termcap entry (otherwise it´s ignored). The default list of paths to termcap files (when TERMCAP and TERMPATH do not have it) is: "~/.termcap /etc/joe/termcap /etc/termcap"

  • TERM
    Gives terminal type, like "vt100" or "xterm".

  • USER
    Used to get user name for EMACS compatible file locks.

JOE commands grouped by function

These commands can be entered at the Esc X prompt.

Background programs

  • bknd
    Run a shell in a window

  • vtbknd
    Run a shell in a terminal emulator window

  • killproc
    Kill program in current window

  • run
    Run a UNIX command in a window

  • sys
    Run a UNIX command and return to editor when done (I/O does not go through editor, but we get the command´s return status).


  • blkcpy
    Copy marked block to cursor

  • blkdel
    Delete marked block

  • blkmove
    Move marked block to cursor

  • blksave
    Save marked block into a file

  • copy
    Copy block to kill-ring

  • drop
    Set markb. If it was already set, eliminate Ait.

  • dropon
    Set markb. If it was already set, eliminate it. Turn on marking mode.

  • toggle_marking
    If we´re in a block: clear markb and markk. If marking is off: set markb and turn on marking. If marking is on: set markk (swap if necessary with markb) and turn marking off.

  • begin_marking
    If we´re on an edge of a block: set markb to other edge and turn on marking mode. Otherwise set markb to cursor and turn on marking mode.

  • select
    Set markb. If it was already set, do nothing.

  • filt
    Filter block or file through a UNIX command

  • markb
    Set beginning of block mark

  • markk
    Set end of block mark

  • markl
    Mark current line

  • nmark
    Eliminate markb and markk

  • picokill
    Delete line or block

  • pop
    Restore markb and markk values from stack

  • psh
    Push markb and markk values onto a stack

  • swap
    Switch cursor with markb

  • tomarkb
    Move cursor to markb

  • tomarkbk
    Move cursor to markb or markk

  • tomarkk
    Move cursor to markk

  • yank
    Insert top of kill ring

  • yankpop
    Scroll through kill ring

  • yapp
    Append next kill to top of kill ring

  • upper
    Convert everything in block to uppercase

  • lower
    Convert everything in block to lowercase


  • bufed
    Buffer menu

  • edit
    Load file into window: asks to reload if buffer exists

  • switch
    Load file into window: always uses buffer if it exists

  • scratch
    Push a scratch buffer into current window

  • popabort
    Abort and pop window from stack (do nothing if stack empty)

  • nbuf
    Load next buffer into current window

  • pbuf
    Load previous buffer into current window

  • reload
    Re-read file into buffer (revert)

  • reloadall
    Re-read all unmodified buffers

Cursor Motion

  • bof
    Move cursor to beginning of file

  • bol
    Move cursor to beginning of line (always)

  • bop
    Move to beginning of a paragraph

  • bos
    Move to beginning of screen

  • bkwdc
    Search backwards for a character

  • byte
    Move cursor to specific byte offset into the file.

  • col
    Move cursor to specific column number.

  • dnarw
    Move cursor down one line

  • eof
    Move cursor to end of file

  • eol
    Move cursor to end of line

  • eop
    Move cursor to end of paragraph

  • fwrdc
    Search forward for matching character

  • gomark
    Move cursor to a bookmark

  • home
    Move cursor to beginning of line

  • line
    Move cursor to specified line

  • ltarw
    Move cursor left

  • nedge
    Move cursor to next edge

  • nextpos
    Move cursor to next position in cursor position history

  • nextword
    Move cursor to end of next word

  • pedge
    Move cursor to previous edge

  • prevpos
    Move cursor to previous position in cursor position history

  • prevword
    Move cursor to beginning of previous word

  • rtarw
    Move cursor right

  • setmark
    Set a bookmark

  • tomatch
    Move cursor to matching delimiter

  • tos
    Move cursor to top of screen

  • uparw
    Move cursor up


  • backs

  • backw
    Backspace a word

  • delbol
    Delete to beginning of line

  • delch
    Delete character under cursor

  • deleol
    Delete to end of line

  • dellin
    Delete entire line

  • delw
    Delete word to right

Error parsing

  • nxterr
    Goto next parsed error

  • parserr
    Parse errors in current file

  • gparse
    Parse grep list in current file

  • jump
    Parse current line and jump to it

  • prverr
    Go to previous parsed error

  • showerr
    Show current message

  • grep
    Execute grep command, parse when done

  • build
    Execute build command, parse when done

  • release
    Release error/grep records


  • cancel
    Like abort, but doesn´t return failure: useful in macros to escape out of a prompt.

  • abort
    Abort current buffer/window. Prompt if it is changed.

  • abortbuf
    Like above, but just fail if it would have to prompt because it´s the last window on a modified buffer.

  • ask
    Prompt to save current file: user says yes return, user says no: run ´abort´. Use in a macro: "ask,query,exsave"

  • exsave
    Save file and exit

  • lose
    EMACS kill buffer. The buffer is deleted- any windows with it get a replacement scratch buffer.

  • querysave
    Prompt to save each modified buffer. Use in a macro: "querysave,query,killjoe"

  • killjoe
    Exit JOE immediately without checking for modified buffers


  • cd
    Set directory prefix

  • save
    Save file

  • savenow
    Save immediately, unless file name is not known

  • insf
    Insert a file


  • center
    Center line

  • fmtblk
    Format all paragraphs in a block

  • format
    Format current paragraph

  • lindent
    Indent to the left

  • rindent
    Indent to the right


  • help
    Turn help on or off

  • hnext
    Switch to next help screen

  • hprev
    Switch to previous help screen


  • ctrl
    Type next key

  • finish
    Complete word in text window

  • insc
    Insert a space

  • open
    Insert newline

  • quote
    Insert a control character

  • quote8
    Insert a meta character

  • rtn
    Return / Enter key

  • type
    Insert typed character

  • secure_type
    Insert typed character, but only allowed in prompt windows (not allowed in shell windows)


  • macros
    Insert keyboard macros into current file

  • play
    Execute a macro

  • query
    Suspend macro recording for user query

  • record
    Record a macro

  • stop
    Stop recording macro
  • backsmenu
    Undo in file completion menu

  • bofmenu
    Move to beginning of menu

  • bolmenu
    Move to beginning of line in a menu

  • dnarwmenu
    Move down one line in a menu

  • eolmenu
    Move cursor to end of line in a menu

  • eofmenu
    Move cursor to end of menu

  • ltarwmenu
    Move cursor left in a menu

  • rtarwmenu
    Move cursor right in menu

  • uparwmenu
    Move cursor up in menu

  • dnslidemenu
    Scroll menu down one line

  • upslidemenu
    Scroll menu up one line

  • pgupmenu
    Scroll menu up

  • pgdnmenu
    Scroll menu down

  • tabmenu
    Tab through menu


  • beep

  • execmd
    Execute a JOE command

  • debug_joe
    Insert debug information into buffer

  • math

  • maths
    Secure Calculator (no way to run joe() macros)

  • mode
    Mode prompt

  • menu
    Menu prompt

  • msg
    Display a message

  • notmod
    Clear the modified flag

  • retype
    Refresh screen

  • shell
    Suspend process or execute a sub-shell

  • stat
    Display cursor position

  • tag
    Tags file search

  • tagjump
    Jump to next tags file search match (only if notagsmenu is set)

  • timer
    Execute a macro periodically

  • txt
    Insert text. If first character is `, then text is assumed to be a format string (that is, the string used to define the status line for the rmsg and lmsg options) and is formatted before the insertion.

  • name
    Insert current file name

  • language
    Insert current language

  • charset
    Insert current character set

  • keymap
    Switch to another keymap


  • complete
    Complete a file-name in a prompt

  • if
    Only run following cmds if expr is true (non-zero)

  • then
    Same as rtn but only works in prompt windows

  • elsif
    Try a new condition

  • else
    Toggle truth flag

  • endif
    Start running cmds again

Here is an example ´if´ macro:

if,"char==65",then,"it´s an A",else,"it´s not an A",endif __^[ q__

When you hit __^[ q__, if the character under the cursor is an ´A´: "it´s a A" is inserted into the buffer, otherwise "it´s not an A" is inserted.

"if" creates a math prompt (like __Esc M__). "then" is like "rtn"- it hits the return key for this prompt.

Within the math prompt, the following variables are available:

  • char
    ASCII value of character under cursor

  • width
    Width of screen

  • height
    Height of screen

  • byte
    byte number

  • col
    column number

  • line
    line number

  • lines
    no. lines in file

  • top
    line number of top line of window


  • arg
    Prompt for repeat argument

  • uarg
    Universal argument


  • crawll
    Pan screen left

  • crawlr
    Pan screen right

  • dnslide
    Scroll screen down 1 line

  • pgdn
    Scroll screen down

  • pgup
    Scroll screen up

  • upslide
    Scroll up one line

Search and replace

  • ffirst
    Find text

  • fnext
    Repeat previous search

  • isrch
    Incremental search forward

  • qrepl
    Search and replace

  • rfirst
    Search backwards for text

  • rsrch
    Reverse incremental search


  • explode
    Display one window or display all windows

  • dupw
    Duplicate current window

  • groww
    Increase size of window

  • nextw
    Move cursor to next window

  • prevw
    Go to previous window

  • shrinkw
    Shrink window

  • splitw
    Split window into two

  • tw0
    Eliminate this window

  • tw1
    Show only one window

  • mwind
    Get error messages window on the screen and put cursor in it.

  • showlog
    Get startup log scratch buffer into window.

  • mfit
    Fit two windows on the screen: make current window 6 lines, and give rest of space to window above. The window above is either the existing previous window, a newly created one if there wasn´t one.


  • redo
    Re-execute the latest undone change

  • undo
    Undo last change


  • tomouse
    Move the cursor to where the mouse was clicked/dragged

  • defmdown
    Default single-click handler, usually bound to MDOWN. Positions cursor to mouse and begins a region.

  • defmup
    Default single-click release handler, usually bound to MUP. Completes selection of a region.

  • defmdrag
    Default single-click drag handler, usually bound to MDRAG. Selects a region of text a character at a time.

  • defm2down
    Default double-click handler, usually bound to M2DOWN.

  • defm2up
    Default double-click release handler, usually bound to M2UP.

  • defm2drag
    Default double-click drag handler, usually bound to M2DRAG. Selects a region of text a word at a time.

  • defm3down
    Default triple-click handler, usually bound to M3DOWN.

  • defm3up
    Default triple-click release handler, usually bound to M3UP.

  • defm3drag
    Default triple-click drag handler, usually bound to M3DRAG. Selects a region of text a line at a time.

  • defmiddledown
    Default middle click handler, usually bound to MIDDLEDOWN. This inserts text.

  • defmiddleup
    Default middle click release handler, usually bound to MIDDLEUP.

  • xtmouse
    Handle xterm mouse events, usually bound to Esc [ M. It parses the rest of the sequence and generates fake "keys" that can be bound to macros in the joerc file. It uses a timer to detect double-click and triple-click. The keys are: MUP, MDOWN, MDRAG, M2UP, M2DOWN, M2DRAG, M3UP, M3DOWN, M3DRAG, MWUP and MWDOWN.

  • extmouse
    Handle extended xterm mouse events, usually bound to Esc [ <.

  • paste
    Insert base64 encoded text (for XTerm --enable-base64 option).

  • brpaste
    Disable autoindent, wordwrap and spaces. The idea is to bind this to Esc [ 2 0 0 ~ so that when the terminal emulator sends a mouse paste, the text is inserted as-is.

  • brpaste_done
    Restore autoindent, wordwrap and spaces modes to their original values before brpaste. The idea is to bind this to Esc [ 2 0 1 ~ so that these modes are restored after a mouse paste.

March 2016