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GNU nano (or nano) is a text editor which aims to introduce a simple interface and intuitive command options to console based text editing. nano supports features including colorized syntax highlighting, DOS/Mac file type conversions, spellchecking and UTF-8 encoding. nano opened with an empty buffer typically occupies under 1.5 MB of resident memory.


nano is available in the nano package. It is likely that is already on your system, as it is included in the base group.


The look, feel, and function of nano is typically controlled by way of either command-line arguments, or configuration commands within the file ~/.nanorc.

A sample configuration file is installed upon program installation and is located at /etc/nanorc. To customize your nano configuration, first create a local copy at ~/.nanorc:

$ cp /etc/nanorc ~/.nanorc

Proceed to establish the nano console environment by setting and/or unsetting commands within ~/.nanorc file.

Tip: nanorc(5) details the complete list configuration commands available for nano.
Note: Command-line arguments override and take precedence over the configuration commands established in ~/.nanorc

Syntax highlighting

Nano ships with predefined syntax highlighting rules, defined in /usr/share/nano/*.nanorc. To enable them, add the following line to your ~/.nanorc or to /etc/nanorc:

include "/usr/share/nano/*.nanorc"

Syntax highlighting enhancements which replace and expand the defaults can be found in the AUR, nano-syntax-highlighting-gitAUR. See [1] for Forth highlighting.


include "/etc/nano/pkgbuild.nanorc"


Unlike most interactive programs, suspension is not enabled by default. To change this, uncomment the 'set suspend' line in /etc/nanorc. This will allow you to use the keys Ctrl+z to send nano to the background.

Text wrapping

Unlike many text editors, nano wraps text. To disable this put this in your ~/.nanorc

set nowrap


Special functions

  • Ctrl key modified shortcuts (^) representing commonly used functions are listed along the bottom two lines of the nano screen.
  • Additional functions can be interactively toggled by way of Meta (typically Alt) and/or Esc key modified sequences.

Shortcut lists overview

Key1 Key2 Command Description
^G F1 Get Help Displays the online help files within the session window. A suggested read for nano users of all levels
^X F2 Exit Close and exit nano
^O F3 WriteOut Save the contents of the current file buffer to a file on the disk
^J F4 Justify Aligns text according to the geometry of the console window
^R F5 Read File Inserts another file into the current one at the cursor location
^W F6 Where Perform a case-insensitive string, or regular expression search
^Y F7 Prev Page Display the previous buffered screen
^V F8 Next Page Display the next buffered screen
^K F9 Cut Text Cut and store the current line from the beginning of the line to the end of the line
^U F10 UnCut Text Paste the contents of the cut buffer to the current cursor location
^C F11 Cur Pos Display line, column and character position information at the current location of the cursor
^T F12 To Spell Spellcheck the contents of the buffer with the built-in spell, if available
Tip: See the nano online help files via Ctrl+g within nano and the nano Command Manual for complete descriptions and additional support.

Selected toggle functions

Key1 Key2 Description
Meta+c Esc+c Toggles support for line, column and character position information
Meta+i Esc+i Toggles support for the auto indentation of lines
Meta+k Esc+k Toggles support for cutting text from the current cursor position to the end of the line
Meta+m Esc+m Toggles mouse support for cursor placement, marking and shortcut execution
Meta+x Esc+x Toggles the display of the shortcut list at the bottom of the nano screen for additional screen space
Tip: Feature Toggles lists the global toggles available for nano.

Tips & tricks

Replacing vi with nano

Casual users may prefer to use nano over vi for its simplicity and ease of use, and may opt to replace vi with nano as the default text editor for commands such as visudo.

Setting the VISUAL and EDITOR environment variables will work for many applications, for example:

export VISUAL=nano
export EDITOR=nano


Hijacked keybindings

Some window managers have keybindings that conflict with nano, for example Alt+Enter. Remove or remap them to e.g Super (with dconf for mutter, muffin and marco) and restart the window manager.

See also