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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


Shortcuts can be viewed from inside nano. See the nano online help files via Ctrl+g within nano and the nano Command Manual for complete descriptions and additional support.

Special functions

Keyboard shortcuts representing commonly used functions are listed along the bottom two lines of the nano screen.

They can be toggled by:

  • Ctrl for ^ based shortcuts
  • Meta (typically Alt) or Esc for M- based shortcuts
Tip: Feature Toggles lists the global toggles available for nano.

Tips and tricks

Replacing vi with nano

To replace vi with nano as the default text editor for commands such as visudo, set the VISUAL and EDITOR environment variables, 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