nano - Nano’s ANOther editor, an enhanced free Pico clone


nano [options] [[+line[,column]] file]...


nano is a small and friendly editor. It copies the look and feel of Pico, but is free software, and implements several features that Pico lacks, such as: opening multiple files, scrolling per line, undo/redo, syntax coloring, line numbering, and soft-wrapping overlong lines.

When giving a filename on the command line, the cursor can be put on a specific line by adding the line number with a plus sign (+) before the filename, and even in a specific column by adding it with a comma.

As a special case: if instead of a filename a dash (-) is given, nano will read data from standard input.


Entering text and moving around in a file is straightforward: typing the letters and using the normal cursor movement keys. Commands are entered by using the Control (^) and the Alt or Meta (M-) keys. Typing ^K deletes the current line and puts it in the cutbuffer. Consecutive ^Ks will put all deleted lines together in the cutbuffer. Any cursor movement or executing any other command will cause the next ^K to overwrite the cutbuffer. A ^U will paste the current contents of the cutbuffer at the current cursor position.

When a more precise piece of text needs to be cut or copied, one can mark its start with ^6, move the cursor to its end (the marked text will be highlighted), and then use ^K to cut it, or M-6 to copy it to the cutbuffer. One can also save the marked text to a file with ^O, or spell check it with ^T.

Since nano-2.7.0, text can also be selected by holding Shift and moving the cursor with the arrow keys. Holding down the Alt key too will increase the stride.

The two lines at the bottom of the screen show some important commands; the built-in help (^G) lists all the available ones. The default key bindings can be changed via a nanorc file -- see nanorc(5).


-A, --smarthome

Make the Home key smarter. When Home is pressed anywhere but at the very beginning of non-whitespace characters on a line, the cursor will jump to that beginning (either forwards or backwards). If the cursor is already at that position, it will jump to the true beginning of the line.

-B, --backup

When saving a file, back up the previous version of it, using the current filename suffixed with a tilde (~).

-C directory, --backupdir=directory

Make and keep not just one backup file, but make and keep a uniquely numbered one every time a file is saved -- when backups are enabled (-B). The uniquely numbered files are stored in the specified directory.

-D, --boldtext

Use bold text instead of reverse video text.

-E, --tabstospaces

Convert typed tabs to spaces.

-F, --multibuffer

Read a file into a new buffer by default.

-G, --locking

Use vim-style file locking when editing files.

-H, --historylog

Save the last hundred search strings and replacement strings and executed commands, so they can be easily reused in later sessions.

-I, --ignorercfiles

Don’t look at the system’s nanorc nor at the user’s nanorc.

-K, --rebindkeypad

Interpret the numeric keypad keys so that they all work properly. You should only need to use this option if they don’t, as mouse support won’t work properly with this option enabled.

-L, --nonewlines

Don’t add newlines to the ends of files.

-M, --trimblanks

Snip trailing whitespace from the wrapped line when automatic hard-wrapping occurs or when text is justified.

-N, --noconvert

Disable automatic conversion of files from DOS/Mac format.

-O, --morespace

Use the blank line below the title bar as extra editing space.

-P, --positionlog

For the 200 most recent files, log the last position of the cursor, and place it at that position again upon reopening such a file. (The old form of this option, --poslog, is deprecated.)

-Q "characters", --quotestr="characters"

Set the quoting string for justifying. The default is "^([ \t]*[#:>\|}])+" if extended regular expression support is available, or "> " otherwise. Note that \t stands for a Tab.

-R, --restricted

Restricted mode: don’t read or write to any file not specified on the command line; don’t read any nanorc files nor history files; don’t allow suspending nor spell checking; don’t allow a file to be appended to, prepended to, or saved under a different name if it already has one; and don’t use backup files. This restricted mode is also accessible by invoking nano with any name beginning with ’r’ (e.g. "rnano").

-S, --smooth

Use smooth scrolling: text will scroll line-by-line, instead of the usual chunk-by-chunk behavior.

-T number, --tabsize=number

Set the size (width) of a tab to number columns. The value of number must be greater than 0. The default value is 8.

-U, --quickblank

Do quick status-bar blanking: status-bar messages will disappear after 1 keystroke instead of 25. Note that option -c (--constantshow) overrides this.

-V, --version

Show the current version number and exit.

-W, --wordbounds

Detect word boundaries differently by treating punctuation characters as part of a word.

-X "characters", --wordchars="characters"

Specify which other characters (besides the normal alphanumeric ones) should be considered as part of a word. This overrides option -W (--wordbounds).

-Y name, --syntax=name

Specify the name of the syntax highlighting to use from among the ones defined in the nanorc files.

-a, --atblanks

When doing soft line wrapping, wrap lines at whitespace instead of always at the edge of the screen.

-c, --constantshow

Constantly show the cursor position on the status bar. Note that this overrides option -U (--quickblank).

-d, --rebinddelete

Interpret the Delete key differently so that both Backspace and Delete work properly. You should only need to use this option if Backspace acts like Delete on your system.

-g, --showcursor

Make the cursor visible in the file browser, putting it on the highlighted item. Useful for braille users.

-h, --help

Show a summary of the available command-line options and exit.

-i, --autoindent

Indent new lines to the previous line’s indentation. Useful when editing source code.

-k, --cutfromcursor

Make the ’Cut Text’ command (normally ^K) cut from the current cursor position to the end of the line, instead of cutting the entire line.

-l, --linenumbers

Display line numbers to the left of the text area.

-m, --mouse

Enable mouse support, if available for your system. When enabled, mouse clicks can be used to place the cursor, set the mark (with a double click), and execute shortcuts. The mouse will work in the X Window System, and on the console when gpm is running. Text can still be selected through dragging by holding down the Shift key.

-n, --noread

Treat any name given on the command line as a new file. This allows nano to write to named pipes: it will start with a blank buffer, and will write to the pipe when the user saves the "file". This way nano can be used as an editor in combination with for instance gpg without having to write sensitive data to disk first.

-o directory, --operatingdir=directory

Set the operating directory. This makes nano set up something similar to a chroot.

-p, --preserve

Preserve the XON and XOFF sequences (^Q and ^S) so they will be caught by the terminal.

-q, --quiet

Obsolete option. Recognized but ignored.

-r number, --fill=number

Hard-wrap lines at column number. If this value is 0 or less, wrapping will occur at the width of the screen less number columns, allowing the wrap point to vary along with the width of the screen if the screen is resized. The default value is -8. This option conflicts with -w (--nowrap) -- the last one given takes effect.

-s program, --speller=program

Use this alternative spell checker command.

-t, --tempfile

Save a changed buffer without prompting (when exiting with ^X).

-u, --unix

Save a file by default in Unix format. This overrides nano’s default behavior of saving a file in the format that it had. (This option has no effect when you also use --noconvert.)

-v, --view

Just view the file and disallow editing: read-only mode.

-w, --nowrap

Disable the hard-wrapping of long lines. This option conflicts with -r (--fill) -- the last one given takes effect.

-x, --nohelp

Don’t show the two help lines at the bottom of the screen.

-z, --suspend

Enable the suspend ability.

-$, --softwrap

Enable ’soft wrapping’. This will make nano attempt to display the entire contents of any line, even if it is longer than the screen width, by continuing it over multiple screen lines. Since ’$’ normally refers to a variable in the Unix shell, you should specify this option last when using other options (e.g. ’nano -wS$’) or pass it separately (e.g. ’nano -wS -$’).

-b, -e, -f, -j

Ignored, for compatibility with Pico.


Several of the above options can be switched on and off also while nano is running. For example, M-L toggles the hard-wrapping of long lines, M-$ toggles soft-wrapping, M-# toggles line numbers, M-M toggles the mouse, M-I auto-indentation, and M-X the help lines. See at the end of the ^G help text for a complete list.


nano will read two configuration files: first the system’s nanorc (if it exists), and then the user’s nanorc (if it exists), either ~/.nanorc or $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/nano/nanorc or ~/.config/nano/nanorc, whichever is encountered first. See nanorc(5) for more information on the possible contents of those files.


If no alternative spell checker command is specified on the command line nor in one of the nanorc files, nano will check the SPELL environment variable for one.

In some cases nano will try to dump the buffer into an emergency file. This will happen mainly if nano receives a SIGHUP or SIGTERM or runs out of memory. It will write the buffer into a file named if the buffer didn’t have a name already, or will add a ".save" suffix to the current filename. If an emergency file with that name already exists in the current directory, it will add ".save" plus a number (e.g. ".save.1") to the current filename in order to make it unique. In multibuffer mode, nano will write all the open buffers to their respective emergency files.


Justifications (^J) are not yet covered by the general undo system. So after a justification that is not immediately undone, earlier edits cannot be undone any more. The workaround is, of course, to exit without saving.

The recording and playback of keyboard macros works correctly only on a terminal emulator, not on a Linux console (VT), because the latter is a deficient terminal.

Please report any other bugs that you encounter via:




/usr/share/doc/nano/ (or equivalent on your system)


Chris Allegretta and others (see the files AUTHORS and THANKS for details). This manual page was originally written by Jordi Mallach for the Debian system (but may be used by others).