nano

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This manual documents GNU nano, a small and friendly text editor.


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1 Introduction

GNU nano is a small and friendly text editor. Besides basic text editing, nano offers many extra features, such as an interactive search-and-replace, undo/redo, syntax coloring, smooth scrolling, auto-indentation, go-to-line-and-column-number, feature toggles, file locking, backup files, and internationalization support.

The original goal for nano was to be a complete bug-for-bug emulation of Pico. But currently the goal is to be as compatible as possible while offering a superset of Pico’s functionality. See See Pico Compatibility, for more info.

Please report bugs via https://savannah.gnu.org/bugs/?group=nano.


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2 Invoking

The usual way to invoke nano is:

nano [FILE]

But it is also possible to specify one or more options, and to edit several files in a row. Additionally, the cursor can be put on a specific line of a file by adding the line number with a plus sign before the filename, and even in a specific column by adding it with a comma. So the complete command synopsis is:

nano [OPTION]… [[+LINE[,COLUMN]|+,COLUMN] FILE]…

But normallly you would set your preferred options in your .nanorc file. And when the positionlog option is set (making nano remember the cursor position when you close a file), you will rarely need to specify a line number.


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3 Command-line Options

nano takes the following options from the command line:

+line,column

Start at line number line and column number column (at least one of which must be specified) instead of the default of line 1, column 1.

-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. 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

Enable vim-style file locking when editing files.

-H
--historylog

Log search and replace strings to ~/.nano/search_history, so they can be retrieved in later sessions.

-I
--ignorercfiles

Don’t look at the system’s nanorc file 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.

-N
--noconvert

Disable automatic conversion of files from DOS/Mac format.

-O
--morespace

Use the blank line below the titlebar 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 value is "^([ \t]*[|>:}#])+" if extended regular expression support is available, and "> " otherwise. Note that \t stands for a literal Tab character.

-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

Enable smooth scrolling. Text will scroll line-by-line, instead of the usual chunk-by-chunk behavior.

-T number
--tabsize=number

Set the displayed tab length to number columns. The value of number must be greater than 0. The default value is 8.

-U
--quickblank

Do quick statusbar blanking. Statusbar 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 parts of words.

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

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

-Y name
--syntax=name

Specify a specific syntax from the nanorc files to use for highlighting. See See Syntax Highlighting, for more info.

-c
--constantshow

Constantly display the cursor position and line number on the statusbar. 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 command-line options and exit.

-i
--autoindent

Automatically indent new lines to the same number of spaces and tabs as the previous line.

-k
--cut

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 ^Q (XON) and ^S (XOFF) sequences so data being sent to the editor can be stopped and started.

-q
--quiet

Do not report errors in the nanorc file nor ask them to be acknowledged by pressing Enter at startup.

-r number
--fill=number

Hard-wrap lines at column number (by inserting a newline character). If the given value is 0 or less, wrapping will occur at the width of the screen minus the given amount, allowing the wrapping width to vary along with the width of the screen if and when it is resized. The default value is -8. This option conflicts with -w (--nowrap); the last one given takes effect.

-s program
--speller=program

Invoke the given program as the spell checker. By default, nano uses the command specified in the SPELL environment variable, or, if SPELL is not set, its own interactive spell checker that requires the spell program to be installed on your system.

-t
--tempfile

Don’t ask whether to save a modified buffer when exiting with ^X, but assume yes. This option is useful when nano is used as the composer of a mailer program.

-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

Don’t allow the contents of the file to be altered. Note that this option should NOT be used in place of correct file permissions to implement a read-only file.

-w
--nowrap

Don’t hard-wrap long lines at any length. This option conflicts with -r (--fill); the last one given takes effect.

-x
--nohelp

Expert Mode: don’t show the Shortcut List at the bottom of the screen. This affects the location of the statusbar as well, as in Expert Mode it is located at the very bottom of the editor.

Note: When accessing the help system, Expert Mode is temporarily disabled to display the help-system navigation keys.

-z
--suspend

Enable the ability to suspend nano using the system’s suspend keystroke (usually ^Z).

-$
--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$) or pass it separately (e.g. nano -wS -$).

-a
-b
-e
-f
-j

Ignored, for compatibility with Pico.


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4 Editor Basics


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4.1 Entering Text

nano is a "modeless" editor. This means that all keystrokes, with the exception of Control and Meta sequences, enter text into the file being edited.

Characters not present on the keyboard can be entered in two ways:


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4.2 Commands

Commands are given by using the Control key (Ctrl, shown as ^) or the Meta key (Alt or Cmd, shown as M-).

If for some reason on your system the combinations with Ctrl or Alt do not work, you can generate them by using the Esc key. A control-key sequence is generated by pressing the Esc key twice and then pressing the desired key, and a meta-key sequence by pressing the Esc key once and then pressing the desired key.


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4.3 The Cutbuffer

Text can be cut from a file, a whole line at a time, by using the ’Cut Text’ command (default key binding: ^K). The cut line is stored in the cutbuffer. Consecutive strokes of ^K will add each cut line to this buffer, but a ^K after any other keystroke will overwrite the entire cutbuffer.

The contents of the cutbuffer can be pasted back into the file with the ’Uncut Text’ command (default key binding: ^U).

A line of text can be copied into the cutbuffer (without cutting it) with the ’Copy Text’ command (default key binding: M-6).


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4.4 The Mark

Text can be selected by first ’setting the Mark’ (default key bindings: ^6 and M-A) and then moving the cursor to the other end of the portion to be selected. The selected portion of text will be highlighted in reverse video (or in bold if you set the boldtext option). This selection can now be cut or copied in its entirety with a single ^K or M-6. Or the selection can be used to limit the scope of a search-and-replace (^\) or spell-checking session (^T).

Cutting or copying selected text will toggle the mark off automatically. If necessary, it can be toggled off manually with another ^6 or M-A.


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4.5 Screen Layout

The default screen of nano consists of five areas. From top to bottom these are: the titlebar, a blank line, the edit window, the statusbar, and two help lines.

The titlebar consists of three sections: left, center and right. The section on the left displays the version of nano being used. The center section displays the current filename, or "New Buffer" if the file has not yet been named. The section on the right displays "Modified" if the file has been modified since it was last saved or opened.

The statusbar is the third line from the bottom of the screen. It shows important and informational messages. Any error messages that occur from using the editor will appear on the statusbar. Any questions that are asked of the user will be asked on the statusbar, and any user input (search strings, filenames, etc.) will be input on the statusbar.

The two help lines at the bottom of the screen show some of the most essential functions of the editor. These two lines are called the Shortcut List.


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4.6 Search and Replace

One can search the current buffer for the occurrence of any string with the Search command (default key binding: ^W). The default search mode is forward, case-insensitive, and for literal strings. But one can search backwards by pressing M-B, search case sensitively with M-C, and interpret regular expressions in the search string with M-R.

A regular expression in a search string always covers just one line; it cannot span multiple lines. And when replacing (with ^\ or M-R) the replacement string cannot contain a newline (LF).


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4.7 Using the Mouse

When mouse support has been configured and enabled, a single mouse click places the cursor at the indicated position. Clicking a second time in the same position toggles the mark. Clicking in the shortcut list executes the selected shortcut. To be able to select text with the left button, or paste text with the middle button, hold down the Shift key during those actions.

The mouse will work in the X Window System, and on the console when gpm is running.


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4.8 Limitation

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


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5 Built-in Help

The built-in help system in nano is available by pressing ^G. It is fairly self-explanatory. It documents the various parts of the editor and the available keystrokes. Navigation is via the ^Y (Page Up) and ^V (Page Down) keys. ^X exits the help system.


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6 Feature Toggles

Toggles allow you to change on-the-fly certain aspects of the editor which would normally be specified via command-line options. They are invoked via Meta-key sequences (see See Commands, for more info). The following global toggles are available:

Backup Files Toggle (Meta-B)

toggles the -B (--backup) command-line option.

Constant Cursor Position Display Toggle (Meta-C)

toggles the -c (--constantshow) command-line option.

Multiple File Buffers Toggle (Meta-F)

toggles the -F (--multibuffer) command-line option.

Smart Home Key Toggle (Meta-H)

toggles the -A (--smarthome) command-line option.

Auto Indent Toggle (Meta-I)

toggles the -i (--autoindent) command-line option.

Cut To End Toggle (Meta-K)

toggles the -k (--cut) command-line option.

Long Line Wrapping Toggle (Meta-L)

toggles the -w (--nowrap) command-line option.

Mouse Support Toggle (Meta-M)

toggles the -m (--mouse) command-line option.

No Conversion From DOS/Mac Format Toggle (Meta-N)

toggles the -N (--noconvert) command-line option.

More Space For Editing Toggle (Meta-O)

toggles the -O (--morespace) command-line option.

Whitespace Display Toggle (Meta-P)

toggles the whitespace-display mode. See See Whitespace, for more info.

Tabs to Spaces Toggle (Meta-Q)

toggles the -E (--tabstospaces) command-line option.

Smooth Scrolling Toggle (Meta-S)

toggles the -S (--smooth) command-line option.

Expert/No Help Toggle (Meta-X)

toggles the -x (--nohelp) command-line option.

Color Syntax Highlighting Toggle (Meta-Y)

toggles color syntax highlighting if you have color syntaxes in your nanorc. See See Syntax Highlighting, for more info.

Suspension Toggle (Meta-Z)

toggles the -z (--suspend) command-line option.

Soft Wrapping Toggle (Meta-$)

toggles the -$ (--softwrap) command-line option.

Line Numbers Toggle (Meta-#)

toggles the -l (--linenumbers) command-line option.


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7 Nanorc Files

The nanorc files contain the default settings for nano. They should be in Unix format, not in DOS or Mac format. During startup, nano will first read the system-wide settings, from /etc/nanorc (the exact path might be different), and then the user-specific settings, from ~/.nanorc.

A nanorc file accepts a series of "set" and "unset" commands, which can be used to configure nano on startup without using command-line options. Additionally, there are some commands to define syntax highlighting and to rebind keys — See Syntax Highlighting, and See Rebinding Keys. nano will read one command per line.

Options in nanorc files take precedence over nano’s defaults, and command-line options override nanorc settings. Also, options that do not take an argument are unset by default. So using the unset command is only needed when wanting to override a setting of the system’s nanorc file in your own ~/.nanorc. Options that take an argument cannot be unset.

Quotes inside string parameters don’t have to be escaped with backslashes. The last double quote in the string will be treated as its end. For example, for the brackets option, ""')>]}" will match ", ', ), >, ], and }.


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7.1 Settings

The supported settings in a nanorc file are:

set allow_insecure_backup

When backing up files, allow the backup to succeed even if its permissions can’t be (re)set due to special OS considerations. You should NOT enable this option unless you are sure you need it.

set autoindent

Use auto-indentation.

set backup

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

set 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 with set backup or --backup or -B. The uniquely numbered files are stored in the specified directory.

set backwards

Do backwards searches by default.

set boldtext

Use bold instead of reverse video for the titlebar, statusbar, key combos, and selected text. This can be overridden for the first three by setting the options titlecolor, statuscolor, and keycolor.

set brackets "string"

Set the characters treated as closing brackets when justifying paragraphs. This may not include blank characters. Only closing punctuation (see set punct), optionally followed by the specified closing brackets, can end sentences. The default value is "')>]}".

set casesensitive

Do case-sensitive searches by default.

set constantshow

Constantly display the cursor position in the status bar. (The old form of this option, set const, is deprecated.)

set cut

Use cut-to-end-of-line by default, instead of cutting the whole line.

set fill number

Hard-wrap lines at column number number. If number is 0 or less, the maximum line length will be the screen width less number columns. The default value is -8.

set functioncolor fgcolor,bgcolor

Specify the color combination to use for the function descriptions in the two help lines at the bottom of the screen. See set titlecolor for more details.

set historylog

Enable the use of ~/.nano/search_history for saving and reading search/replace strings.

set justifytrim

When justifying text, trailing whitespace will automatically be removed.

set keycolor fgcolor,bgcolor

Specify the color combination to use for the shortcut key combos in the two help lines at the bottom of the screen. See set titlecolor for more details.

set linenumbers

Display line numbers to the left of the text area.

set locking

Enable vim-style lock-files for when editing files.

set matchbrackets "string"

Set the opening and closing brackets that can be found by bracket searches. This may not include blank characters. The opening set must come before the closing set, and the two sets must be in the same order. The default value is "(<[{)>]}".

set morespace

Use the blank line below the titlebar as extra editing space.

set mouse

Enable mouse support, so that mouse clicks can be used to place the cursor, set the mark (with a double click), or execute shortcuts.

set multibuffer

When reading in a file with ^R, insert it into a new buffer by default.

set noconvert

Don’t convert files from DOS/Mac format.

set nohelp

Don’t display the help lists at the bottom of the screen.

set nonewlines

Don’t add newlines to the ends of files.

set nowrap

Don’t hard-wrap text at all.

set numbercolor fgcolor,bgcolor

Specify the color combination to use for line numbers. See set titlecolor for more details.

set operatingdir "directory"

nano will only read and write files inside "directory" and its subdirectories. Also, the current directory is changed to here, so files are inserted from this directory. By default, the operating directory feature is turned off.

set positionlog

Save the cursor position of files between editing sessions. The cursor position is remembered for the 200 most-recently edited files. (The old form of this option, set poslog, is deprecated.)

set preserve

Preserve the XON and XOFF keys (^Q and ^S).

set punct "string"

Set the characters treated as closing punctuation when justifying paragraphs. This may not include blank characters. Only the specified closing punctuation, optionally followed by closing brackets (see set brackets), can end sentences. The default value is "!.?".

set quickblank

Do quick statusbar blanking. Statusbar messages will disappear after 1 keystroke instead of 25.

set quiet

When set, nano will not report errors in the nanorc file nor ask them to be acknowledged by pressing Enter at startup. If this option is used, it should be placed at the top of the file to be fully effective.

set quotestr "string"

The email-quote string, used to justify email-quoted paragraphs. This is an extended regular expression if your system supports them, otherwise a literal string. The default value is "^([ \\t]*[#:>\\|}])+" if you have extended regular expression support, and "> " otherwise. Note that \t stands for a literal Tab character.

set 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.

set 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.

set regexp

Do extended regular expression searches by default.

set showcursor

Put the cursor on the highlighted item in the file browser, to aid braille users.

set 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.

set smooth

Use smooth scrolling by default.

set softwrap

Enable soft line wrapping for easier viewing of very long lines.

set speller "spellprog"

Use spelling checker "spellprog" instead of the built-in one, which calls "spell".

set statuscolor fgcolor,bgcolor

Specify the color combination to use for the statusbar. See set titlecolor for more details.

set suspend

Allow nano to be suspended.

set tabsize number

Use a tab size of number columns. The value of number must be greater than 0. The default value is 8.

set tabstospaces

Convert typed tabs to spaces.

set tempfile

Save automatically on exit, don’t prompt.

set titlecolor fgcolor,bgcolor

Specify the color combination to use for the titlebar. Valid color names for foreground and background are: white, black, red, blue, green, yellow, magenta, and cyan. And either fgcolor or ,bgcolor may be left out.

set 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 set noconvert.)

set view

Disallow file modification.

set whitespace "string"

Set the two characters used to indicate the presence of tabs and spaces. They must be single-column characters. The default pair for a UTF-8 locale is "»·", and for other locales ">.".

set wordbounds

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

set wordchars "string"

Specify which other characters (besides the normal alphanumeric ones) should be considered as parts of words. This overrides the option wordbounds.


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7.2 Syntax Highlighting

Coloring the different syntactic elements of a file is done via regular expressions (see the color command below). This is inherently imperfect, because regular expressions are not powerful enough to fully parse a file. Nevertheless, regular expressions can do a lot and are easy to make, so they are a good fit for a small editor like nano.

A separate syntax can be defined for each kind of file via the following commands in a nanorc file:

syntax "str" ["fileregex" …]

Defines a syntax named "str" which can be activated via the -Y/--syntax command-line option, or will be automatically activated if the current filename matches the extended regular expression "fileregex". All subsequent color, icolor, header and other such statements will apply to this "str" syntax until a new syntax command is encountered.

The "none" syntax is reserved; specifying it on the command line is the same as not having a syntax at all. The "default" syntax is special: it takes no "fileregex", and applies to files that don’t match any syntax’s "fileregex".

linter program [arg …]

Use the given program to do a syntax check on the current file (this overrides the speller function when defined).

formatter program [arg …]

Use the given program to automatically reformat text. Useful in certain programming languages (e.g. Go).

header "regex" …

Add one or more regexes which will be compared against the very first line of the file to be edited, to determine whether this syntax should be used for that file.

magic "regex" …

Add one or more regexes which will be compared against the result of querying the magic database about the file to be edited, to determine whether this syntax should be used for that file. This functionality only works when libmagic is installed on the system and will be silently ignored otherwise.

comment "string"

Use the given string for commenting and uncommenting lines. A vertical bar or pipe character (|) designates bracket-style comments; for example, "/*|*/" for CSS files. The characters before the pipe are prepended to the line and the characters after the pipe are appended at the end of the line. If no pipe character is present, the entire string is prepended; for example, "#" for Python files. If empty double quotes are specified, the comment/uncomment functions are disabled; for example, "" for JSON. Double quotes or backslashes may be escaped with a backslash; for example, ".\\"" for man page source.

color fgcolor,bgcolor "regex" …

Display all pieces of text that match the extended regular expression "regex" with foreground color "fgcolor" and background color "bgcolor", at least one of which must be specified. Valid colors for foreground and background are: white, black, red, blue, green, yellow, magenta, and cyan. You may use the prefix "bright" to get a stronger color highlight for the foreground. If your terminal supports transparency, not specifying a "bgcolor" tells nano to attempt to use a transparent background.

icolor fgcolor,bgcolor "regex" …

Same as above, except that the text matching is case insensitive.

color fgcolor,bgcolor start="sr" end="er"

Display all pieces of text whose start matches extended regular expression "sr" and whose end matches extended regular expression "er" with foreground color "fgcolor" and background color "bgcolor", at least one of which must be specified. This means that, after an initial instance of "sr", all text will be highlighted until the first instance of "er". This allows syntax highlighting to span multiple lines.

icolor fgcolor,bgcolor start="sr" end="er"

Same as above, except that the text matching is case insensitive.

include "syntaxfile"

Read in self-contained color syntaxes from "syntaxfile". Note that "syntaxfile" may contain only the above commands, from syntax to icolor.

extendsyntax str directive [arg …]

Extend the syntax previously defined as str to include new information. This allows you to add a new color, icolor, header, magic, comment, linter, or formatter directive to an already defined syntax — useful when you want to slightly improve a syntax defined in one of the system-installed files (which are normally not writable).


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7.3 Rebinding Keys

Key bindings can be changed via the following two commands in a nanorc file:

bind key function menu

Rebinds key to function in the context of menu (or in all menus where the function exists by using all).

unbind key menu

Unbinds key from menu (or from all menus where it exists by using all).

The format of key should be one of:

^

followed by an alpha character or the word "Space". Example: ^C

M-

followed by a printable character or the word "Space". Example: M-C

F

followed by a numeric value from 1 to 16. Example: F10

Valid names for the function to be bound are:

help

Invokes the help viewer.

cancel

Cancels the current command.

exit

Exits from the program (or from the help viewer or the file browser).

writeout

Writes the current buffer to disk, asking for a name.

savefile

Writes the current file to disk without prompting or warning.

insert

Inserts a file into the current buffer (at the current cursor position), or into a new buffer when option multibuffer is set.

whereis

Searches for text in the current buffer — or for filenames matching a string in the current list in the file browser

searchagain

Repeats the last search command without prompting. (The form ’research’ is deprecated.)

findprevious

As searchagain, but always in the backward direction.

findnext

As searchagain, but always in the forward direction.

replace

Interactively replaces text within the current buffer.

cut

Cuts and stores the current line (or the marked region).

copytext

Copies the current line (or the marked region) without deleting it.

uncut

Copies the currently stored text into the current buffer at the current cursor position.

mark

Sets the mark at the current position, to start selecting text.

cutwordleft

Cuts from the cursor position to the beginning of the preceding word.

cutwordright

Cuts from the cursor position to the beginning of the next word.

cutrestoffile

Cuts all text from the cursor position till the end of the buffer.

curpos

Shows the current cursor position: the line, column, and character positions. (The form ’cursorpos’ is deprecated.)

wordcount

Counts the number of words, lines and characters in the current buffer.

speller

Invokes a spell-checking program (or a linting program, if the current syntax highlighting defines one).

justify

Justifies the current paragraph.

fulljustify

Justifies the entire current buffer.

indent

Indents (shifts to the right) the currently marked text.

unindent

Unindents (shifts to the left) the currently marked text.

comment

Comments or uncomments the current line or marked lines, using the comment style specified in the active syntax.

left

Goes left one position (in the editor or browser).

right

Goes right one position (in the editor or browser).

up

Goes one line up (in the editor or browser).

down

Goes one line down (in the editor or browser).

scrollup

Scrolls up one line of text from the current position.

scrolldown

Scrolls down one line of text from the current position.

prevword

Moves the cursor to the beginning of the previous word.

nextword

Moves the cursor to the beginning of the next word.

home

Moves the cursor to the beginning of the current line.

end

Moves the cursor to the end of the current line.

beginpara

Moves the cursor to the beginning of the current paragraph.

endpara

Moves the cursor to the end of the current paragraph.

prevblock

Moves the cursor to the beginning of the current or preceding block of text. (Blocks are separated by one or more blank lines.)

nextblock

Moves the cursor to the beginning of the next block of text.

prevpage

Goes up one screenful.

nextpage

Goes down one screenful.

firstline

Goes to the first line of the file.

lastline

Goes to the last line of the file.

gotoline

Goes to a specific line (and column if specified). Negative numbers count from the end of the file (and end of the line).

gototext

Switches from targeting a line number to searching for text.

findbracket

Moves the cursor to the bracket (brace, parenthesis, etc.) that matches (pairs) with the one under the cursor.

prevbuf

Switches to editing/viewing the previous buffer when multiple buffers are open.

nextbuf

Switches to editing/viewing the next buffer when multiple buffers are open.

verbatim

Inserts the next keystroke verbatim into the file.

tab

Inserts a tab at the current cursor location.

enter

Inserts a new line below the current one.

delete

Deletes the character under the cursor.

backspace

Deletes the character before the cursor.

undo

Undoes the last performed text action (add text, delete text, etc).

redo

Redoes the last undone action (i.e., it undoes an undo).

refresh

Refreshes the screen.

suspend

Suspends the editor (if the suspending function is enabled, see the "suspendenable" entry below).

casesens

Toggles case sensitivity in searching (search/replace menus only).

regexp

Toggles whether searching/replacing is based on literal strings or regular expressions. (The form ’regex’ is deprecated.)

backwards

Toggles whether searching/replacing goes forward or backward.

prevhistory

Shows the previous history entry in the prompt menus (e.g. search).

nexthistory

Shows the next history entry in the prompt menus (e.g. search).

flipreplace

Toggles between searching for something and replacing something. (The form ’dontreplace’ is deprecated.)

flipexecute

Toggles between inserting a file and executing a command.

flipnewbuffer

Toggles between inserting into the current buffer and into a new empty buffer. (The form ’newbuffer’ is deprecated.)

dosformat

When writing a file, switches to writing a DOS format (CR/LF).

macformat

When writing a file, switches to writing a Mac format.

append

When writing a file, appends to the end instead of overwriting.

prepend

When writing a file, ’prepends’ (writes at the beginning) instead of overwriting.

backup

When writing a file, creates a backup of the current file.

discardbuffer

When about to write a file, discard the current buffer without saving. (This function is bound by default only when option --tempfile is in effect.)

tofiles

Starts the file browser, allowing to select a file from a list.

gotodir

Goes to a directory to be specified, allowing to browse anywhere in the filesystem.

firstfile

Goes to the first file when using the file browser (reading or writing files).

lastfile

Goes to the last file when using the file browser (reading or writing files).

nohelp

Toggles the presence of the two-line list of key bindings at the bottom of the screen.

constupdate

Toggles the constant display of the current line, column, and character positions.

morespace

Toggles the presence of the blank line which ’separates’ the titlebar from the file text.

smoothscroll

Toggles smooth scrolling (when moving around with the arrow keys).

softwrap

Toggles the displaying of overlong lines on multiple screen lines.

whitespacedisplay

Toggles the showing of whitespace.

nosyntax

Toggles syntax highlighting.

smarthome

Toggles the smartness of the Home key.

autoindent

Toggles whether new lines will contain the same amount of whitespace as the preceding line.

cuttoend

Toggles whether cutting text will cut the whole line or just from the current cursor position to the end of the line.

nowrap

Toggles whether long lines will be hard-wrapped to the next line.

tabstospaces

Toggles whether typed tabs will be converted to spaces.

backupfile

Toggles whether a backup will be made of the file to be edited.

multibuffer

Toggles whether a file is inserted into the current buffer or read into a new buffer.

mouse

Toggles mouse support.

noconvert

Toggles automatic conversion of files from DOS/Mac format.

suspendenable

Toggles whether the suspend sequence (normally ^Z) will suspend the editor window.

Valid names for menu are:

main

The main editor window where text is entered and edited.

search

The search menu (AKA whereis).

replace

The ’search to replace’ menu.

replacewith

The ’replace with’ menu, which comes up after ’search to replace’. (The form ’replace2’ is deprecated.)

gotoline

The ’goto line (and column)’ menu.

writeout

The ’write file’ menu.

insert

The ’insert file’ menu.

extcmd

The menu for inserting output from an external command, reached from the insert menu.

help

The help-viewer menu.

spell

The interactive spell checker Yes/no menu.

linter

The linter menu.

browser

The file browser for inserting or writing a file.

whereisfile

The ’search for a file’ menu in the file browser.

gotodir

The ’go to directory’ menu in the file browser.

all

A special name that encompasses all menus. For bind it means all menus where the specified function exists; for unbind it means all menus where the specified key exists.


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8 The File Browser

When reading or writing files, pressing ^T will invoke the file browser. Here, one can navigate directories in a graphical manner in order to find the desired file.

Basic movement in the file browser is accomplished with the arrow keys, page up, and page down. More advanced movement is accomplished by searching via ^W (or ’w’) and changing directories via ^_ (or ’g’). The behavior of the Enter (or ’s’) key varies by what is currently selected. If the currently selected object is a directory, the file browser will enter and display the contents of the directory. If the object is a file, this filename and path are copied to the statusbar, and the file browser exits.


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9 Pico Compatibility

nano attempts to emulate Pico as closely as possible, but there are certain differences between the editors:

Interactive Replace

Instead of allowing you to replace either just one occurrence of a search string or all of them, nano’s replace function is interactive: it will pause at each found search string and query whether to replace this instance. You can then choose Yes, or No (skip this one), or All (don’t ask any more), or Cancel (stop with replacing).

Search and Replace History

When the option -H or --historylog is given (or set in the .nanorc file), text entered as search or replace strings is stored. These strings can be accessed with the up/down arrow keys. A retrieved string can subsequently be edited.

Writing, Appending, or Prepending Selected Text to Files

Text selected using the marking key (^^) can be written out, appended, or prepended to a new or existing file using the WriteOut key (^O).

Toggles

Many options which alter the functionality of the program can be "toggled" on or off using Meta key sequences, meaning the program does not have to be restarted to turn a particular feature on or off. See the internal help function (^G) for a list of features that can be toggled. Or see See Feature Toggles instead.

Current Cursor Position

The output of the "Display Cursor Position" command (^C) displays not only the current line and character position of the cursor, but also (between the two) the current column position.

Spell Checking

In the internal spell checker misspelled words are sorted alphabetically and trimmed for uniqueness, such that the words ’apple’ and ’Apple’ will be prompted for correction separately.


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10 Building and Configure Options

Building nano from source is fairly straightforward if you are familiar with compiling programs with autoconf support:

The possible options to ./configure are:

--disable-browser

Disable the mini file browser when reading or writing files.

--disable-color

Disable support for the syntax coloring of files. This also eliminates the -Y command-line option, which chooses a specific syntax.

--disable-extra

Disable extra features. At the moment, this is just easter-egg-type stuff.

--disable-help

Disable the help function. Doing this makes the binary much smaller, but makes it difficult for new users to learn more than very basic things about using the editor.

--disable-histories

Disable the code for the handling of the history files: the search and replace strings that were used, and the cursor position at which each file was closed. This also eliminates the -H and -P command-line options, which switch on the logging of search/replace strings and cursor positions.

--disable-justify

Disable the justify and unjustify functions.

--disable-libmagic

Disable the use of the library of magic-number tests (for determining the file type and thus which syntax to use for colouring — often the tests on filename extension and header line will be enough).

--disable-mouse

Disable all mouse functionality. This also eliminates the -m command-line option, which enables the mouse functionality.

--disable-multibuffer

Disable support for opening multiple files at a time and switching between them on the fly. This also eliminates the -F command-line option, which causes a file to be read into a separate buffer by default.

--disable-nanorc

Disable support for reading the nanorc files at startup. With such support, you can store custom settings in a system-wide and a per-user nanorc file rather than having to pass command-line options to get the desired behavior. See See Nanorc Files, for more info. Disabling this also eliminates the -I and -q command-line options; the first inhibits the reading of nanorcfiles, and the second suppresses warnings about errors in those files.

--disable-operatingdir

Disable setting the operating directory. This also eliminates the -o command-line option, which sets the operating directory.

--disable-speller

Disable use of the spell checker. This also eliminates the -s command-line option, which allows specifying an alternate spell checker.

--disable-tabcomp

Disable the tab completion code when reading or writing files.

--disable-wrapping

Disable hard-wrapping of overlong lines. This also eliminates the -w command-line option, which enables long-line wrapping.

--enable-tiny

This option disables all the above. It also disables some of the larger internals of the editor, like the marking code and the cut-to-end-of-line code. It also disables the function toggles. By using the enabling counterpart of the above options together with --enable-tiny, specific features can be switched back on.

--enable-debug

Enable support for runtime debug output. This can get pretty messy, so chances are you only want this feature when you’re working on the nano source.

--disable-nls

Disables Native Language support. This will disable the use of any available GNU nano translations.

--disable-wrapping-as-root

Disable hard-wrapping of overlong lines by default when nano is run as root.

--enable-utf8

Enable support for reading and writing Unicode files. This will require either a wide version of curses, or a UTF-8-enabled version of Slang.

--disable-utf8

Disable support for reading and writing Unicode files. Normally the configure script auto-detects whether to enable UTF-8 support or not. You can use this or the previous option to override that detection.

--enable-altrcname=name

Use the file with the given name (in the user’s home directory) as nano’s settings file, instead of the default .nanorc.

--with-slang

Compile nano against Slang instead of against ncurses or other curses libraries.

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