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GNU's nano is an easy to use text editor with additional functionality. nano is Gentoo's default editor and is part of each installation. It can be replaced without problems by any other text editor.


USE flags

Optional USE flags for app-editors/nano:
USE flag (what is that?) Default Recommended Description
debug No No Enable debug messages and assert warnings. Note that these will all be sent straight to stderr rather than some logging facility.
justify No Enable justify/unjustify functions for text formatting.
magic Yes Add magic file support (sys-apps/file) to automatically detect appropriate syntax highlighting
minimal No No Disable all fancy features, including ones that otherwise have a dedicated USE flag (such as spelling).
ncurses Yes Add ncurses support (console display library)
nls Yes Add Native Language Support (using gettext - GNU locale utilities)
slang No Add support for the slang text display library (it's like ncurses, but different)
spell Yes Add dictionary support
unicode Yes Add support for Unicode


root #emerge --ask app-editors/nano


First steps

Start nano by typing nano in a terminal followed by options or a file. Passing a file name is the most common use:

user $nano filename

Nano now shows the content of the text file and which can be modified as desired. Navigate through the text with the arrow keys.

At the bottom nano shows shortcuts for common actions, e.g. save or exit. The shortcut to save is shown as ^O. Prefix the shortcut with the Ctrl key. So to save a document (after editing it) press Ctrl+O. To exit press Ctrl+X.

To edit configuration files always pass nano the -w option. Without the -w option long lines become wrapped lines. This creates problems when saving because the lines are saved as wrapped lines instead of how they were in the original file. Many time this will break configuration files.

To see an overview over all options run nano --help

Cut, copy and paste

Lines can be cut with the shortcut Ctrl+K (copied with Alt+^) and paste with Ctrl+U. To cut or copy multiple lines press the shortcut multiple times.


Search the text with Ctrl+W. Continue the search with Alt+W.

More shortcuts

Action Shortcut Other shortcut
Show the help Ctrl+G F1
Close file Ctrl+X F2
Save file Ctrl+O F3
Search text Ctrl+W F6
Continue search Alt+W F16
Copy line to clipboard Alt+^ Alt+6
Cut line to clipboard Ctrl+K F9
Paste line from clipboard Ctrl+U F10


Set options permanently in the /etc/nanorc configuration file. This configuration applies system wide to all users. To change options only for one user, set the option in the user's ~/.nanorc file. As a general rule, files present in a user's home directory override system wide settings.

See also