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GNU nano is an easy to use text editor with additional functionality. nano will be installed by default, because it is the first "one of many" dependency of the virtual/editor package, which is part of the system set. It can be easily replaced with another text editor.


USE flags

USE flags for app-editors/nano GNU GPL'd Pico clone with more functionality

debug Enable debug messages and assert warnings. Note that these will all be sent straight to stderr rather than some logging facility.
justify Enable justify/unjustify functions for text formatting.
magic Add magic file support (sys-apps/file) to automatically detect appropriate syntax highlighting
minimal Disable all fancy features, including ones that otherwise have a dedicated USE flag (such as spelling).
ncurses Add ncurses support (console display library)
nls Add Native Language Support (using gettext - GNU locale utilities)
spell Add dictionary support
static !!do not set this during bootstrap!! Causes binaries to be statically linked instead of dynamically
unicode 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.

Prior to nano 4.0, when editing configuration files, always pass nano the -w option. Without this option, long lines are wrapped by inserting newlines - this will often 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.

Syntax highlighting

Support for syntax highlight is achieved through plugins and include statements in nano's configuration file (~/.nanorc for individual users).

user $mkdir ~/.nano

Copy the plugin into the ~/.nano directory, then reference it with a include statement. For example:

FILE ~/.nanorcApply ebulid specific syntax highlighting for nano
# Ebuild specific highlighting
include "~/.nano/gentoo.nanorc"

See also