Nano/Basics Guide

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This guide is meant to be a simple introduction to nano. It will quickly help you to become familiar with its basic operation.

Nano Basics


This guide was written to cover basic operations in nano, and is meant to be very concise. For more information about nano check out:

Opening and creating files

Opening and creating files is simple in nano, simply type:

root #nano filename

Nano is a modeless editor so you can start typing immediately to insert text. If you are editing a configuration file like /etc/fstab use the -w switch to disable wrapping on long lines as it might render the configuration file unparseable by whatever tools depend on it. For example:

root #nano -w /etc/fstab
It is very, very important that you use the -w switch when opening a config file. Failure to do so may keep your system from booting or cause other bad things.

Saving and exiting

If you want to save the changes you've made, press Ctrl + O. To exit nano, type Ctrl + X. If you ask nano to exit from a modified file, it will ask you if you want to save it. Just press N in case you don't, or Y in case you do. It will then ask you for a filename. Just type it in and press Enter.

If you accidentally confirmed that you want to save the file but you actually don't, you can always cancel by pressing Ctrl + C when you're prompted for a filename.

Cutting and pasting

To cut a single line, you use Ctrl + K (hold down Ctrl and then press K). The line disappears. To paste it, you simply move the cursor to where you want to paste it and punch Ctrl + U. The line reappears. To move multiple lines, simply cut them with several Ctrl + K in a row, then paste them with a single Ctrl + U. The whole paragraph appears wherever you want it.

If you need a little more fine-grained control, then you have to mark the text. Move the cursor to the beginning of the text you want to cut. Hit Ctrl + 6 (or Alt + A). Now move your cursor to the end of the text you want to cut: the marked text gets highlighted. If you need to cancel your text marking, simply hit Ctrl + 6 again. Press Ctrl + K to cut the marked text. Use Ctrl + U to paste it.

Searching for text

Searching for a string is easy as long as you think "WhereIs" instead of "Search". Simply hit Ctrl + W, type in your search string, and press Enter. To search for the same string again, hit Alt + W.

In nano's help texts the Ctrl is represented by a caret (^), so Ctrl + W is shown as ^W, and so on. The Alt key is represented by an M (from "Meta"), so Alt + W is shown as M-W.

More options

If you're interested in tweaking nano, be sure to read /etc/nanorc .

Wrap up

That is all! Thanks to kiyose and quazion from #gentoo. Again, for more information about nano check out:

This article is based on a document formerly found on our main website
The following people contributed to the original document: Sherman Boyd
They are listed here as the Wiki history does not allow for any external attribution. If you edit the Wiki article, please do not add yourself here; your contributions are recorded on the history page.