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nano Command Manual


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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 like an interactive search and replace, go to line and column number, auto-indentation, feature toggles, internationalization support, and filename tab completion.

1.1 Overview

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

The usual way to invoke nano is:

nano [OPTION]... [FILE]

But it is also possible to edit several files in a row. Additionally, the cursor can be put on a desired line number by adding this number with a plus sign before any filename, and even in a desired column by adding it with a comma. So the complete synopsis is:

nano [OPTION]... [[+LINE] FILE]...

nano [OPTION]... [[+,COLUMN] FILE]...

nano [OPTION]... [[+LINE,COLUMN] FILE]...

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1.2 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.
-?
Same as -h, --help.
-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 to the current filename suffixed with a ~.
-C <dir>, --backupdir=<dir>
Set the directory where nano puts unique backup files if file backups are enabled.
-D, --boldtext
Use bold text instead of reverse video text.
-E, --tabstospaces
Convert typed tabs to spaces.
-F, --multibuffer
Enable multiple file buffers, if available.
-H, --historylog
Log search and replace strings to ~/.nano_history, so they can be retrieved in later sessions, if nanorc support is available.
-I, --ignorercfiles
Don't look at SYSCONFDIR/nanorc or ~/.nanorc, if nanorc support is available.
-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
Don't convert files from DOS/Mac format.
-O, --morespace
Use the blank line below the titlebar as extra editing space.
-Q <str>, --quotestr=<str>
Set the quoting string for justifying. The default value is
^([ \t]*[|>:}#])+

if extended regular expression support is available, or "> " otherwise. Note that \t above stands for a literal Tab character.

-R, --restricted
Restricted mode: don't read or write to any file not specified on the command line; read any nanorc files; allow suspending; allow a file to be appended to, prepended to, or saved under a different name if it already has one; or use backup files or spell checking. 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 <#cols>, --tabsize=<#cols>
Set the displayed tab length to #cols columns. The value of #cols 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 -c overrides this.
-V, --version
Show the current version number and exit.
-W, --wordbounds
Detect word boundaries more accurately by treating punctuation characters as parts of words.
-Y <str>, --syntax=<str>
Specify a specific syntax highlighting from the nanorc to use, if available. See See Nanorc Files, for more info.
-c, --const
Constantly display the cursor position and line number on the statusbar. Note that this overrides -U.
-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.
-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
Cut from the current cursor position to the end of the current line.
-l, --nofollow
When writing files, if the given file is a symbolic link, it is removed and a new file is created.
-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.
-o <dir>, --operatingdir=<dir>
Set operating directory. 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 can be stopped and started.
-q, --quiet
Do not report errors in the nanorc file and ask them to be acknowledged by pressing Enter at startup.
-r <#cols>, --fill=<#cols>
Wrap lines at column #cols. If this value is 0 or less, wrapping will occur at the width of the screen less #cols, allowing it to vary along with the width of the screen if the screen is resized. The default value is -8.
-s <prog>, --speller=<prog>
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 or not to save the current contents of the file when exiting, assume yes. This is most useful when using nano as the composer of a mailer program.
-u, --undo
Enable experimental generic-purpose undo code. By default, the undo and redo shortcuts are Meta-U and Meta-E, respectively.
-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 wrap long lines at any length. This option overrides any value for -r.

-x, --nohelp
Expert Mode: don't show the Shortcut Lists 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 nano's suspend ability using the system's suspend keystroke (usually ^Z).
-$, --softwrap
Enable 'soft wrapping'. nano will attempt to display the entire contents of a line, even if it is longer than the screen width. Since '$' 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, -g, -j
Ignored, for compatibility with Pico.

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2 Editor Basics

2.1 Entering Text

All key sequences in nano are entered using the keyboard. nano is a "modeless" editor. All keys, with the exception of Control and Meta key sequences, will enter text into the file being edited.

2.2 Special Functions

Special functions use the Control (Ctrl) key, displayed in the help and shortcut lists as ^; the Meta key, displayed as M; or the Escape (Esc) key.

  • Control key sequences are entered by holding down the Ctrl key and pressing the desired key, or by pressing the Esc key twice and pressing the desired key.
  • Pressing Esc twice and then typing a three-digit number from 000 to 255 will enter the character with the corresponding value.
  • Meta key sequences are entered by holding down the Meta key (normally the Alt key) and pressing the desired key, or by pressing the Esc key once and pressing the desired key. Certain operating systems "swallow" the Alt key so that it never reaches the application; if your operating system does this, you should use the Esc key to generate Meta key sequences.

2.3 The Titlebar

The titlebar is the line displayed at the top of the editor. There are 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 will display "Modified" if the file has been modified since it was last saved or opened.

Special modes: When nano is in "File browser" mode, the center section will display the current directory instead of the filename. See See The File Browser, for more info.

2.4 The Statusbar

The statusbar is the third line from the bottom of the screen, or the bottom line in Expert Mode. See See Expert Mode, for more info. 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.

2.5 Shortcut Lists

The Shortcut Lists are the two lines at the bottom of the screen which show some of the more commonly used functions in the editor.

2.6 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.

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


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3 Online Help

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


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4 Feature Toggles

Toggles allow you to change certain aspects of the editor that would normally be done via command line options. They are invoked via Meta key sequences. See See Special Functions, 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 (--const) 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 whitespace display mode if you have a "whitespace" option in your nanorc. See See Nanorc Files, 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 Nanorc Files, for more info.
Suspend Toggle (Meta-Z)
toggles the -z (--suspend) command line option.
Soft Wrapping Toggle (Meta-$)
toggles the -$ (--softwrap) command line option.

Next: , Previous: Feature Toggles, Up: Top

5 Nanorc Files

The nanorc files contain the default settings for nano. They should not be in DOS or Mac format. During startup, nano will first read its system-wide settings from SYSCONFDIR/nanorc, and then 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 the command line options. Additionally, the "syntax", "color", and "icolor" keywords are used to define syntax highlighting rules for different text patterns. nano will read one command per line.

Options in nanorc files take precedence over nano's defaults, and command line options override nanorc settings. Options are also unset by default, except for those that take arguments.

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 }.

The supported commands and arguments are:

set/unset autoindent
Use auto-indentation.
set/unset backup
Create backup files in "filename~".
set backupdir "directory"
Set the directory where nano puts unique backup files if file backups are enabled.
set/unset backwards
Do backwards searches by default.
set/unset boldtext
Use bold text instead of reverse video text.
set brackets "string"
Set the characters treated as closing brackets when justifying paragraphs. They cannot contain blank characters. Only closing punctuation, optionally followed by closing brackets, can end sentences. The default value is
""')>]}"

set/unset casesensitive
Do case sensitive searches by default.
set/unset const
Constantly display the cursor position in the status bar.
set/unset cut
Use cut to end of line by default, instead of cutting the whole line.
set fill "n"
Wrap lines at column number "n". If "n" is 0 or less, the maximum line length will be the screen width less "n" columns. The default value is -8.
set/unset historylog
Enable ~/.nano_history for saving and reading search/replace strings.
set matchbrackets "string"
Set the opening and closing brackets that can be found by bracket searches. They cannot contain blank characters. The former set must come before the latter set, and both must be in the same order. The default value is
"(<[{)>]}"

set/unset morespace
Use the blank line below the titlebar as extra editing space.
set/unset 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/unset multibuffer
Allow inserting files into their own buffers.
set/unset noconvert
Don't convert files from DOS/Mac format.
set/unset nofollow
Don't follow symlinks when writing files.
set/unset nohelp
Don't display the help lists at the bottom of the screen.
set/unset nonewlines
Don't add newlines to the ends of files.
set/unset nowrap
Don't wrap text at all.
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/unset preserve
Preserve the XON and XOFF keys (^Q and ^S).
set punct "string"
Set the characters treated as closing punctuation when justifying paragraphs. They cannot contain blank characters. Only closing punctuation, optionally followed by closing brackets, can end sentences. The default value is "!.?".
set/unset quickblank
Do quick statusbar blanking. Statusbar messages will disappear after 1 keystroke instead of 25.
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, or "> " otherwise. Note that '\\t' stands for a literal Tab character.

set/unset 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/unset 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/unset regexp
Do extended regular expression searches by default.
set/unset 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/unset smooth
Use smooth scrolling by default.
set/unset softwrap
Use soft wrapping by default.
set speller "spellprog"
Use spelling checker "spellprog" instead of the built-in one, which calls "spell".
set/unset suspend
Allow nano to be suspended.
set/unset suspendenable
If nano is allowed to be suspended, allow the suspend key (usually ^Z) to actually suspend it.
set tabsize "n"
Use a tab size of "n" columns. The value of "n" must be greater than 0. The default value is 8.
set/unset tabstospaces
Convert typed tabs to spaces.
set/unset tempfile
Save automatically on exit, don't prompt.
set/unset undo
Enable experimental generic-purpose undo code.
set/unset view
Disallow file modification.
set whitespace "string"
Set the two characters used to display the first characters of tabs and spaces. They must be single-column characters.
set/unset wordbounds
Detect word boundaries more accurately by treating punctuation characters as part of a word.
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 following "color" and "icolor" statements will apply to "syntax" until a new syntax is defined.

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 other syntax's "fileregex".

color fgcolor,bgcolor "regex" ...
For the currently defined syntax, display all expressions matching the extended regular expression "regex" with foreground color "fgcolor" and background color "bgcolor", at least one of which must be specified. Legal colors for foreground and background color are: white, black, red, blue, green, yellow, magenta, and cyan. You may use the prefix "bright" to force 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 expression matching is case insensitive.
color fgcolor,bgcolor start="sr" end="er"
Display expressions which start with the extended regular expression "sr" and end with the extended regular expression "er" with foreground color "fgcolor" and background color "bgcolor", at least one of which must be specified. This allows syntax highlighting to span multiple lines. Note that all subsequent instances of "sr" after an initial "sr" is found will be highlighted until the first instance of "er".
icolor fgcolor,bgcolor start="sr" end="er"
Same as above, except that the expression matching is case insensitive.
include "syntaxfile"
Read in self-contained color syntaxes from "syntaxfile". Note that "syntaxfile" can only contain "syntax", "color", and "icolor" commands.

Next: , Previous: Nanorc Files, Up: Top

6 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.

7 Pico Compatibility

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

Search and Replace History
As of version 1.1.99pre1 of nano, text entered as search or replace strings will be stored and can be accessed with the up/down arrow keys. Previously, nano offered a more consistent, but incompatible with Pico, method for entering search and replace strings. In the old method, previous entries would be displayed by default as editable text in front of the cursor, as opposed to being bracketed and uneditable as it is in Pico. The old behavior could be made compatible with Pico via the -p option, but recent versions of Pico use the -p option to preserve the XON and XOFF sequences within the editor. Since, with the new method, search and replace strings can still be edited by simply hitting the up arrow key once, the old method was removed completely.
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 of the editor on or off. Please see the internal help function (^G) for a list of what functions can be toggled for a particular version of nano. See See Feature Toggles, for more info.
Cursor Position Display
The output of the "Display Cursor Position" in nano displays the given column position, as well as the row and total character position of the cursor.
Interactive Replace and Spell Checker
It is worth noting that nano's replace function is interactive, i.e. it does not stop after one search string is found and automatically replace it. The nano implementation will pause at each search string found and query whether to replace this instance or not. The internal spell checker operates similarly. Note that there is no way to force these functions to behave in the Pico fashion. As of version 1.1.99pre1, misspelled words are sorted and trimmed for uniqueness in the internal spell checker such that the words 'apple' and 'Apple' will be prompted for correction separately.

Previous: Pico Compatibility, Up: Top

8 Building and Configure Options

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

  • tar xvfz nano-x.y.z.tar.gz (where x.y.z is the version of nano)
  • cd nano-x.y.z/
  • ./configure
  • make
  • make install

The possible options to ./configure are:

--disable-browser
Disable the mini file browser when reading or writing files.
--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-justify
Disable the justify and unjustify functions.
--disable-mouse
Disable all mouse functionality. This also disables the -m command line option, which enables the mouse functionality.
--disable-operatingdir
Disable setting the operating directory. This also disables the -o command line option, which sets the operating directory.
--disable-speller
Disable use of the spell checker. This also disables 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 all long line wrapping. 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.
--enable-debug
Enable support for runtime debug output. This can get pretty messy, so chances are you only want this feature to work on the nano source.
--enable-extra
Enable extra features. At the moment, this is just easter egg-type stuff.
--enable-color
Enable support for syntax coloring of files using the nanorc file. This enables nanorc support as well.
--enable-multibuffer
Enable support for opening multiple files at a time and switching between them on the fly.
--enable-nanorc
Enable support for reading the nanorc file at startup. You can store custom settings in the nanorc file rather than having to pass command line options to get desired behavior. See See Nanorc Files, for more info.
--enable-all
Shortcut for enabling the above four features (extra, color, multibuffer, and nanorc).
--disable-nls
Disables Native Language support. This will disable use of the available GNU nano translations.
--disable-wrapping-as-root
Disable long line wrapping 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.
--with-slang
Compiling nano with Slang is supported, and will make the binary notably smaller than if compiled with ncurses or other curses libraries.
Poprawiony: czwartek, 12 maja 2011 12:28
 
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