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Section: User Commands (1)
Updated: version 2.3.5
Index Return to Main Contents



nano - Nano's ANOther editor, an enhanced free Pico clone



nano [options] [[+line,columnfile]...



nano is a small, free and friendly editor which aims to replace Pico, the default editor included in the non-free Pine package. On top of copying Pico's look and feel, nano also implements some missing (or disabled by default) features in Pico, such as "search and replace" and "go to line and column number".



Places the cursor on line number line and at column number column (at least one of which must be specified) on startup, instead of the default 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 to the current filename suffixed with a tilde (~).
-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 support for them has been compiled in).
-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 nor at ~/.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 (--poslog)
Log and later read back the location of the cursor and place it there again.
-Q str (--quotestr=str)
Set the quoting string for justifying. The default is "^([ \t]*[#:>\|}])+" if extended regular expression support is available, or "" otherwise. Note that \t stands for a Tab.
-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 size (width) of a tab 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 -c overrides this.
-V (--version)
Show the current version number and exit.
-W (--wordbounds)
Detect word boundaries more accurately by treating punctuation characters as part of a word.
-Y name (--syntax=name)
Specify the name of the syntax highlighting to use from among the ones defined in the nanorc files.
-c (--const)
Constantly show the cursor position. 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 the available command-line options and exit.
-i (--autoindent)
Indent new lines to the previous line's indentation. Useful when editing source code.
-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 (--nofollow)
If the file being edited is a symbolic link, replace the link with a new file instead of following it. Good for editing files in /tmp, perhaps?
-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 dir (--operatingdir=dir)
Set the operating directory. This makes nano set up something similar to a chroot.
-p (--preserve)
Preserve the XON and XOFF sequences (^Q and ^S) so they will be caught by the terminal.
-q (--quiet)
Do not report errors in the nanorc files nor ask them to be acknowledged by pressing Enter at startup.
-r number (--fill=number)
Hard-wrap lines at column number. If this value is 0 or less, wrapping will occur at the width of the screen less number columns, allowing the wrap point to vary along with the width of the screen if the screen is resized. The default value is -8. This option conflicts with -w -- the last one given takes effect.
-s program (--speller=program)
Enable alternative spell checker command.
-t (--tempfile)
Always save changed buffer without prompting. Same as Pico's -t option.
-v (--view)
View-file (read-only) mode.
-w (--nowrap)
Disable the hard-wrapping of long lines. This option conflicts with -r -- the last one given takes effect.
-x (--nohelp)
Don't show the two help lines at the bottom of the screen.
-z (--suspend)
Enable the suspend ability.
-$ (--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, -g, -j
Ignored, for compatibility with Pico.



nano will read initialization files in the following order: the system's nanorc (if it exists), and then the user's ~/.nanorc (if it exists). Please see nanorc(5) for more information on the possible contents of those files.



If no alternative spell checker command is specified on the command line nor in one of the nanorc files, nano will check the SPELL environment variable for one.

In some cases nano will try to dump the buffer into an emergency file. This will happen mainly if nano receives a SIGHUP or SIGTERM or runs out of memory. It will write the buffer into a file named if the buffer didn't have a name already, or will add a ".save" suffix to the current filename. If an emergency file with that name already exists in the current directory, it will add ".save" plus a number (e.g. ".save.1") to the current filename in order to make it unique. In multibuffer mode, nano will write all the open buffers to their respective emergency files.



Please send any comments or bug reports to

The nano mailing list is available from

To subscribe, email to with a subject of "subscribe".






/usr/share/doc/nano/ (or equivalent on your system)



Chris Allegretta <>, et al (see AUTHORS and THANKS for details). This manual page was originally written by Jordi Mallach <>, for the Debian system (but may be used by others).




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