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NANORC(5) File Formats Manual NANORC(5)

nanorc - GNU nano's configuration file

Starting with version 4.0, nano no longer hard-wraps an overlong line by default. It further uses smooth scrolling by default, and by default includes the line below the title bar into the editing area.

If you want the old, Pico behavior back, you can use set breaklonglines, set jumpyscrolling, and set emptyline.

The nanorc file contains the default settings for nano, a small and friendly editor. The file should be in Unix format, not in DOS or Mac format. During startup, nano will first read the system-wide settings, from /etc/nanorc (the exact path might be different on your system), and then the user-specific settings, either from ~/.nanorc or from $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/nano/nanorc or from ~/.config/nano/nanorc, whichever is encountered first.

The configuration file accepts a series of set and unset commands, which can be used to configure nano on startup without using command-line options. Additionally, there are some commands to define syntax highlighting and to rebind keys -- see the two separate sections on those. nano reads one command per line.

Options in nanorc files take precedence over nano's defaults, and command-line options override nanorc settings. Also, options that do not take an argument are unset by default. So using the unset command is only needed when wanting to override a setting of the system's nanorc file in your own nanorc. Options that take an argument cannot be unset.

Quotes inside the characters parameters below should not be escaped. The last double quote on the line will be seen as the closing quote.

The supported commands and arguments are:

set afterends
Make Ctrl+Right stop at word ends instead of beginnings.
set allow_insecure_backup
When backing up files, allow the backup to succeed even if its permissions can't be (re)set due to special OS considerations. You should NOT enable this option unless you are sure you need it.
set atblanks
When soft line wrapping is enabled, make it wrap lines at blank characters (tabs and spaces) instead of always at the edge of the screen.
set autoindent
Automatically indent a newly created line to the same number of tabs and/or spaces as the previous line (or as the next line if the previous line is the beginning of a paragraph).
set backup
When saving a file, create a backup file by adding a tilde (~) to the file's name.
set backupdir directory
Make and keep not just one backup file, but make and keep a uniquely numbered one every time a file is saved -- when backups are enabled with set backup or --backup or -B. The uniquely numbered files are stored in the specified directory.
set boldtext
Use bold instead of reverse video for the title bar, status bar, key combos, function tags, line numbers, and selected text. This can be overridden by setting the options titlecolor, statuscolor, keycolor, functioncolor, numbercolor, and selectedcolor.
set brackets "characters"
Set the characters treated as closing brackets when justifying paragraphs. This may not include blank characters. Only closing punctuation (see set punct), optionally followed by the specified closing brackets, can end sentences. The default value is ""')>]}".
set breaklonglines
Automatically hard-wrap the current line when it becomes overlong.
set casesensitive
Do case-sensitive searches by default.
set constantshow
Constantly display the cursor position in the status bar. This overrides the option quickblank.
set cutfromcursor
Use cut-from-cursor-to-end-of-line by default, instead of cutting the whole line.
set emptyline
Do not use the line below the title bar, leaving it entirely blank.
set errorcolor fgcolor,bgcolor
Use this color combination for the status bar when an error message is displayed. The default value is brightwhite,red. See set titlecolor for valid color names.
set fill number
Set the target width for justifying and automatic hard-wrapping at this number of columns. If the value is 0 or less, wrapping will occur at the width of the screen minus 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.
set functioncolor fgcolor,bgcolor
Specify the color combination to use for the function descriptions in the two help lines at the bottom of the screen. See set titlecolor for more details.
set guidestripe number
Draw a vertical stripe at the given column, to help judge the width of the text. (The color of the stripe can be changed with set stripecolor.)
set historylog
Save the last hundred search strings and replacement strings and executed commands, so they can be easily reused in later sessions.
set jumpyscrolling
Scroll the buffer contents per half-screen instead of per line.
set keycolor fgcolor,bgcolor
Specify the color combination to use for the shortcut key combos in the two help lines at the bottom of the screen. See set titlecolor for more details.
set linenumbers
Display line numbers to the left of the text area.
set locking
Enable vim-style lock-files for when editing files.
set matchbrackets "characters"
Set the opening and closing brackets that can be found by bracket searches. This may not include blank characters. The opening set must come before the closing set, and the two sets must be in the same order. The default value is "(<[{)>]}".
set morespace
Deprecated option since it has become the default setting. When needed, use unset emptyline instead.
set 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.
set multibuffer
When reading in a file with ^R, insert it into a new buffer by default.
set noconvert
Don't convert files from DOS/Mac format.
set nohelp
Don't display the two help lines at the bottom of the screen.
set nonewlines
Don't automatically add a newline when a text does not end with one. (This can cause you to save non-POSIX text files.)
set nopauses
Don't pause between warnings at startup. This means that only the last one will be visible (when there are multiple ones).
set nowrap
Deprecated option since it has become the default setting. When needed, use unset breaklonglines instead.
set numbercolor fgcolor,bgcolor
Specify the color combination to use for line numbers. See set titlecolor for more details.
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 positionlog
Save the cursor position of files between editing sessions. The cursor position is remembered for the 200 most-recently edited files.
set preserve
Preserve the XON and XOFF keys (^Q and ^S).
set punct "characters"
Set the characters treated as closing punctuation when justifying paragraphs. This may not include blank characters. Only the specfified closing punctuation, optionally followed by closing brackets (see brackets), can end sentences. The default value is "!.?".
set quickblank
Do quick status-bar blanking: status-bar messages will disappear after 1 keystroke instead of 25. The option constantshow overrides this.
set quotestr "regex"
Set the regular expression for matching the quoting part of a line. The default value is "^([ \t]*([!#%:;>|}]|//))+". (Note that \t stands for an actual Tab character.) This makes it possible to rejustify blocks of quoted text when composing email, and to rewrap blocks of line comments when writing source code.
set rawsequences
Interpret escape sequences directly (instead of asking ncurses to translate them). If you need this option to get your keyboard to work properly, please report a bug. Using this option disables nano's mouse support.
set rebinddelete
Interpret the Delete and Backspace keys differently so that both Backspace and Delete work properly. You should only use this option when on your system either Backspace acts like Delete or Delete acts like Backspace.
set regexp
Do regular-expression searches by default. Regular expressions in nano are of the extended type (ERE).
set selectedcolor fgcolor,bgcolor
Specify the color combination to use for selected text. See set titlecolor for more details.
set showcursor
Put the cursor on the highlighted item in the file browser, to aid braille users.
set 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 smooth
Deprecated option since it has become the default setting. When needed, use unset jumpyscrolling instead.
set softwrap
Enable soft line wrapping for easier viewing of very long lines.
set speller "program [arg...]"
Use the given program to do spell checking and correcting, instead of the built-in corrector that calls spell.
set statuscolor fgcolor,bgcolor
Specify the color combination to use for the status bar. See set titlecolor for more details.
set stripecolor fgcolor,bgcolor
Specify the color combination to use for the vertical guiding stripe. See set titlecolor for more details.
set suspend
Allow nano to be suspended.
set tabsize number
Use a tab size of number columns. The value of number must be greater than 0. The default value is 8.
set tabstospaces
Convert typed tabs to spaces.
set tempfile
Save automatically on exit, don't prompt.
set titlecolor fgcolor,bgcolor
Specify the color combination to use for the title bar. Valid names for the foreground and background colors are: white, black, blue, green, red, cyan, yellow, magenta, and normal -- where normal means the default foreground or background color. The name of the foreground color may be prefixed with bright. And either "fgcolor" or ",bgcolor" may be left out.
set trimblanks
Remove trailing whitespace from wrapped lines when automatic hard-wrapping occurs or when text is justified.
set unix
Save a file by default in Unix format. This overrides nano's default behavior of saving a file in the format that it had. (This option has no effect when you also use set noconvert.)
set view
Disallow file modification: read-only mode. This mode allows the user to open also other files for viewing, unless --restricted is given on the command line.
set whitespace "characters"
Set the two characters used to indicate the presence of tabs and spaces. They must be single-column characters. The default pair for a UTF-8 locale is "»⋅", and for other locales ">.".
set wordbounds
Detect word boundaries differently by treating punctuation characters as parts of words.
set wordchars "characters"
Specify which other characters (besides the normal alphanumeric ones) should be considered as parts of words. This overrides the option wordbounds.
set zap
Let an unmodified Backspace or Delete erase the marked region (instead of a single character, and without affecting the cutbuffer).

Coloring the different syntactic elements of a file is done via regular expressions (see the color command below). This is inherently imperfect, because regular expressions are not powerful enough to fully parse a file. Nevertheless, regular expressions can do a lot and are easy to make, so they are a good fit for a small editor like nano.

All regular expressions in nano are POSIX extended regular expressions. This means that ., ?, *, +, ^, $, and several other characters are special. The period . matches any single character, ? means the preceding item is optional, * means the preceding item may be matched zero or more times, + means the preceding item must be matched one or more times, ^ matches the beginning of a line, and $ the end, \< matches the start of a word, and \> the end, and \s matches a blank. It also means that lookahead and lookbehind are not possible. A complete explanation can be found in the manual page of GNU grep: man grep.

For each kind of file a separate syntax can be defined via the following commands:

syntax name ["fileregex" ...]
Start the definition of a syntax with this name. All subsequent color and other such commands will be added to this syntax, until a new syntax command is encountered.

When nano is run, this syntax will be automatically activated if the current filename matches the extended regular expression fileregex. Or the syntax can be explicitly activated by using the -Y or --syntax command-line option followed by the name.

The syntax default is special: it takes no fileregex, and applies to files that don't match any syntax's regexes. The syntax none is reserved; specifying it on the command line is the same as not having a syntax at all.

header "regex" ...
If from all defined syntaxes no fileregex matched, then compare this regex (or regexes) against the first line of the current file, to determine whether this syntax should be used for it.
magic "regex" ...
If no fileregex matched and no header regex matched either, then compare this regex (or regexes) against the result of querying the magic database about the current file, to determine whether this syntax should be used for it. (This functionality only works when libmagic is installed on the system and will be silently ignored otherwise.)
linter program [arg ...]
Use the given program to run a syntax check on the current buffer.
comment "string"
Use the given string for commenting and uncommenting lines. If the string contains a vertical bar or pipe character (|), this designates bracket-style comments; for example, "/*|*/" for CSS files. The characters before the pipe are prepended to the line and the characters after the pipe are appended at the end of the line. If no pipe character is present, the full string is prepended; for example, "#" for Python files. If empty double quotes are specified, the comment/uncomment function is disabled; for example, "" for JSON. The default value is "#".
color fgcolor,bgcolor "regex" ...
Paint all pieces of text that match the extended regular expression regex with the given foreground and background colors, at least one of which must be specified. Valid color names are: white, black, blue, green, red, cyan, yellow, magenta, and normal -- where normal means the default foreground or background color. You may use the prefix bright for the foreground color to get a stronger highlight. 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 matching is case insensitive.
color fgcolor,bgcolor start="fromrx" end="torx"
Paint all pieces of text whose start matches extended regular expression fromrx and whose end matches extended regular expression torx with the given foreground and background colors, at least one of which must be specified. This means that, after an initial instance of fromrx, all text until the first instance of torx will be colored. This allows syntax highlighting to span multiple lines.
icolor fgcolor,bgcolor start="fromrx" end="torx"
Same as above, except that the matching is case insensitive.
include "syntaxfile"
Read in self-contained color syntaxes from syntaxfile. Note that syntaxfile may contain only the above commands, from syntax to icolor.
extendsyntax name command [arg ...]
Extend the syntax previously defined as name with another command. This allows adding a new color, icolor, header, magic, comment, or linter command to an already defined syntax -- useful when you want to slightly improve a syntax defined in one of the system-installed files (which normally are not writable).

Note: the formatter command has been removed. It was superseded by a more general mechanism: the filtering of buffer or marked text through an external command. Such filtering is done by typing ^R^X and then preceding your formatter command with the pipe symbol (|). It has the added advantage that the operation can be undone.

If you use such a formatting command regularly, you could assign the relevant series of keystrokes to a single key in your nanorc:

bind M-F "^R^X|yourformatcommand^M" main

(Note that the ^R, ^X, and ^M are each a single, literal control character. You can enter them by preceding each with M-V.)

Key bindings can be changed via the following three commands:
bind key function menu
Rebinds the key key to a new function named function in the context of menu menu (or in all menus where the function exists by using all).
bind key "string" menu
Makes the given key produce the given string in the given menu (or in all menus where the key exists when all is used). The string can consist of text or commands or a mix of them. (To enter a command into the string, precede its keystroke with M-V.)

unbind key menu
Unbinds the key key from the menu named menu (or from all menus where it exists by using all).

The format of key should be one of:
^
followed by a Latin letter, by one of several ASCII characters (@, ], \, ^, or _), or by the word "Space". Example: ^C.
M-
followed by any ASCII character except [, or by the word "Space". Example: M-C.
F
followed by a numeric value from 1 to 16. Example: F10.
the word "Ins" or the word "Del".

Valid function names to be bound are:
help
Invokes the help viewer.
cancel
Cancels the current command.
exit
Exits from the program (or from the help viewer or the file browser).
writeout
Writes the current buffer to disk, asking for a name.
savefile
Writes the current file to disk without prompting.
insert
Inserts a file into the current buffer (at the current cursor position), or into a new buffer when option multibuffer is set.
whereis
Starts a forward search for text in the current buffer -- or for filenames matching a string in the current list in the file browser.
wherewas
Starts a backward search for text in the current buffer -- or for filenames matching a string in the current list in the file browser.
findprevious
Searches the next occurrence in the backward direction.
findnext
Searches the next occurrence in the forward direction.
replace
Interactively replaces text within the current buffer.
cut
Cuts and stores the current line (or the marked region).
copy
Copies the current line (or the marked region) without deleting it.
paste
Pastes the currently stored text into the current buffer at the current cursor position.
zap
Throws away the current line (or the marked region). (This function is bound by default to <Meta+Delete>.)
chopwordleft
Deletes from the cursor position to the beginning of the preceding word. (This function is bound by default to <Shift+Ctrl+Delete>. If your terminal produces ^H for <Ctrl+Backspace>, you can make <Ctrl+Backspace> delete the word to the left of the cursor by rebinding ^H to this function.)
chopwordright
Deletes from the cursor position to the beginning of the next word. (This function is bound by default to <Ctrl+Delete>.)
cutrestoffile
Cuts all text from the cursor position till the end of the buffer.
mark
Sets the mark at the current position, to start selecting text. Or, when it is set, unsets the mark.
curpos
Shows the current cursor position: the line, column, and character positions.
wordcount
Counts the number of words, lines and characters in the current buffer.
speller
Invokes a spell-checking program, either the default one, or the one defined by --speller or set speller.
linter
Invokes a syntax-checking program (if the active syntax defines one).
justify
Justifies the current paragraph. A paragraph is a group of contiguous lines that, apart from possibly the first line, all have the same indentation. The beginning of a paragraph is detected by either this lone line with a differing indentation or by a preceding blank line.
fulljustify
Justifies the entire current buffer.
indent
Indents (shifts to the right) the currently marked text.
unindent
Unindents (shifts to the left) the currently marked text.
comment
Comments or uncomments the current line or marked lines, using the comment style specified in the active syntax.
complete
Completes the fragment before the cursor to a full word found elsewhere in the current buffer.
left
Goes left one position (in the editor or browser).
right
Goes right one position (in the editor or browser).
up
Goes one line up (in the editor or browser).
down
Goes one line down (in the editor or browser).
scrollup
Scrolls the viewport up one row (meaning that the text slides down) while keeping the cursor in the same text position, if possible.
scrolldown
Scrolls the viewport down one row (meaning that the text slides up) while keeping the cursor in the same text position, if possible.
prevword
Moves the cursor to the beginning of the previous word.
nextword
Moves the cursor to the beginning of the next word.
home
Moves the cursor to the beginning of the current line.
end
Moves the cursor to the end of the current line.
beginpara
Moves the cursor to the beginning of the current paragraph.
endpara
Moves the cursor to the end of the current paragraph.
prevblock
Moves the cursor to the beginning of the current or preceding block of text. (Blocks are separated by one or more blank lines.)
nextblock
Moves the cursor to the beginning of the next block of text.
pageup
Goes up one screenful.
pagedown
Goes down one screenful.
firstline
Goes to the first line of the file.
lastline
Goes to the last line of the file.
gotoline
Goes to a specific line (and column if specified). Negative numbers count from the end of the file (and end of the line).
findbracket
Moves the cursor to the bracket (brace, parenthesis, etc.) that matches (pairs) with the one under the cursor.
prevbuf
Switches to editing/viewing the previous buffer when multiple buffers are open.
nextbuf
Switches to editing/viewing the next buffer when multiple buffers are open.
verbatim
Inserts the next keystroke verbatim into the file.
tab
Inserts a tab at the current cursor location.
enter
Inserts a new line below the current one.
delete
Deletes the character under the cursor.
backspace
Deletes the character before the cursor.
recordmacro
Starts the recording of keystrokes -- the keystrokes are stored as a macro. When already recording, the recording is stopped.
runmacro
Replays the keystrokes of the last recorded macro.
undo
Undoes the last performed text action (add text, delete text, etc).
redo
Redoes the last undone action (i.e., it undoes an undo).
refresh
Refreshes the screen.
suspend
Suspends the editor (if the suspending function is enabled, see the "suspendenable" entry below).
casesens
Toggles whether searching/replacing ignores or respects the case of the given characters.
regexp
Toggles whether searching/replacing uses literal strings or regular expressions.
backwards
Toggles whether searching/replacing goes forward or backward.
older
Retrieves the previous (earlier) entry at a prompt.
newer
Retrieves the next (later) entry at a prompt.
flipreplace
Toggles between searching for something and replacing something.
flipgoto
Toggles between searching for text and targeting a line number.
flipexecute
Toggles between inserting a file and executing a command.
flippipe
When executing a command, toggles whether the current buffer (or marked region) is piped to the command.
flipnewbuffer
Toggles between inserting into the current buffer and into a new empty buffer.
flipconvert
When reading in a file, toggles between converting and not converting it from DOS/Mac format. Converting is the default.
dosformat
When writing a file, switches to writing a DOS format (CR/LF).
macformat
When writing a file, switches to writing a Mac format.
append
When writing a file, appends to the end instead of overwriting.
prepend
When writing a file, 'prepends' (writes at the beginning) instead of overwriting.
backup
When writing a file, creates a backup of the current file.
discardbuffer
When about to write a file, discard the current buffer without saving. (This function is bound by default only when option --tempfile is in effect.)
browser
Starts the file browser, allowing to select a file from a list.
gotodir
Goes to a directory to be specified, allowing to browse anywhere in the filesystem.
firstfile
Goes to the first file when using the file browser (reading or writing files).
lastfile
Goes to the last file when using the file browser (reading or writing files).
nohelp
Toggles the presence of the two-line list of key bindings at the bottom of the screen.
constantshow
Toggles the constant display of the current line, column, and character positions.
softwrap
Toggles the displaying of overlong lines on multiple screen lines.
linenumbers
Toggles the display of line numbers in front of the text.
whitespacedisplay
Toggles the showing of whitespace.
nosyntax
Toggles syntax highlighting.
smarthome
Toggles the smartness of the Home key.
autoindent
Toggles whether a newly created line will contain the same amount of leading whitespace as the preceding line -- or as the next line if the preceding line is the beginning of a paragraph.
cutfromcursor
Toggles whether cutting text will cut the whole line or just from the current cursor position to the end of the line.
nowrap
Toggles whether long lines will be hard-wrapped to the next line.
tabstospaces
Toggles whether typed tabs will be converted to spaces.
mouse
Toggles mouse support.
suspendenable
Toggles whether the suspend sequence (normally ^Z) will suspend the editor window.

Valid menu sections are:
main
The main editor window where text is entered and edited.
search
The search menu (AKA whereis).
replace
The 'search to replace' menu.
replacewith
The 'replace with' menu, which comes up after 'search to replace'.
yesno
The 'yesno' menu, where the Yes/No/All/Cancel question is asked.
gotoline
The 'goto line (and column)' menu.
writeout
The 'write file' menu.
insert
The 'insert file' menu.
extcmd
The menu for inserting output from an external command, reached from the insert menu.
help
The help-viewer menu.
spell
The interactive spell checker Yes/no menu.
linter
The linter menu.
browser
The file browser for inserting or writing a file.
whereisfile
The 'search for a file' menu in the file browser.
gotodir
The 'go to directory' menu in the file browser.
all
A special name that encompasses all menus. For bind it means all menus where the specified function exists; for unbind it means all menus where the specified key exists.

/etc/nanorc
System-wide configuration file.
~/.nanorc or $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/nano/nanorc or ~/.config/nano/nanorc
Per-user configuration file.

nano(1)
version 4.4 August 2019