GNU nano

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GNU nano
A screenshot of GNU nano 2.1.2
GNU nano 2.1.2 (SVN version)
Original author(s) Chris Allegretta
Initial release June 6, 2000; 16 years ago (2000-06-06)[1]
Stable release
2.7.0 / September 1, 2016; 50 days ago (2016-09-01)
Written in C
Operating system Cross-platform
Available in English
Type Text editor
License GNU General Public License

GNU nano is a text editor for Unix-like computing systems or operating environments using a command line interface. It emulates the Pico text editor, part of the Pine email client, and also provides additional functionality.[2] Unlike Pico, nano is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). Released as free software by Chris Allegretta in 1999, nano became part of the GNU Project in 2001.[3]


GNU nano was first created in 1999 with the name TIP (This Isn't Pico), by Chris Allegretta. His motivation was to create a free software replacement for Pico, which was not distributed under a free software license. The name was changed to nano on January 10, 2000 to avoid a naming conflict with the existing Unix utility tip. The name comes from the system of SI prefixes, in which nano is 1000 times larger than pico. In February 2001, nano became a part of the GNU Project.

GNU nano implements some features that Pico lacks, including colored text, regular expression search and replace, smooth scrolling, multiple buffers, rebindable key support,[4] and undoing and redoing of edit changes.[5]

On August 11, 2003, Chris Allegretta officially handed the source code maintenance for nano to David Lawrence Ramsey.[6] On December 20, 2007, Ramsey stepped down as nano's maintainer.[7]

On version 2.6.0 in June 2016, the current principal developer and the other active members of the nano project decided in consensus to leave the GNU project, due to their objections over the Free Software Foundation's copyright assignment policy, and their belief that centralized copyright ownership does not impede the ability to enforce the GNU General Public License.[8][9][10][11] The step was accepted instantly by Debian and Arch Linux,[12][13] while the GNU project resisted the move and called it a "fork".[14] On August 19, 2016, Chris Allegretta announced that the project would return to the GNU family,[15] and this happened when version 2.7.0 was released in September 2016.[16]

Control keys[edit]

GNU nano, like Pico, is keyboard-oriented, controlled with control keys. For example, Ctrl+O saves the current file; Ctrl+W goes to the search menu. GNU nano puts a two-line "shortcut bar" at the bottom of the screen, listing many of the commands available in the current context. For a complete list, Ctrl+G gets the help screen.

Unlike Pico, nano uses meta keys to toggle its behavior. For example, Meta+S toggles smooth scrolling mode on and off. Almost all features that can be selected from the command line can be dynamically toggled. On keyboards without the meta key it is often mapped to the escape key, Esc, such that in order to simulate, say, Meta+S one has to press the Esc key, then release it, and then press the S key.

GNU nano can also use pointer devices, such as a mouse, to activate functions that are on the shortcut bar, as well as position the cursor.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "[nano] Revision 1". 
  2. ^ The nano FAQ:
  3. ^ Official website FAQ. (accessed Feb. 17, 2016.)
  4. ^ Allegretta, Chris (2008-03-18). "GNU nano 2.1.0". Nano-devel mailing list. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  5. ^ Allegretta, Chris (2015-03-23). "GNU nano 2.4.0". Nano-devel mailing list. Retrieved 2015-04-18. 
  6. ^ Allegretta, Chris (2003-08-11). "GNU nano 1.3 branch opened in CVS". Nano-devel mailing list. Retrieved 2007-01-25. 
  7. ^ Ramsey, David Lawrence (2007-12-20). "Stepping down as the nano maintainer...". Nano-devel mailing list. Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
  8. ^ nano news on "And, with this release, we take leave of the herd... Bye! And thanks for all the grass!" (June 22, 2016)
  9. ^ remove the GNU marker from nano's name on by Benno Schulenberg (2016-06-13)
  10. ^ Re: (Nano-devel) Should nano stay a GNU program (Was: time for a 2.5.4-p on (2016-05)
  11. ^ sr #109076: Request to move nano from gnu to nongnu on by Benno Schulenberg (22 Jun 2016)
  12. ^ "Accepted nano 2.6.0-1 (source amd64) into unstable". 
  13. ^ "svntogit/packages.git - Git clone of the 'packages' repository". 
  14. ^ I'm on the GNU maintainers team; I want to clarify a couple things about this: First, Nano has _not_ left the GNU project on by Mike Gerwitz (June 2016)
  15. ^ Chris, Allegretta (19 August 2016). "[Nano-devel] nano to remain in GNU". Retrieved 2016-09-02. 
  16. ^ nano news on "With this release we return to GNU. For just a little while we dreamt we were tigers. But we are back in the herd, back to a healthy diet of fresh green free grass." (September 1, 2016)

External links[edit]