Enter nano in response to a shell prompt and use nano's fine, self contained "help" feature to learn all about nano.  nano will start by drawing an empty editing buffer on your screen, like so:

Once you see this screen, your keystrokes are no longer going to be accumulated by the shell for interpretation as commands.   Instead, each keystroke you type will go to nano and all the "ordinary" keystrokes will show up in the window as text (unless you hold down the "control" key on your keyboard).  Once you start nano and start typing, the window might look like so:

In nano's on-screen documentation, the ^ symbol is used to mean "hold down the control key while simultaneously typing the following key."  So on the nano editing screens, above, you see  at the bottom of the screen a bunch of reminders in inverse video like ^X Exit    Holding down the control key and then pressing the 'x' key will cause nano to exit.  (Pressing the 'x' key without holding down the control key will just enter a text 'x' into the text editing portion of the nano buffer window.)  Note:  In the nano display of ^X Exit , that's a capital X after the ^caret.   To me, that would indicate that you should hold down both the control key and the shift key before depressing the 'x' key.  But the "shift" is unnecessary.  I myself would have made that nano display look like ^x Exit , but nano doesn't — I don't know why.  Anyway, the three most important nano control keys are:

To start editing an already existing file with nano, just enter  nano file_name.  If no such file exists, nano will create a new but empty file for you by that name and then start with an empty editing window as shown in the first figure, above.  But you can also start nano with no file name whatsoever and it will wait until an appropriate time to ask you what name you want to assign to the new file it will create for your text.

I think I've given you enough information here to get started, and nano is simple enough and has a nice internal help system; there's also a quick reference card (the pdf file there actually is for an older version of nano that was named pico, but the quick reference card is still correct).

This page last changed 8 May 2018 by M.S. Jaffe