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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).


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 section 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.

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