Configuring nano for Windows users



Often people who are using Linux (or BSD/Solaris/macOS for that matter) on the console find themselves a bit hard to edit files in the terminal. There are various choices for editors, from the standard editor ed(1), vi(1), vim, emacs to kakoune, all with varying learning curves.

Increasingly many distributions switch the default installed editor to nano however, due to the much better discoverability of the editor. Still, however, the default keybindings of nano are, for people coming from Windows, rather different than what users are used to.

For people using the shell regularly, it makes sense that nano, by default, refrains from using keybinds such as Ctrl+S or Ctrl+Z and Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V. The editor does support this, with pretty easy configuration, so for everyone who wants a Windows-y feel, here you go.

The Configuration File

To configure nano, edit the config file which by default would be placed in


You can create the directory, if it doesn’t exist and edit the config (with nano of coure) using:

$ mkdir -p ~/.config/nano
$ nano ~/.config/nano/nanorc

You can now disable the default functionality of Ctrl+Z (^Z in UNIX speak) by adding the following line:

# Disable ^Z for suspending the editor
unset suspendable

Now that we have ^Z free, we can bind it, as well as others, to their respective common functions:

# Rebind keys to a more "common" layout while editing text (main)
bind ^Z undo main
bind ^S writeout main
bind ^F whereis main
bind ^X cut main
bind ^V paste main
bind ^R replace main

This will bind ^Z to “undo” when we’re editing text, i.e., in the “main window”. We can place nano in other menus/windows where we don’t edit files and want to retain any funcitonality of ^Z there (if there is some).

However, for quitting, we want to bind ^Q, regardless of the window/menu we are currently in:

# ... and in other "menus" as well
bind ^Q exit all

Finally we may add displaying line numbers:

set linenumbers

More details on the available settings can be found if you open the man(ual) page for the configuration file:

$ man nanorc

Under the heading OPTIONS you’ll find the different, well, options available. The possible functions for keybinds are under section REBINDING KEYS. Nano is incredible configurable and astoundingly powerful, so if something bothers you, change it.

Or switch to a better editor, like kakoune <3