back to article Venerable text editor GNU Nano reaches version 5.0 and adds the modern frippery that is scrollbars

Cult text editor GNU Nano has released a major update, taking the terminal-based program to its fifth version in twenty years. The new update, called "Among the fields of barely", introduces a new --indicator command-line switch that will enable the display a kind of scrollbar on the right-hand side of the screen to indicate …

  1. Paul Johnston


    Nano is not cult.

    Now vi v emacs let battle commence!

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Cult?

      As in, it's a cult classic. Which it is.


    2. petethebloke

      Re: Cult?

      I thought it was for people who can't be bothered to learn Vi.

      When crontab says "easier" next to Nano, surely that deters every self-respecting sysadmin?

      1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

        Re: Cult?

        The thing about easier software is that it allows you to think about the problem more than the tool. Even before you've spent many years adjusting yourself to suit the program.

        1. sahora

          Re: Cult?

          I stuck my head in the foot, this tool got me thinking more about the problem than the solution

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Cult?

          "The thing about easier software is that it allows you to think about the problem more than the tool."

          So? vi requires no thinking about. It's hardwired.

          1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

            Re: Cult?

            That was my meaning when I wrote about adjusting yourself to suit the program. You've done it, I refuse to.

            I'll take an editor that reminds me what commands are available thanks.

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. jgarbo

          Re: Cult?

          This peculiar Christian fascination with suffering to achieve is amusing. Give me easy that does the job faster and keep your self-flagellation for weekends. S&M is for sex not computing.

          1. Scene it all

            Re: Cult?

            Finally, an explanation for the popularity of Java that makes sense. But I have had my epihany and no longer will have anything to do with Java. All my programming is now in Lisp.

        4. Smartypantz

          Re: Cult?

          There is a difference between "user friendly" and "beginner friendly" "Vi", "Vim" and "Emacs" are definitely user friendly, nano is definitely beginner friendly (haven't used it enough to know if it is also user friendly)

          "Vi" probably can't be described as "beginner friendly" :-)

          1. bombastic bob Silver badge

            Re: Cult?

            "learning curves" are overrated. I just wanna get those 1 minute tasks over with, not spend an hour learning how to do a "1 minutes' worth" of work, and unnecessary additional time looking up how to do otherwise-simple things in documentation EVERY! STINKING! TIME! because "I never use that hideous thing unless there is no other choice" etc..

            This is why nano, and its possible predecessor 'ee', exist. Not for n00bs, per se, but for people like me who don't want to "look it up" all of the time, wasting effort that could be spent doing things that are more fun, more interesting, or maybe even just more important.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cult?

        > that deters every self-respecting sysadmin?

        Next release: a pop-up asking "Do you really want to do this?" when typing in a regex.

      3. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: Cult?

        seems all of the Debian-based distros have nano - they used to include 'ee' but for some reason it's not now (abandoned?). FreeBSD still has 'ee' though.

        I'm not a fan of 'vi' but I know the handful of commands that let me use it. Or more more importantly, exit without a reboot (or 'killall' from another console/session). Never type 'edit' in a console unless you're prepared for it. Did that the first time I booted a POSIX system (FreeBSD 4.7 in this case). Frustration ensued, followed by the boot button. i was still figuring it all out.

        Nano seems to be most useful on an RPi when you have to ssh in a lot and edit things. I'm glad it's there. That probably makes those who use it members of a pretty big 'Cult'.

    3. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Cult?

      Cult as in, "Liked by relatively few but very much."

      Alternatively, how about mcedit? In common with nano it shuns that Dark Cave UI style, but also has drop down menus like a sensible program. Shame it's such a faff to fix the lowest common denominator colour scheme really.

      Is midnight commander and mcedit still maintained?

      1. nematoad Silver badge

        Re: Cult?

        I get a new version sometimes when I update PCLinuxOS so yes.

      2. jgarbo

        Re: Cult?

        I use MC and its internal editor daily and much. Nano is for masochists.

    4. juice Silver badge

      Re: Cult?

      It's still not v...



    5. David Robinson 1

      Re: Cult?

      Vi[m], because back when Unix had more flavours than Starbucks, vi was nearly always available. And I had to switch between a few different flavours of Unix back in the day.

  2. gobaskof

    I wonder how much more participation Nano and other GNU projects would be if they moved to a more friendly source code manager or bug tracker rather than Savannah. Maybe it is a generational thing, but I find making a branch and then a pull request far simpler than trying to submit patches. I got into a right mess the first patch I sent to KDE (phabricator not savannah, but similar interface) when I was asked for a changes and sent a second patch to the fist patch (apparently not Kosher), finally got something through and someone else applied the patch and so I am not even in the Git history :(

    I am not suggesting GitHub. I assume they have an issue with GitLab CE (which Gnome have moved to and KDE are starting to)? A Gitea clone?

    1. Phil Lord

      That and the difficulty inherent in the copyright assignment process which many (but not all) GNU projects require. It's an ongoing discussion that raises itself every few years, and I suspect will eventually happen. Savannah is an a fork of sourceforge I think, and given that everyone has abandoned that is indicative.

      1. gobaskof

        I suppose you could require the copyright assignment before you accept a merge?

  3. nematoad Silver badge

    An alternative editor.

    Ah yes,

    Nano and Pico. I tried them but could not get on with either.

    What I did find and use to this day is a little extra bundled with MC called mcedit. It's all I need for editing .cfg files etc. and the key bindings are the same as MC so I found it easy to use.

    It may not be for everyone but it is a little hidden gem which no-one seems to know about.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: An alternative editor.

      joe for the wordstar win.

  4. Dvon of Edzore

    Brighter what?

    "Brighter versions of black, ... and white"

    Does it come with the disclaimer "Unavailable where contrary to the laws of physics"?

    1. RichardBarrell

      Re: Brighter what?

      It's common in terminal emulators for "white" to be somewhere near #cccccc and "light white" to be #ffffff

      Trying out nano 5 now, "brightblack" appears to be about #646464

    2. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

      Re: Brighter what?

      Last time I looked Epson photo printers had at least three shades of black, predating Ms. Hanky Spanky by at least a decade.

  5. Steve Graham

    I keep nano around for simple edits, but I've compiled it myself to switch the key labels from ^G ^X ^O etc. to F1, F2, F3 etc. (Both combinations still work identically.)

    It seems typical of the GNU mindset to think "Ah! But the user may be using a machine without function keys!" It's 2020.

    1. BitGin


      No function keys is getting more common in 2020 rather than less so.

      OK that's mostly laptops with the function keys locked into being media controls and you can usually change it but it does make some of the keyboard twister key combo presses even worse if you've got to add a "fn" key into the mix.

    2. really_adf

      It seems typical of the GNU mindset to think "Ah! But the user may be using a machine without function keys!" It's 2020.

      Personally I find function keys just a little too far away from my fingers, and I can't find them without looking (but I guess that's at least partly because I don't use them much). So perhaps "machine without function keys" is not the reason, or at least not the only reason.

    3. plrndl

      We're not all two finger typists. Function keys are a PIA for touch typists.

    4. ovation1357

      Let me get this straight.... You have the technical ability to compile this whole simplified editor from source and you've chosen to do this instead of just using vi?

    5. bombastic bob Silver badge

      flaws in nano

      the only complaint I have about nano is if the Linux distro (say, Raspbian) set up HIDEOUS colorization and I'm trying to edit a file and it's dark grey on black and I can't freaking READ it...

      That's editable, fortunately, once you've found out where it is. But I'd like a switch or ~/.something setting to turn it OFF, like I do when I 'unalias ls' and things like that. Colorized text on black background NEVER looks right. It should be easy to turn it ALL off without mucking with 'term' settings in .profile or .bashrc or elsewhere.

      color choices aren't just for "I like" vs "I hate". My ~60 year old eyes need less strain, and so I minimize that with off-white backgrounds in the GUI, and white-on-black consoles. Turning off hidesouly dim colors on black background (favoring NO colors) would be a nice start, especially if it's just a single line in a config file, or something I can 'alias'... or 'unalias' as the case may be.

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: flaws in nano

        Colourised text on a light background is also useless. Many common colours in the typical ls -c setup leave you with unreadable filenames.

        I always assumed this was because 1334 distro releasers liked dark screens to go with their hoodies, so it's interesting that you find them rubbish on dark, too.

        Where do these idiot colour choices come from and why are they default ? GUI applications don't seem to have this problem (ignoring 'cool' websites) but consoles can't seem to get it right.

        Is the problem that it's configurable, and therefore MUST be configured - even if it doesn't help ?

        OMG I just agreed with bb. Igmc..

  6. DJV Silver badge

    I love the way the changelog refers to "the scroll-bar thing" - makes it sound like the writer thinks it's some sort of abomination!

  7. Teiwaz

    Ah Nano

    I tried learning vi and emacs countless times, but nanos elegant simplicity I just keep coming back to.

    1. Scene it all

      Re: Ah Nano

      I use emacs for serious programming. For quick fixes to /etc files and shell scripts, I always go for nano.

  8. Rob 15


    I've just discovered the editor 'tilde'. It's a bit like the old MS-DOS editor. Features include (shock) ^S to save and ^Q to quit. It's a nano killer.

    1. oiseau Silver badge

      Re: Tilde

      I've just discovered the editor ...

      Arriving in the Linux camp after 20+ years of MS OSs (DOS onwards) I had a hard time struggling with the usual recommended editors (and their variety) till I came across 'jed'.

      That's what I use these days with the ocasional fling with mcedit, but then I am not a coder/programmer.


    2. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

      Re: Tilde

      Which MS-DOS editor? I've endured edlin, which even made the evil one look good.

      1. Rob 15

        Re: Tilde

        Which MS-DOS editor?

        The fullscreen one, from MS-DOS 5 onwards. Also used as the qbasic editor.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: Tilde

          Actually I thought the QBasic editor was pretty good, too. Almost too late the party, though. By the time MS-DOS had a decent editor, Windows 3.0 released.

          Many of those old MS-DOS edit things (especially for programmers, like Turbo C's editor, PWB, and QBasic) seem to be EMACS-like in a lot of ways.

          Though I hve to admit I prefer 'ee' to 'nano'. As I recall, 'ee' used libcurses, and I wonder if that has something to do with why the debian-based distros don't seem to have it any more... (everything else seems to use libncurses now, and FreeBSD's base has a 'new_curses.c' that implements curses for 'ee' in the contributed source tree - and the BSD license possibly keeps it out of certain Linux distros).

      2. NickHolland

        Re: Tilde

        edlin evil? Edlin was simplicity least for a line editor.

        I've used a lot of line editors on a lot of old, obscure systems, and even on printing terminals. Edlin wasn't at all bad. The one line editor I could never get my head around was CP/M ED.COM. One day, back when I was young and my mind fairly nimble, I sat down and figured, "SOMEONE thought this was a good idea", and figured I'd force myself to learn it. It's worked for me with a lot of things in the past. Well, after almost an entire day, I got a one page assembly program entered in (just copying a printed example...copy/paste was still years away), and if I recall properly, compiling correctly. And I still couldn't comprehend CP/M ED.COM. Never met someone who said, "Hey, I'm good with CP/M ED", either. Don't even recall ever meeting anyone who said, "I can use ED".

        And no -- no relationship to the Unix "ed" command.

        1. John PM Chappell

          CP/M ED

          I used it back in the day, on a machine name I forget (had a W in it, as I recall). School had rooms of these things - green screen, with their own diskette standard (nice captive market there for the school shop).

          All I actually remember using it for was occasional small bits of homework (I seem to recall there being a more full-featured WP thingy for serious work) and writing up stuff to do with WH40K.

      3. chololennon

        Re: Tilde

        Edlin, what a nightmare! The worst editor I've ever used.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: Tilde

          worst editor...

          ever heard of 'TECO' or PDP-11's EDIT ? (I think they inspired edlin)

          Maybe TECO was better. You could creatively write programs using TECO. It looks a bit like BF and Forth had a baby, and it was UGLY.

          1. mjflory

            Re: Tilde

            Fifty years later I still remember XEDIT for VM/CMS. At least I remember the pain...

          2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

            Re: Tilde

            I grew up on TECO. I was happy to move to a screen-based editor once they were common, but I do think that background makes me a bit more accepting of line-based one, even though they're mostly crap compared with TECO.

            I don't recall the commands for edlin now. But MS-DOS's general model was to take some tool built for Unix or RSX-11, dumb it down until it was nearly, but not completely unusable, change some things (like the directory separator character) so your muscle-memory constantly misled you, and then make it essential.

  9. Alan J. Wylie

    "Among the fields of barely"

    That's intere-Sting. Barley, surely?

    1. Psmo

      Re: "Among the fields of barely"

      I took it as a pun on minimalism. If that's a typo it's very fortuitous.

  10. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Sort of nano fan

    For low level small text and bash scripts, it works well for me.

    For anything of any size I go full GUI with kwrite.

    s'pose I'll get kicked out of here now

    1. John PM Chappell

      Re: Sort of nano fan

      I use it for editing config files, and that's about it. For anything else there are just better tools, pretty much regardless of the system.

    2. chololennon

      Re: Sort of nano fan

      I agree with you, but Kate (always) instead of Kwrite please! (yes, they share the same core, but as a programmer, Kate is the way to go)

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Sort of nano fan

      actually I would think that MOST people that drive on a POSIX system daily would do the same thing.

      for remote editing on RPi I make use of DiSPLAY=something:0.0 a _LOT_ and edit code locally on the RPi using 'pluma'.

  11. bazza Silver badge

    I think that the world has missed a trick. Borland back in the 1980s and early 1990s has some fantastic TUIs, and they were really, really good. All of that got thrown out with the arrival of the GUI, and now we’ve successfully screwed things up to the extent where it’s now hard to have a GUI app remotes to a terminal (like we could with X applications), people are reinventing TUI apps for use in SSH shells. It really is quite pathetic.

    Quattro Pro was a masterpiece of a TUI.

  12. Binraider Silver badge

    I bash ms at most opportunities through I have to admit served very well. Column, row indicators and a simple but not obscure UI. A far cry from what they produce today. I never really got on with amiga Memacs, on the extras 1.3 disk. 30 years on various Emacs flavours still dont float my boat. There was one that used to ship with Mandrake Linux I quite liked. Vi and edlin were and are masochistic for anything beyond a one line edit. Nano is somewhere in between. Expanding on the UI turns it into something else so I don't half wonder if v5 should be a fork!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nano comes with MacOS

    Howzatt for mixed joy?

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