How To: Go To A Specific Line In Nano

In today’s article, we’re going to learn how you can go to a specific line in Nano. It’ll be an easy article, perhaps even a fairly brief article. There are a just a couple of ways to cover, so it won’t take all that much time or space.

Often, when things like scripts throw an error, they’ll tell you on which line number the error happened. There are often hundreds or thousands of lines in complicated files and navigating to the correct line number is tedious, prone to error.

You can be pressing the down arrow for quite a while! So, why not note the line number where the error occurred and open the file at that specific line? It’s perfectly good sense! It’s such good sense that I figured I’d write an article about it.

You all know that I’m a Nano fan. You can read the ‘big’ Nano article here. If that’s not enough, this link is to a search for Nano across the entire site. There are nearly 30 articles that use Nano in them. I really am quite a fan.

Why am I a fan? Well, the first link will probably tell you that, but I like it because it’s simple. Nano’s starting to be fairly universal. It’s light and that’s why I like it – it’s only meant for quick text file edits.

Nano’s not really the right tool for writing a book, nor would I want to use it to write large scripts or for programming. For what it is, it’s great. If it’s not great, odds are good that you’re not using it as the tool it is. Sure, it’ll work for other things, but it excels at being what it is – a quick text editor in the terminal.

Go To A Specific Line In Nano:

Nano is a terminal-based tool. So, you obviously need to have an open terminal. If you don’t know how to open the terminal, you can do so with your keyboard – just press CTRL + ALT + T and your default terminal should open. Tada! (That’s mostly copy/paste from previous articles, but I do sometimes mix it up a little!)

With  your terminal open, let’s show you how to go to a specific line in Nano. It’s pretty easy, and we’re going to use a file most users will have. If you don’t have a ~/.bash_history file, you can use any plain text file you want.

I suppose we should first make sure that you have Nano installed. To check, you can just look for the version. That’s done with:

Your output should look something like:

checking the nano version
As you can see, Nano is happily installed and ready for use.

If Nano isn’t installed, and you’re using any mainstream distro, it’s certainly in your default repositories. You can install it like you would any other piece of software in the repositories. 

Now, there are two ways to open and go to a specific line in Nano. The first is probably the easiest. Using our ~/.bash_history as an example, the command looks like this:

Where you see the +25 flag, that’s the place where you specify the line number to start with when  you open Nano. You can use any number you want, provided there are that many lines in the file you’re intending to edit.

The next way is also easy. Using your keyboard, press CTRL + Shift + . Nano will then present you with the chance to enter in a specific line. It looks like a lot like this:

open a specific line in nano
See? Follow the arrow and that’s where it prompts you to enter a line number. ‘Snot hard at all!

So, now you have two ways to go to a specific line in Nano. I told you that it was going to be easy! Nano is awesome.


There’s another article! It’s on one of my favorite subjects – Nano. Now you’ve learned how to go to a specific line in Nano, which is a pretty handy trick to have in your toolbox. It can save you all sorts of time, and not just time scrolling. It means you aren’t paying attention to the rest of the fluff and you can concentrate better, or so it seems to me. For what it is, Nano is my favorite plain text editor and it’s remarkably useful at times.

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Let’s Install Nano (With Some Bonus Information)

This site mentions Nano quite a few times but never tells you how to install Nano. Today, this changes! Today, we make sure you have Nano available! Not all distros have Nano installed by default, but in pretty much all distros Nano would be a useful tool to have.

The Nano text editor (GNU nano) has been around since 1991, 21 years at the time of writing. I’ve written about it a few times, but nothing major. I think the most I’ve written about it was in an article about My Three Favorite Text Editors. If it’s not obvious from all of this, Nano is one of my favorite editors.

Rather than gush, I think I’ll just explain why I like Nano. It’s simple. When making quick edits to text from the terminal, I don’t need to know things like :q! just to exit the program, I can see how to exit the program because it’s written at the bottom. Nano has plenty of features, even a viable, albeit not great, find-and-replace function.

In Nano, you can do the obvious text manipulation tasks – like cut and paste, of course. You can jump to line numbers and all that stuff. At the end of the day, it’s a great terminal text editor that just works and is simple to use. If you’re new to Linux and think Nano looks daunting, you should introduce yourself to Vim or Emacs!

I like simplicity and effectiveness. For the things I do in that situation, quick file creation or editing, it works just fine. I don’t need anything more robust – or more complex.

Install Nano:

Sadly, Nano doesn’t come installed by default on all distros. It’s a tiny application that just works, so I’d be happy to see it as the default (or available by default) on more distros. Until that time, we’re stuck installing it ourselves.

Fortunately, there’s not much trouble installing Nano in the major distros. You just need to start with an open terminal. You can open one with your keyboard. Just pressing CTRL + ALT + T should open up your default terminal. Pick the appropriate command below and it should install nano for you.





For everyone else, hunt around or download and compile it from source

Once you have Nano installed, you’ll need to know how to use it. Fortunately, for most users and most uses, there are a few shortcuts to learn and that’s it. For most people, you don’t need to know a whole lot for basic functionality. As you’re making basic edits, that works. It’s pretty easy.

My usual blurb (that I cut and paste) to tell people how to save a file in Nano is just this little snippet:

(Which, when formatted properly, comes out looking like “press CTRL + X, then Y, and then ENTER“.)

And, that’s it. That’s pretty much all you need to know when making quick text edits in Nano. However, there’s so much more to Nano than you might be expecting.

Bonus Nano Info:

While Nano is simple, it is deceptively simple. If you type nano into the terminal, you’ll see just a few options on the bottom. And, like I said, that too is a bit deceptive. With your terminal still open, type the following:

As you can see, there are a whole lot more options. There are far too many options for me to even begin to touch on them, and you won’t need any/most of them for the basic text editing for which we usually rely on Nano.

You can open a file with Nano like this:

You can also just open an instance of Nano and name the file when you’re closing it. If you want to create the title when you’re starting, you can just use:

That’ll auto-populate the name field when you’re saving the file. So, you can use Nano to create a new text file easily enough.

While you’re in there, you can use CTRL + W to search. If you then use ALT + W to go to the next instance of the text you searched for. Searching is even kind enough to support regex, case-sensitive searches, and can even be used to replace text.

At the bottom of the output, you’ll see directions that tell you how to use Nano. The ^ means you use the CTRL as the modifier. The M (such as M-A to undo) means you use the ALT as the modifier. So, to cut, you’d use CTRL + K and to undo something you’d use the previously mentioned ALT + M.

You’ll get used to it, I promise. You’ll learn it much faster than you’ll learn Vim or Emacs – but those too have their place. I wouldn’t want to spend hours in Nano, but it’s great for a few minutes when you need to make a quick edit.

Like I said, this is just touching on the surface. Look at the man page ( man nano) for more information. There’s a lot to this little editor and the advanced features are there if you need them. For example, I often open files with the -l flag so that it will show line numbers.


Yup… There’s another article. This one tells you how to install Nano and has some bonus information about how to use Nano. I didn’t have time (and this isn’t that kind of site) to tell you about all the other nano options. Those options are just a man nano command away, should you want to use them.

Thanks for reading! If you want to help, or if the site has helped you, you can donate, register to help, write an article, or buy inexpensive hosting to start your site. If you scroll down, you can sign up for the newsletter, vote for the article, and comment.

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