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Can nano do syntax highlighting like gedit and vim? How can I enable it? I need at least bash and python syntax highlights.

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Thanks very much for the syntax files in the git repo, I use this on all my servers now... keep up the good work matey !!! –  user326219 Sep 12 '14 at 15:23
@TheGene Comment and thank on the answer. The repo is credited to him, not me, the one asking the question. –  Oxwivi Sep 15 '14 at 11:45

4 Answers 4

up vote 53 down vote accepted

The nano editor provides syntax highlighting for a few languages and scripts by itself. Check out /usr/share/nano/

nits@nits-excalibur:~$ ls /usr/share/nano/
asm.nanorc     fortran.nanorc   man.nanorc     ocaml.nanorc   ruby.nanorc
awk.nanorc     gentoo.nanorc    mgp.nanorc     patch.nanorc   sh.nanorc
c.nanorc       groff.nanorc     mutt.nanorc    perl.nanorc    tcl.nanorc
cmake.nanorc   html.nanorc      nano-menu.xpm  php.nanorc     tex.nanorc
css.nanorc     java.nanorc      nanorc.nanorc  pov.nanorc     xml.nanorc
debian.nanorc  makefile.nanorc  objc.nanorc    python.nanorc

Link them to your user's nano configuration file present at ~/.nanorc with something similiar to this line:

nits@nits-excalibur:~$ cat ~/.nanorc
include /usr/share/nano/sh.nanorc

Now, syntax highlighting is enabled in nano for whatever file you linked (You could also link multiple files)

screenshot of syntax highlighting

Note: Sometimes you might get a segmentation fault after you have edited your ~/.nanorc file. If such an error occurs, unsetting the LANG environment variable helps. You can unset it with unset LANG in the terminal. (Solution obtained from here)

There are also other solutions if you are not satisfied with your bash highlighting. One example of such can be found here

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Those lines are uncommented in /etc/nanorc - are the global settings being overwritten by ~/.nanorc? How do I disable .nanorc? –  Oxwivi Dec 23 '11 at 16:31
Oh wait, I don't even have a ~/.nanorc file. –  Oxwivi Dec 23 '11 at 16:33
The global settings (in /etc) provide settings for all users. The ~/.nanorc provides additional settings for your user-profile. To disable your '~/.nanorc' you can just rename it or delete it. (Edit after the second comment), you can create one by touch ~/.nanorc –  nitstorm Dec 23 '11 at 16:34
Wait, wait, how come the global setting with all the include lines not enabling syntax highlights even though I have not .nanorc? –  Oxwivi Dec 23 '11 at 16:53
This is an excerpt from the /etc/nanorc - ## Please note that you must have configured nano with --enable-nanorc for this file to be read! –  nitstorm Dec 23 '11 at 17:11

I used this command to quickly enable all available languages.

find /usr/share/nano/ -iname "*.nanorc" -exec echo include {} \; >> ~/.nanorc

As mentioned in other answers, /usr/share/nano/ contains the definitions for different languages.

$ ls /usr/share/nano
asm.nanorc     fortran.nanorc   man-html       ocaml.nanorc   ruby.nanorc
awk.nanorc     gentoo.nanorc    man.nanorc     patch.nanorc   sh.nanorc
cmake.nanorc   groff.nanorc     mgp.nanorc     perl.nanorc    tcl.nanorc
c.nanorc       html.nanorc      mutt.nanorc    php.nanorc     tex.nanorc
css.nanorc     java.nanorc      nanorc.nanorc  pov.nanorc     xml.nanorc
debian.nanorc  makefile.nanorc  objc.nanorc    python.nanorc

Also mentioned, to enable highlighting for a language, you add include and the path to the language definition you want to enable to your ~/.nanorc file. So, for example, to enable C/C++ you would add this line.

include /usr/share/nano/c.nanorc

The find command searches for files or directories within the specified directory. -iname flag tells it to only look for files with a name that ends with .nanorc, and the -exec flags defines a command to execute on each file found. The {} gets replaced with the file name. \; is used to signify the end of the command to execute, and lastly >> ~/.nanorc causes the output to be appended to your ~/.nanorc file.

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Yes you can, however the default syntax definitions are quite poor and incomplete. I'm maintaining a more accurate set of definitions here, for anyone who finds them useful.

To install, run:

git clone https://github.com/nanorc/nanorc.git
cd nanorc
make install
echo 'include ~/.nano/syntax/ALL.nanorc' >> ~/.nanorc
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Thanks for keeping those nice syntax definitions in GitHub. –  Rubens Mariuzzo Nov 13 '12 at 2:43
My *.js files weren't working...edited /etc/nanorc to remove any other syntax includes as per the FAQ github.com/nanorc/…. ♥ Nano ♥ nanorc –  Carlton Aug 6 '14 at 12:27
I just installed your syntax defs on Mac OSX. There's only one thing I'd note, which is the black colour of the open-bracket in python gets lost against the black background of my terminal –  Tom Busby Aug 27 '14 at 14:25
this is REALLY awesome, thanks!! –  Kevin Duke Dec 8 '14 at 3:03
Actually there is a problem, some of the colored text is black! If our terminal background is black, these words are invisible! –  Kevin Duke Dec 8 '14 at 3:20
wget -r -nH --cut-dirs=3 --no-parent --reject="index.html*" https://nanosyntax.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/syntax-nanorc/ -P ~/.nano-syntax
for i in `ls --color=never -1 ~/.nano-syntax/*.nanorc` ; do echo "include $i" >> ~/.nanorc ; done
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It would be helpful if you could explain why this is a useful answer for newer users. What is the command doing? What does it change? Randomly suggesting to run a command line is not helpful. –  Kevin Bowen Jun 28 '13 at 3:10

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