Nano is the editor I use in command prompts.

When I open a large file I would like to search for some text (think Ctrl + F).

Is there a way to do this?

  • Ctrl + \ is useful for replace. I never noticed, it's there at the bottom of the nano screen.
    – Thufir
    Jan 4, 2017 at 9:27

4 Answers 4


Ctrl + W is the shortcut for searching. The same effect can be achieved by pressing the F6 key. After entering the search term, press Enter. To repeat the search, issue Alt + W, and to search the previous occurrence, press Alt + Q. In this menu, you can select earlier searches using the arrow up/ down keys.

To toggle backwards searching, you need to press Alt + B in the search dialog.

For more shortcuts, press F1

  • 4
    Alt + W is closing out the iterm shell for me and not repeating the search on Mac May 18, 2015 at 21:36
  • 1
    Alt-B isn't working for me Dec 22, 2015 at 0:18
  • 1
    @ParsaAkbari Your terminal emulator is probably intercepting the keystroke. Try modifying the terminal shortcuts or use a different one. Konsole works for me.
    – Lekensteyn
    Dec 24, 2015 at 9:12
  • 2
    If you type ctrl + W again and press enter, you will go to the next item. (But I agree that Alt + W is faster.)
    – Emiel
    Jun 9, 2016 at 9:20
  • In a Citrix window, I found that F6 worked whereas CTRL+W would close the tab in the browser.
    – TechFanDan
    Aug 13, 2021 at 14:37

CTRL+W and find your text in nano

Nano Basics Guide

  • 2
    How would you search for a string that occurs multiple times, so loop through highlighting the matched text? Dec 22, 2015 at 0:18
  • 2
    F6 triggers the same action, and saves a keystroke. Nov 30, 2016 at 3:24
  • What about backward search with hotkey like f6? Oct 24, 2022 at 20:02

^W (F6) Search for a string or a regular expression

  1. Not in all system work F1 for help page. Try ^G.
  2. Not in all system nano has help page

Yep, it's just help page below. For those who see this message [ Sorry, support for this function has been disabled ] instead of nano help page

^G (F1) Display this help text

^X (F2) Close the current file buffer / Exit from nano

^O (F3) Write the current file to disk

^J (F4) Justify the current paragraph

^R (F5) Insert another file into the current one

^W (F6) Search for a string or a regular expression

^Y (F7) Go to previous screen

^V (F8) Go to next screen

^K (F9) Cut the current line and store it in the cutbuffer

^U (F10) Uncut from the cutbuffer into the current line

^C (F11) Display the position of the cursor

^T (F12) Invoke the spell checker, if available

M-\ (M-|) Go to the first line of the file

M-/ (M-?) Go to the last line of the file

^_ (F13) (M-G) Go to line and column number

^\ (F14) (M-R) Replace a string or a regular expression

^^ (F15) (M-A) Mark text at the cursor position

M-W (F16) Repeat last search

M-^ (M-6) Copy the current line and store it in the cutbuffer

M-} Indent the current line

M-{ Unindent the current line

^F Go forward one character

^B Go back one character

^Space Go forward one word

M-Space Go back one word

^P Go to previous line

^N Go to next line

^A Go to beginning of current line

^E Go to end of current line

M-( (M-9) Go to beginning of paragraph; then of previous paragraph

M-) (M-0) Go just beyond end of paragraph; then of next paragraph

M-] Go to the matching bracket

M-- (M-_) Scroll up one line without scrolling the cursor

M-+ (M-=) Scroll down one line without scrolling the cursor

M-< (M-,) Switch to the previous file buffer

M-> (M-.) Switch to the next file buffer

M-V Insert the next keystroke verbatim

^I Insert a tab at the cursor position

^M Insert a newline at the cursor position

^D Delete the character under the cursor

^H Delete the character to the left of the cursor

M-T Cut from the cursor position to the end of the file

M-J Justify the entire file

M-D Count the number of words, lines, and characters

^L Refresh (redraw) the current screen

^Z Suspend the editor (if suspend is enabled)

(M-X) Help mode enable/disable

(M-C) Constant cursor position display enable/disable

(M-O) Use of one more line for editing enable/disable

(M-S) Smooth scrolling enable/disable

(M-P) Whitespace display enable/disable

(M-Y) Color syntax highlighting enable/disable

(M-H) Smart home key enable/disable

(M-I) Auto indent enable/disable

(M-K) Cut to end enable/disable

(M-L) Long line wrapping enable/disable

(M-Q) Conversion of typed tabs to spaces enable/disable


You can search for text in nano using Ctrl W.

Alt W (or Esc, W) will repeat the find. (Alternatively, leaving the box blank will default to the last text searched for.)

Pressing Ctrl R while in the Find prompt will activate Replace mode.

As of nano 2.8.2 (May 2017), searching also works in nano's Ctrl G help screen.

  • 3
    Esc - W did it for me in Mac OS X El Capitan, v10.11.5 thankyou Aug 10, 2016 at 22:18
  • I've discovered recently, a lot of shortcuts tend to work if you press Shift as well, so Alt-Shift-W may work too. (Which makes things a lot easier for repeated searches.)
    – mwfearnley
    Oct 8, 2016 at 14:24
  • Alt W is what i was looking for. Aug 6, 2017 at 7:29
  • Note, some terminals grab Alt W, but Alt Shift W should also work
    – mwfearnley
    Oct 30, 2017 at 9:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.