What terminal/console mode alternatives to vi/vim and nano are available? I am looking for minimal, good looking and friendly text mode editor for complete newbies with PC.

I remember I've seen somewhere a terminal editor that showed menu on Esc instead of cryptic (and somewhat ugly) ^X shortcuts an the bottom, but searching through GitHub I couldn't find it.

UPDATE: It appeared that "friendly for complete newbies" requires more explanation. Let's take a common scenario when user tries to use vim for the first time (which is often set as a default editor). When vim runs with text to edit, there is no help displayed and typing produces strange results, so users hit Esc or F1 and it "doesn't work". A friendly editor, for example, would show help on F1 key, contain menu system with highlighted shortcuts, provide syntax highlighting out of the box, and do that all by default.

  • @karel, is it able to run in terminal? Jan 27, 2015 at 12:26
  • I have not noticed the updated to this question before. You have introduced changes to question that markedly depart from the original request. Please roll back the edit and file a new question with the request for an editor with a menu accessible with <kbd>F1</kbd>. Please read carefully this discussion at the Meta site. Mar 13, 2016 at 9:40
  • @LuísdeSousa F1 is just one usabilty feature to be friendly for newbies and better editor may have many others. Mar 17, 2016 at 5:40
  • I once again invite you to post your additional requirement as a new question. Please respect the web site conduct. Mar 17, 2016 at 8:18
  • @LuísdeSousa ok, let me clarify the question for you. Mar 17, 2016 at 8:45

5 Answers 5


micro shows help on F1, implements syntax highlighting, exits on Esc. No menus, but supports plugins.

  • how big is this compared to nano or pico? looking for something that will be used rarely from within a container...and so would like the smallest fooprint possible
    – mike01010
    Nov 17, 2023 at 22:27

My best guess is, you're searching for the ne (the nice) editor.

Shows an ncurses Menu when pressing ESC twice or F1 once. Pretty straight forward menu. Save, Save as... Quit etc.

sudo apt install ne ne-doc
  • So much time suffering with Vim Nano Etc... what a great little app (thumbsup)
    – brasofilo
    May 18, 2020 at 6:46


Back in the 1990s many of my colleagues preferred Joe to either vi, pico or emacs. It is still considered by some as the most user friendly terminal based text editor.

JOE is a full featured terminal-based screen editor which is distributed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). JOE has been around since 1988 and comes standard with many Linux distributions.

enter image description here

Joe is not installed by default but is available from the universe repository:

sudo apt-get install joe


enter image description here

While far from the minimalistic approach you request, Emacs is highly customisable. So, with a bit of work you can get it to behave in the most suitable way for you.

Useful resources :

It is also available from the official repositories:

sudo apt-get install emacs

To run it in the terminal you must use the -nw flag. If you intend to use it regularly you may create an alias.

emacs -nw
  • Thanks for the pictures. I think the biggest problem with both vim and emacs is that people keep pushing it regardless of if it fits the story or not. =) Joe looks good - small, doesn't require knowledge to be run in text mode, but its user interface is on par with nano. Let me edit the question to narrow the search scope. Jan 26, 2015 at 10:01
  • Forget the above comment - it is informative. In both Joe and Emacs I don't see F1 key visible on the screen. Does it work at all? Dec 17, 2015 at 8:58

Can I also suggest 'jed' console editor, a bit like 'ne' in some respects with menus (accessible via F10), simpler overall (less fully-featured) and with a bit of colour.

sudo apt install jed

Jed Editor


You can check out Ash: https://akashnag.github.io/ash/

It is a minimal text editor for the terminal with common key bindings and is very easy to use; also quite good looking

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