Nano vs Vi [Choose Your Best]

In Linux, a text editor is important for creating, editing, and handling text efficiently. Among many of the available text editors, Nano and Vi are the most used. This article will discuss the key features and performance of the two text editors Nano and Vi which will help you to choose the right text editor. Let’s dive into the article.

What is Nano?

Nano is a text editor for the Unix-like operating system. It provides essential text editing functions such as writing, deleting, copying, and pasting text. To ease common tasks, it has keyboard shortcuts. Nano also provides simple navigation, features, and a user-friendly interface.

Nano text editor

What is Vi?

Vi is a text editor that helps you to write and edit text in a Unix-like operation system. It is a terminal-based text editor that creates, edits and manipulates text from the command line. It supports modal editing and extensive shortcuts for keyboard commands.

Vi terminal based text editor

Nano Vs Vi: Comparison of Features

The features of a specific text editor mainly make the difference between them. Take a look at the following section which shows the feature differences between the text editors Nano and vi:

Features Nano Vi
Performance Normal Quite the same as Nano for basic file editing. May differ based on the file size.
Customization Limited Extensive
User Experience Suitable for both beginners and advanced users. Suitable for experienced users.
Learning curve No learning curve. Steep learning curve.
Command line editing Basic features. Advanced features as it supports multiple modes.
Saving Sessions No, saves the content but not save the state. Yes
Scrolling per line Yes Yes
Opening Multiple files Yes

(by ALT+< and ALT+> navigate multiple files)

Modes Editing mode only. Supports two modes- Command mode and Insert mode.
Auto-indent Ability No. But can be added auto-indent by editing the config file. Does not have built-in. Use the > command for auto-indent.
Split Screen No Yes

Keyboard Shortcuts: Nano Vs Vi

Here’s a comparison of the most used keyboard shortcuts of the two text editors:

Functions Nano Vi
Navigation CTRL+A and CTRL+<: Move the cursor to the beginning of the current line and at the beginning of the document respectively.

CTRL+E and CTRL+>: To the end of the current line and document.

CTRL+F and CTRL+B: Move to forward and backward.

CTRL+P and CTRL+N: Move to the previous and next page respectively.

CTRL+C: Display the current cursor position.

Esc: Escape out of any mode.

j,k: Move up and down one line.

h,l: Move one character left and right respectively.

CTRL+F and CTRL+B: Scroll forward and backward respectively.

CTRL+D and CTRL+U: Scroll down and up respectively.

Edit CTRL+K: Delete the current line.

CTRL+U: Paste text.

ATL+U: Convert to uppercase.

ALT+L: Convert to lowercase.

CTRL+T: Check the spelling of the current file.

CTRL+R: Insert another file to the current one.

r: Replace character.

dd: Remove the entire line.

u: Undo the last edit.

J: Join two lines.

Exit and Save CTRL+O: Write and save the current buffer to a file.

CTRL+X: Exit the nano.

:q!: Quit without saving.

:wq!: Save and quit.

Search and Replace CTRL+W: Search for text.

CTRL+\: Activate search and replace.

/string: Forward search

?string: Backward search.

/^string:  Search from the start line.

/string$: Search from the line’s end.

Note: This table shows only the most used keyboard shortcut. To learn more about the keyboard shortcuts, look at these cheatsheets: Vi cheat sheet and Nano cheat sheet.

Performance: Nano Vs Vi

A text editor’s performance depends on the file size or resources with which it works. As Nano is a lightweight text editor, it can be easily integrated with the system. It shows a faster result than basic text editing of medium-sized files. But for larger files, it will show the results slowly.

On the other side, Vi shows better performance while handling large files as compared to the nano text editor. It has some extensive functionality that makes it capable of handling large files. The minimal design helps it in quick performance.

Applications of Nano and Vi

Nano and Vi are popular text editors because of their important functionality. Let’s take a look at the following table to understand the difference between applications:

Functions Nano Vi
Text Processing Allows to do basic text processing tasks such as copy, paste, delete, search, and replace efficiently. While editing text provides multiple modes such as Insert mode and command mode.
Configure File Modify the system configuration file which helps to control the system behavior and services. Advanced editing features help to customize the configuration file according to the user’s preferences.
System Administration Not suitable for complicated system management tasks. Efficient in managing complex tasks.

Nano or Vi: Which One Should I Choose?

The straightforward and user-friendly nature of the Nano text editor mainly makes it suitable for beginners. It is designed with basic commands which have been displayed at the bottom. As the process and commands are simple and easy, beginners can easily learn them with minimal effort.

On the other hand, the Vim text editor provides extensive features that take time for the beginner to get familiar with the editor. It provides multiple modes that support modal editing and also provides multiple commands. It supports complex keyboard shortcuts that also make this text editor difficult to learn. However once the user is familiar with the text editor interface, then it will be a great experience.

So, based on the discussion, the nano text editor is the better to choose as it is straightforward for beginners and users who prefer a minimalist interface. The users who want extensive features and the modal interface can use the Vi text editor.


To sum up, the article has discussed the differences between features, keyboards, performance, and applications between the two text editors- Nano and Vi. For beginners, Nano will be the best option. But for experienced ones, Vi can be a great option. However, it ultimately depends on the users’ preferences.

People Also Ask

Is nano the same as Vi?

No, Nano is a simple, user-friendly terminal-based text editor. On the other hand, Vi is a modal editing terminal-based text editor. It provides advanced features that help the user to perform system administration and network services. Despite their differences, there is a similarity, in that both of them are terminal-based text editors.

Is Nano better than Vi?

It depends on the users’ experience. But Nano is better for beginners and the ones who are just looking for basic texting. Nano is a simple and user-friendly text editor with an easy keyboard shortcut, which makes it accessible to new users.

How do I edit Nano?

To edit a file using Nano, first open the terminal. Use the command nano following the filename. If the file exists then it will open the nano terminal. Otherwise, it will create a new file. Once you write the file, then press CTRL+O to save the edits. And then press CTRL+X to exit nano. That is how you can create, a new or edit a file in Nano.

What is Vim?

Vim is an improved form of Vi text editor. It is a very strong and flexible text editor which is free, open-source, and screen-based. Vim is not only designed for the command line interface but also for the graphical user interface.

Is Vi editor difficult to use?

Vi may seem difficult to use for beginners because of its multiple editing modes. Initially, it seemed difficult because of the keyboard shortcuts. Once the user has adapted to these keyboard shortcuts and the interface then they will find it a powerful and efficient editor.

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Afia Zahin Oishi

Assalamualaikum, I am Afia Zahin, completed my graduation in Biomedical Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, currently working as a Linux Content Developer Executive at SOFTEKO. A high achieving professional with a strong work ethic and able to work in a team in order to consistently achieve my goal and build my skillset. Able to handle difficult problems with patience and swift decision-making. Read Full Bio

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