Nano Vs Vim [Choose the Right One]

For writing, editing, deleting, pasting, and handling text, text editors are essential. Nano and Vim are the most used ones among the available text editors in Linux. This article will give you insights into the two text editors Nano and Vim based on the key features, community support, and performance. Let’s dive into the article.

What is Nano?

Nano is a text editor that provides basic editing functions such as writing, deleting, copying, and pasting text. It comes as a pre-installed package in most UNIX-like operating systems and it also supports other operating systems like Windows, macOS, and Linux. It provides simple navigation, features, and a user-friendly interface.

Nano text editor

What is Vim?

Vim, the short form of Vi improved, is a free and open-source screen-based text editor. It is a very flexible and strong text editor. Vim is not only designed for the command line interface but also for the graphical user interface. It provides keyboard efficiency by customizing it according to the user’s preference.

Vim text editor interface

Difference Between Features of Nano and Vim

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 Vim:

 Features Nano Vim
Base version Inspired by Pico text editor. Improved version of Vi text editor.
Multilevel Undo No, supports only the recent edit and basic undo functionality. Yes.
User Experience Suitable for both beginners and advanced users. Suitable for experienced users.
Customization Limited Extensive
Saving Sessions No, saves the content but not the states. Yes. Saves the current state.
Performance Minimal High performance
Learning curve No learning curve. Steep learning curve.
Command line editing Basic editing features. Advanced features as it supports multiple modes.
Scrolling per line Yes Yes
Modes Editing mode only. Provides multiple modes such as normal mode, command-line mode, insert mode, select mode, visual mode, and ex mode.
Auto-indent Ability No. But can be added auto-indent by editing the config file. Yes.
Plugin No Yes
Opening multiple files Yes (by using ALT+< and ALT+> navigate multiple files) Yes
Split screen No Yes
Fold Does not support. Support.
Graphical User Interface Terminal-based Terminal-based and also has a GUI version named “gvim”
Availability Pre-installed on Unix-based systems. Also available for Windows, and macOS, Linux. Unix-like operating system, Windows, DOS, and BeOS.

Nano Vs Vim: Keyboard Shortcuts

The most used keyboard shortcuts of the two text editors have been shown below:

Functions Nano Vim
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.

h,j,k,l: Move the cursor left, down, up, and right respectively.

H, M, L: Move to top, middle, and bottom respectively.

gj and gk: Move the cursor down and up respectively of a multiline text.

CTRL+E and CTRL+Y: Scroll down and up one line respectively.

ESC: Escape out of any mode.

i: Switch to insert mode.

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.

J: Join line two consequent with space.

gJ: oin line two consequent without space.

s: Delete character.

S: delete line.

2dd: delete two lines.

u: Undo

U: Restore the last changed line.

. : Repeat the last command.

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

CTRL+X: Exit.

:w: Write the file without exiting.

:wq: Write and quit.

:q: Quit. (Fail if there are unsaved changes.)

:q! Or ZQ: Quit without saving the unsaved changes.

Search and Replace CTRL+W: Search for text.

CTRL+\: Activate search and replace.

r: Replace one character.

R: Replace more than one character until exiting from any mode.

cc: Replace the entire line.

/pattern: Search for pattern.

?pattern: Search backward for pattern.

:%s/old/new/g: Replace all old occurrences with new ones throughout the file.

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

Nano Vs Vim: Community and Support

Community and support mainly refer to a group of developers and users that work and help together using a specific platform. They also help in the learning curve of the text editor. Both Nano and Vim have a well-structured community and support.

Vim has open-source development community support. For its extensive feature and command, it has a rich library. For progress and solving issues, the Vim community group and forum help by replying to the queries and problems of the users. On the other hand, Nano has small community support in comparison to Vim. So, it is quite difficult to find extensive support for nano. However, the small community tries to resolve the user’s issue.

Nano Vs Vim: Performance

While evaluating the performance of a text editor, you need to consider the usage of resources and start-up time. Let’s take a look at the performance of these two:

  • Usage of resources: Being a lightweight text editor, Nano can be easily integrated with the system. While using low-resources, it shows high speed. On the other hand, because of its extensive features and plugin support, vim uses quite high resources in comparison with Nano.
  • Start-up time: Nano provides fast start-up times which allows one to edit a file immediately after launching an application. On the other hand, vim has a fast start-up time but this depends on many factors such as the number of plugins, file size, and configuration.

Difference Based on Application of Nano and Vim

When choosing a text editor, it is important to consider which specific applications the text editor provides. Let’s take a look at the following table to understand the difference between applications:

Applications Nano Vim
Quick Edits Suitable for quick modification because of its easy interface and learning curve. Suitable for experienced users and supports modal and extensive editing.
Embedded Systems Because of its lightweight, it can be easily used as an embedded system. For more advanced text capability and processing, use the Vim text editor.
Remote Editing Because of its simplicity and straightforward nature, it shows good results in remote editing over SSH connections. Support remote editing over SSH connection, and can be used as embedded systems that have proficiency in commands and customization.
System Administration Suitable for simple system management tasks. Suitable for complex management tasks.

Nano or Vim: Which One Should I Choose?

Nano text editor is suitable for beginners because of its user-friendliness and straightforward nature. It provides the basic command for writing and editing files at the bottom. As it provides simple processes and commands, beginners can learn nano with minimal effort.

On the other hand, the Vim text editor provides extensive features and plugin support. It also provides multiple modes which mainly make its learning curve steep. However, once the user is familiar with the text editor interface, it will be a great experience.

Based on the above discussion, the Nano text editor is suitable for beginners and those who only want basic editing tasks. On the contrary, users who want extensive features and a modal interface can use the Vim text editor.


To sum up, the article has discussed the differences between features, keyboard shortcuts, community support, performance, and applications between the two text editors- Nano and Vim. The nano text editor is the best option for beginners and it is easy for experienced users to utilize Vim text editor.

People Also Ask

What is the difference between Nano and Vim text editors?

The main differences between Nano and Vim text editors are their user interface, features, and customization. Nano provides a simple and user-friendly interface on the hand, and Vim provides a complex interface. Moreover, Nano provides straight-forward features and Vim provides extensive features. Also, Vim is more customizable than Nano.

Is Nano based on Vim?

No, these are different text editors. Nano is a simple user-friendly text editor which is an inspired version of Pico text editor. Vim is a feature-rich text editor which is an improved version of Vi.

Is Vim powerful?

Yes, vim is a powerful text editor that provides extensive features, multiple modes, and keyboard shortcuts. It also provides a GUI-based option for editing texts. Vim text editor provides fast start-up. And, it provides multiple plugin ecosystems.

Is Vim better than Nano?

It mainly depends on the user’s preference. For example, if the user is a beginner then Nano text will be suitable as it is simple and user-friendly. On the other hand, for the experienced user, the Vim text editor shows better results as it provides extensive features.

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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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