GNU/Linux Tutorials – The Pico Text Editor

Pico is a text editor for Linux. It isn’t a GUI text editor like OpenOffice, but it resides in a terminal window. So the interface is sparse and you get around mainly with keyboard commands. So why would I want to use a text editor with no GUI? Well, Pico is very lightweight, fast, can handle fairly large files and is on just about every Linux distro. I use Pico for tweaking PHP and HTML files on the server.

Vi and emacs are the heavy hitters of the non-GUI, terminal window based text editors. They are extremely powerful, and in the hands of a Jedi text editing master, can often perform complex text-editing tasks far faster than a large, clunky GUI based “modern” text editor.

If you are in the terminal window, and want to edit index.HTML, type this:

Pico index.HTML [enter]

Moving Around:

Easy, huh? Now what? Well, for newbies, the easiest way to move around is to use the arrow keys on the keyboard. Look for the text insertion cursor, which is shaped like a tall rectangle. Move the cursor around a bit to get used to it.

Editing Text:

Now, to write something, just place the cursor where you want to start writing and write! If you make a typing mistake, put the cursor right over the mistake and kit the delete key on the keyboard. The typo is gone. Now type the correct letter.

Saving Files:

To save a file in Pico and then quit the program type this:

[control-key] x [enter]

You’ll see a message at the bottom that says: “Save modified buffer (ANSWERING NO WILL DESTROY CHANGES”). At this point, we want to save changes, so type:

y [enter]

This will save the file with the original name of the file and quit the program. You could have renamed the file before hitting the enter key.

Open a new file in Pico:

At the terminal window, type:

pico [enter]

To save the file:

1. control-key x

2. y

3. type name of file [enter]

Getting around in Pico is a little daunting at first, but after just a bit of practice it becomes second nature. We have only touched on a few of the basic Pico commands here. While not as powerful as vi or emacs, Pico handles those small text editing jobs with aplomb. Once you’ve mastered the basics here, explore the other Pico commands by typing this in the terminal window:

man pico



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