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Using Nano Editor

Show Line Numbers in Nano

Feeling lost and want to figure out which line you are at? Here's how to quickly show the line numbers in Nano editor.

Want to display the line numbers in Nano while working on a text file?

There are two main ways for it:

  • Display current line number at the bottom
  • Display all line numbers at the left side

Here are the keys and commands for both methods:

Action Result
nano -c file Opens file with numbers displayed at bottom for current line
Ctrl+C Same behavior as above but from inside the editor
set constantshow Add it to ~/.nanorc to make the above behavior permanent
nano -l file Opens file with all line numbers displayed in left sidebar
Alt+# or Alt+Shift+3 Same behavior as above but from inside the editor
set linenumbers Add it to ~/.nanorc to make the above behavior permanent

If you always want to display line numbers in the left sidebar, you can make Alt+# kind of change permanent by adding set linenumber to the ~/.nanorc file.

Don't worry. I'll show all the steps in details.

Display current line number in Nano

Provide the -c or --constantshow while opening a file with nano:

nano -c filename

Just to be clear, it won't display all line numbers by default in the left-hand side.

Instead, it displays the current line number information at the bottom as you move the cursor over different lines. Actually, it displays the cursor position info and row number (line number) info is one of them.

Display current line numbers in Nano editor
Line number info is displayed at the bottom

As you move the cursor (using arrow keys) and go to other lines, the line numbers change as well. Basically, you continuously see the current line number at the bottom of the nano editor.

Show current line number from within Nano editor

If you forgot to open a file with the -c option, no worries. What you see above can also be achieved from within the editor but with a little problem.

When you are viewing a file with Nano, press Ctrl+C and it will display the current cursor position information at the bottom.

Unlike the previous option, it won't display current line numbers as you change the lines. 

You have to press Ctrl+C each time you want to see the current line number. Not very convenient, I know.

Change Nano configuration to always show current line number at bottom

This is simply making the first method permanent. This way, you don't have to open a file with nano -c every time.

It is up to you if you want to make this change permanent.

Edit the nanorc file. If it doesn't exit, it will be created.

nano ~/.nanorc

And add the following like to it:

set constantshow

If you would rather not want it, edit the file again and remove the set constantshow line.

Display all the line numbers in left side in Nano editor

Open a file with -l option to display all line numbers in the left side:

nano -l filename

And you should see the line numbers now:

Display all line numbers in Nano

While using the nano editor, you can use the modifier key and have the line numbers displayed on the left side all the time.

For Linux distributions, it should be Alt+# keys. If your keyboard does not have the # key, you can use Alt+shift+3 to achieve this.

On macOS, the modified key is Esc so use Esc+shift+3 there.

You can make this behavior default by adding the following line to your ~/.nanorc file:

set linenumbers

As you can see, it is not a lot different than showing line numbers in Vim. Good to see such option available that make Nano an excellent choice.

Abhishek Prakash