Ben's Logarion ☪


Trying Nano

For years I used to use vim exclusively on unix-like systems, not wanting to bother using another text editor. I had the idea that vim is more powerful than simpler or easier editors and therefore was worth its weight. Of course, long ago when I first started using Linux I had also learned the basics of emacs and could still appreciate its capabilities, though I do not use it any longer and have almost forgotten how.

Recently I decided to take a look at other text editors for writing these blog posts in text mode, because I found that while vim is good for editing files, it's not that great for writing and editing lengthy natural language texts. I thought I would use something like emacs that is always in edit mode, but my server has very limited storage, and the thought of sacrificing 100+ megabytes for emacs was not appealing. (That is for emacs-nox, mind you.) In my search for lighter emacs-like text editors, I found that some tiny clones of emacs have gotten rather famous over the years, with Linus Torvalds using some version of micro-emacs. I was pleasantly surprised to find one version, "mg", actively maintained and widely available, even available by default in OpenBSD.

While looking at tiny editors, of course I had to take a second look at nano, which I had come across some years ago and whose fame I'm well aware of. One thing about it I really didn't like was how obnoxiously it displayed a "frequent commands" menu at the bottom of the screen all the time, obviously to help people who have no idea what they are doing to get around. Of course, as a learner I was able to make use of it, and after determining to really make an effort to use nano quickly learned how to disable the menu so I could get on with my editing.

Now after spending some time playing with nano and studying its commands, I've common to the conclusion that while being beautifully and elegantly simple and easy to use, it has a perfect balance of functions and features to make the editor truly powerful. In fact, I feel rather foolish now for not having used it all these years in cases where it clearly would have come in handy.

Well, that doesn't mean that I'll be ditching vim any time soon, as I'm much too used to vi commands by now. A lot of vim's common commands I use instinctually, almost reflexively, so no doubt trying to use nano for everything would cause a fair bit of frustration, but habit aside it is fairly equally capable for most of what you'd need to use a basic text editor for. (Not sure if I'd want to write code in it, though.)

So maybe switching between vim and nano is like switching between screen and tmux. I know a lot of people like tmux, but I've always preferred screen, and I even tried using tmux for a while to see if it was really better! Anyhow, for nanoblogger, the nano text editor is exactly what I was looking for. Maybe for science I'll spend some time using mg as well.