Colorado State University

Basic Pico Commands

What is Pico?

The UNIX Pico editor is a full screen editor which is very easy to use. Beginners often find it nicer and easier to use initially than either vi or Emacs. People in technical fields (e.g. CS, EE etc.) should probably learn vi or emacs from the start or plan to switch to them later.

To use Pico on a file, enter
            pico filename  
If the file named filename exists, then the first page (or screen) of the file is displayed; if the file does not exist, then an empty file and screen is created into which you may enter text. Stars to the left of commands below indicate those to learn immediately.

The following is a near facsimile of how your screen (or window) would appear if you had typed
          pico junkfile.C
at a UNIX command prompt and then invoked the help menu for Pico.

   UW PICO(tm) 2.8                   File: junkfile.C   
       Pico Help Text                                                        
       Pico is designed to be a simple, easy-to-use text editor with a       
       layout very similar to the pine mailer.  The status line at the       
       top of the display shows pico's version, the current file being       
       edited and whether or not there are outstanding modifications         
       that have not been saved.  The third line from the bottom is used     
       to report informational messages and for additional command input.    
       The bottom two lines list the available editing commands.             
       Each character typed is automatically inserted into the buffer        
       at the current cursor position.  Editing commands and cursor          
       movement (besides arrow keys) are given to pico by typing             
       special control-key sequences.  A caret, '^', is used to denote       
       control key, sometimes marked "CTRL", so the CTRL-q key               
       combination is written as ^Q.                                         
       The following functions are available in pico (where applicable,      
       corresponding function key commands are in parentheses).              
 **    ^G (F1)   Display this help text.                                     
 **    ^F        move Forward a character.                                   
 **    ^B        move Backward a character.                                  
 **    ^P        move to the Previous line.                                  
 **    ^N        move to the Next line.                                      
       ^A        move to the beginning of the current line.                  
       ^E        move to the End of the current line.                        
 **    ^V (F8)   move forward a page of text.                                
 **    ^Y (F7)   move backward a page of text.                               
       ^W (F6)   Search for (where is) text, neglecting case.                
       ^L        Refresh the display.                                        
 **    ^D        Delete the character at the cursor position.                
       ^^        Mark cursor position as beginning of selected text.         
                 Note: Setting mark when already set unselects text.         
       ^K (F9)   Cut selected text (displayed in inverse characters).        
                 Note: The selected text's boundary on the cursor side       
                       ends at the left edge of the cursor.  So, with        
                       selected text to the left of the cursor, the          
                       character under the cursor is not selected.           
       ^U (F10)  Uncut (paste) last cut text inserting it at the             
                 current cursor position.                                    
       ^I        Insert a tab at the current cursor position.                
       ^J (F4)   Format (justify) the current paragraph.                     
                 Note: paragraphs delimited by blank lines or indentation.   
       ^T (F12)  To invoke the spelling checker.                             
 **    ^C (F11)  Report current cursor position.                             
       ^R (F5)   Insert an external file at the current cursor position.     
       ^O (F3)   Output the current buffer to a file, saving it.             
 **    ^X (F2)   Exit pico, saving buffer.                                   
       Pine and Pico are trademarks of the University of Washington.         
       No commercial use of these trademarks may be made without prior       
       written permission of the University of Washington.                   
   End of Help.                                                              
^G Get Help ^O WriteOut  ^R Read File  ^Y Prev Pg  ^K Cut Text   ^C Cur Pos  
^X Exit     ^J Justify   ^W Where is   ^V Next Pg  ^U UnCut Text ^T To Spell 

For further information on Pico, check out these links:

Pico tutorial from NC State
Pico tutorial from Canada
Pico tutorial from UC Santa Barbara
Pico tutorial from Cal State Pomona
Pico tutorial from University of Michigan
Another Pico tutorial from Colorado State (ACNS)