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How do I copy a few lines from one file to another file using the nano editor?

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migrated from Feb 8 '13 at 14:54

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you specified nano in question, but with vim and gedit tag? – Kent Feb 7 '13 at 23:03

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Assuming you are in pure console mode and can't use the mouse to copy/paste:

  1. Launch nano in multi-buffer mode (nano -F)
  2. CTRL-^ to start your selection.
  3. Arrow key around until you cover all the text you want to copy.
  4. ESC-^ to copy the selection into the cut buffer
  5. CTRL-R ESC-F to open a file into a new buffer
  6. CTRL-U to paste in the opened file

NOTE: To switch between buffers use either ESC-< and ESC-> or ESC-, and ESC-. (the later is helpful if < and > use the same key on your keyboard layout)

An alternative to 2-4 above is to go to the line(s) you want to copy and CTRL-K to delete them, pressing CTRL-K repeatedly to multiple lines to the buffer. When you've cut all the lines you want to copy, CTRL-Y to re-paste them back into the current buffer. Then continue with step 5.

ALT or any other keys with Meta-key behaviour could also be used instead of ESC in these commands.

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Copy text from one file to another with nano text editor

Note: To help you understand better, we will use a

source file: /var/named/athens.local

destination file: /var/named/patra.local

  1. Open the destination file (the file that want to paste the text into), by using nano's multiple buffer.

nano -F destination_file

So we have:

nano -F /var/named/patra.local
  1. Press Ctrl+r.

  2. From inside nano editor, open the source file


  3. Press ctrl+^ (this will enable the "mark set" mode)

  4. Select your text.

  5. When you have marked all the text you want, copy the text to

clipboard by pressing Alt+^

Note: Now your text is in clipboard.

Note: In help file you will see the Alt+^ described as M-^. 
  1. Press ctrl+x, to close the source file (/var/named/athens.local).

    Now we will see the destination file (/var/named/patra.local).

Move the cursor to the place you want to paste the copied text (which is

in buffer, don't forget that).

Press ctrl+u, to paste the text.

You are done.

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