The Pico Editor

Pico is a simple, display-oriented text editor based on the Pine message system composer. As with Pine, commands are displayed at the bottom of the screen, and context-sensitive help is provided. As characters are typed they are immediately inserted into the text.

Editing commands are entered using control-key combinations. As a work-around for communications programs that swallow certain control characters, you can emulate a control key by pressing ESCAPE twice, followed by the desired control character, e.g. "ESC ESC c" would be equivalent to entering a Ctrl-c. The editor has five basic features: paragraph justification, searching, block cut/paste, a spelling checker, and a file browser.

Paragraph justification (or filling) takes place in the paragraph that contains the cursor, or, if the cursor is between lines, in the paragraph immediately below. Paragraphs are delimited by blank lines, or by lines beginning with a space or tab. Unjustification can be done immediately after justification using the control-U key combination.

String searches are not sensitive to case. A search begins at the current cursor position and wraps around the end of the text. The most recent search string is offered as the default in subsequent searches.

Blocks of text can be moved, copied or deleted with creative use of the command for mark (Ctrl-^), delete (Ctrl-k) and undelete (Ctrl-u). The delete command will remove text between the "mark" and the current cursor position, and place it in the "cut" buffer. The undelete command effects a "paste" at the current cursor position.

The spell checker examines all words in the text. It then offers, in turn, each misspelled word for correction while highlighting it in the text. Spell checking can be canceled at any time. Alternatively, \fIPico\fR will substitute for the default spell checking routine a routine defined by the SPELL environment variable. The replacement routine should read standard input and write standard output.

The file browser is offered as an option in the "Read File" and "Write Out" command prompts. It is intended to help in searching for specific files and navigating directory hierarchies. Filenames with sizes and names of directories in the current working directory are presented for selection. The current working directory is displayed on the top line of the display while the list of available commands takes up the bottom two. Several basic file manipulation functions are supported: file renaming, copying, and deletion.

More specific help is available in Pico's online help.

Note: The manner in which lines longer than the display width are dealt is not immediately obvious. Lines that continue beyond the edge of the display are indicated by a '$' character at the end of the line. Long lines are scrolled horizontally as the cursor moves through them.


Michael Seibel <>
Laurence Lundblade <>

Pico was originally derived from MicroEmacs 3.6, by Dave G. Conroy.

Pico is a trademark of the University of Washington.
Copyright 1989-1996 by the University of Washington.

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