ITS Documentation

Using the Text Editor Pico

R1168 • November 2013

This document provides instructions for using the Unix text editor Pico on the ITS Login Service ( These instructions may also apply to Pico on other Unix machines. Pico is a command-based text editor. Editing files with Pico is similar to composing messages in the Pine e-mail program; the commands you can use are listed at the bottom of your screen.

Table of Contents

Opening Pico

  1. Use secure software to connect to the ITS Login Service (

    Windows: Use PuTTY software. For information about obtaining and using PuTTY, see Use PuTTY to Connect to Host Computers [Windows] (s4386).

    Mac OS X: Mac OS X comes with SSH software called Terminal. Open the Applications folder, then the Utilities folder to find it. Open Terminal and type this command:
    The Blue Disc installs an icon in your dock that you can click to connect to the Login Service.

  2. Log in with your uniqname and UMICH password.

  3. At the % prompt, type pico and press ENTER, or RETURN.

  4. Pico opens a buffer (temporary storage for any text you type). Start typing text or use any of Pico's commands.

    description of the screen shot

Commands Use the Control Key

You issue most commands in Pico by holding down CONTROL and typing a letter. A caret (^) is used to indicate the Control key. To issue the Get Help command (^G), for example, hold down CONTROL and type g.

Marking, Cutting, and Pasting

The mouse is not used to select text in Pico. Mark the text to cut instead. The command for marking text is ^^. The first ^ indicates that you should hold down CONTROL. The second ^ means to type a caret (Shift-6).

The mark feature (^^) allows you to mark any segment of text, cut it out (^K), move the cursor, and paste the text (^U) in the new location.

Commands That Move Your Cursor

What the Command Lets You Do
Arrow keys
Move cursor up, down, to the right, and to the left.
Delete/ Backspace key
Move cursor back one space.
Move cursor to beginning of line.
Move cursor back one character.
Move cursor to end of line.
Move cursor forward one character.
Move cursor to next line.
Move cursor to previous line.
Move cursor forward a page of text.
Move cursor backward a page of text.
Move cursor to next word.

Other Commands

What the Command Lets You Do
Report current cursor position.
Delete the character at the cursor position.
Display the Pico help file.
Delete previous character.
Insert a tab at the current cursor position.
Reformat the text in the paragraph the cursor is on so that it is left-justified and the right margin is ragged (a paragraph is separated by one blank line). Useful when you are editing a paragraph and the lines become uneven.
Cut marked text or current line.
Redraw screen.
Output the current buffer to a file, saving it.
Insert text from an existing file. Pico prompts you for the name of a file in your AFS home directory. You can then type ^T to see a list of files in your home directory. Use the arrow keys to navigate to the file you want, and then press Return to read in the selected file.
Check the spelling in the file you are composing. You will be prompted at the bottom of the screen with each misspelled word. You can correct the word, then press Return to change it in the text. If you don't want to change the spelling of a word flagged by the spell checker, press Return to continue the spell check without making changes. If a word is misspelled more than once, you will be prompted to confirm the correction of each occurrence.
Undelete the last line, series of lines, or marked block you deleted. Using Mark (^^), Cut (^K), and Undelete (^U) is a convenient way to move text to a new location in your file. Also, ^U can be used to "unjustify" the last justification.
Search the file for a string of characters (such as a word). The cursor is put on the first occurrence appearing after the location of the cursor. The search will wrap to the beginning of the file when it no longer finds matches in the remainder of the file. To search for the same string a second time, press ^W to begin search and then just press Return to accept the previous search string shown in square brackets rather than entering a new search string.
Exit Pico. You'll be prompted whether to save the buffer (your changes).
Mark cursor position as beginning of selected text. Used to set a mark and then perform a delete/move operation on a block of text.

Exiting Pico

  1. Use the Exit command (^X) to exit Pico. You'll be prompted to indicate whether you want to save your changes.

  2. At the % prompt, type logout and press ENTER or RETURN to log out of the ITS Login Service.

  3. Quit or Exit your secure connection software.

Additional Resources

Visit ITS's Information System to obtain ITS computer documentation and other resources. A list of relevant documents follows:

The ITS Service Center provides a variety of computing help resources.

For further help with this or any other topic, call 734-764-HELP [4357] or submit an online service request.