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JOE - Joe's Own Editor


joe [global-options] [ [local-options] filename ]...

jstar [global-options] [ [local-options] filename ]...

jmacs [global-options] [ [local-options] filename ]...

rjoe [global-options] [ [local-options] filename ]...

jpico [global-options] [ [local-options] filename ]...


JOE is a powerful console screen editor. It has a "mode-less" user
interface which is similar to many user-friendly PC editors. Users of
Micro-Pro's WordStar or Borland's "Turbo" languages will feel at home. JOE
is a full featured UNIX screen-editor though, and has many features for
editing programs and text.

JOE also emulates several other editors. JSTAR is a close imitation of
WordStar with many "JOE" extensions. JPICO is a close imitation of the
Pine mailing system's PICO editor, but with many extensions and
improvements. JMACS is a GNU-EMACS imitation. RJOE is a restricted
version of JOE, which allows you to edit only the files specified on the
command line.

Although JOE is actually five different editors, it still requires only one
executable, but one with five different names. The name of the editor with
an "rc" appended gives the name of JOE's initialization file, which
determines the personality of the editor.

JOE is free software; you can distribute it and/or modify it under the
terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software
Foundation. JOE is available over the Internet from


To start the editor, type joe followed by zero or more names of files
you want to edit. Each file name may be preceded by a local option setting
(see the local options table which follows). Other global options, which
apply to the editor as a whole, may also be placed on the command line (see
the global options table which follows). If you are editing a new file, you
can either give the name of the new file when you invoke the editor, or in
the editor when you save the new file. A modified syntax for file names is
provided to allow you to edit program output, standard input/output, or
sections of files or devices. See the section Filenames below for

Once you are in the editor, you can type in text and use special
control-character sequences to perform other editing tasks. To find out
what the control-character sequences are, read the rest of this man page or
type ^K H for help in the editor.

Now for some obscure computer-lore:

The ^ means that you hold down the Control key while pressing
the following key (the same way the Shift key works for uppercase
letters). A number of control-key sequences are duplicated on other keys,
so that you don't need to press the control key: Esc will work in
place of ^[, Del will work in place of ^?, Backspace
will work in place of ^H, Tab will work in place of ^I,
Return or Enter will work in place of ^M and
Linefeed will work in place of ^J. Some keyboards may give you
trouble with some control keys. ^_, ^^ and ^@ can usually
be entered without pressing shift (i.e., try ^-, ^6 and
^2). Other keyboards may reassign these to other keys. Try:
^., ^, and ^/. ^Space can usually be used in place
of ^@. ^\ and ^] are interpreted by many communication
programs, including telnet and kermit. Usually you just hit the key twice
to get it to pass through the communication program.

On some keyboards, holding the Alt key down while pressing another key
is the same as typing Esc before typing the other key.

Once you have typed ^K H, the first help window appears at the top of
the screen. You can continue to enter and edit text while the help window
is on. To page through other topics, hit Esc , and Esc . (that is,
Esc , and Esc .). Use ^K H to dismiss the help window.

You can customize the keyboard layout, the help screens and a number of
behavior defaults by copying JOE's initialization file (usually
/etc/joe/joerc) to .joerc in your home directory and then
by modifying it. See the section joerc below.

To have JOE used as your default editor for e-mail and News, you need to set
the EDITOR and VISUAL environment variables in your shell
initialization file (.cshrc or .profile) to refer to JOE (JOE
usually resides as /usr/bin/joe).

There are a number of other obscure invocation parameters which may have to
be set, particularly if your terminal screen is not updating as you think it
should. See the section Environment variables below.

Command Line Options

These options can also be specified in the joerc file. Local options can be
set depending on the file-name extension. Programs (.c, .h or .p extension)
usually have autoindent enabled. Wordwrap is enabled on other files, but rc
files have it disabled.

An option is enabled when it's given like this:


An option is disabled when it's given like this:


Some options take arguments. Arguments are given like this:

-lmargin 5

The following global options may be specified on the command line:

  • asis

    Characters with codes above 127 will be sent to the terminal as-is, instead
    of as inverse of the corresponding character below 128. If this does not
    work, check your terminal server. This option has no effect if UTF-8
    encoding is used.

  • assume_256color

    Assume ANSI-like terminal emulator supports 256 colors even if termcap entry
    says it doesn't.

  • assume_color

    Assume ANSI-like terminal emulator supports color even if termcap entry says
    it doesn't.

  • text_color color

    Set color for text.

  • status_color color

    Set color for status bar.

  • help_color color

    Set color for help.

  • menu_color color

    Set color for menus.

  • prompt_color color

    Set color for prompts.

  • msg_color color

    Set color for messages.

  • autoswap

    Automatically swap ^K B with ^K K if necessary to
    mark a legal block during block copy/move commands.

  • backpath path

    Sets path to a directory where all backup files are
    to be stored. If this is unset (the default) backup files are stored in the
    directory containing the file.

  • baud nnn

    Set the baud rate for the purposes of terminal screen optimization
    (overrides value reported by stty). JOE inserts delays for baud rates below
    19200, which bypasses tty buffering so that typeahead will interrupt the
    screen output. Scrolling commands will not be used for 38400 baud and
    above. This is useful for X-terms and other console ttys which really
    aren't going over a serial line.

  • beep

    Enable beeps when edit commands return errors, for example when the cursor
    goes past extremes.

  • break_links

    When enabled, JOE first deletes the file before
    writing it in order to break hard-links and symbolic-links.

  • break_hardlinks

    When enabled, and the file is
    not a symbolic links, JOE first deletes the file before
    writing it in order to break hard-links.

  • brpaste

    When JOE starts, send command to the terminal emulator that
    enables "bracketed paste mode" (but only if the terminal
    seems to have the ANSI command set). In this mode, text
    pasted into the window is bracketed with ESC [ 2 0 0 ~ and
    ESC [ 2 0 1 ~.

  • columns nnn

    Set number of columns in terminal emulator (in case
    termcap entry is wrong). This is only useful on old system which don't have
    the "get window size" ioctl.

  • csmode

    Enable continued search mode: Successive
    ^K Fs repeat the current search instead of prompting for a new one.

  • dopadding

    Enable JOE to send padding NULs to the terminal (for very old terminals).

  • exask

    When set, ^K X prompts for a new name before saving the file.

  • floatmouse

    When set, mouse clicks can position the cursor
    beyond the ends of lines.

  • guess_crlf

    When set, JOE tries to guess the file format
    MS-DOS or UNIX.

  • guess_indent

    When set, JOE tries to guess the indentation character and indentation
    step based on the contents of the file. The algorithm is to find the
    greatest common factor of the three most common indentations found in the

  • guess_non_utf8

    When set, enable guessing of non-UTF-8 files
    in UTF-8 locales.

  • guess_utf8

    When set, enable guessing of UTF-8 files in
    non-UTF-8 locales.

  • guess_utf16

    When set, enable guessing of UTF-16 files. If a UTF-16BE or UTF-16LE file
    is detected, it is converted to UTF-8 during load, and converted back to
    UTF-16 during save.

  • helpon

    When set, start off with the on-line help enabled.

  • help_is_utf8

    When set, the help text in the joerc file is
    assumed to be UTF-8.

  • icase

    Search is case insensitive by default when set.

  • joe_state

    Enable reading and writing of ~/.joe_state file

  • joexterm

    Set this if xterm was configured with --paste64
    option for better mouse support.

  • keepup

    The column number on the status line is updated constantly when
    this is set, otherwise it is updated only once a second.

  • language language

    Sets language for aspell.

  • lightoff

    Automatically turn off ^K B ^K K highlighting after a
    block operation.

  • lines nnn

    Set number of lines in terminal emulator (in case termcap entry is wrong).
    This is only useful on old system which don't have the "get window size"

  • marking

    Enable marking mode: highlights between ^K B and cursor.

  • menu_above

    Put menus above prompt instead of below them.

  • menu_explorer

    Stay in menu when a directory is selected (otherwise the directory is added
    to the path and the cursor jumps back to the prompt).

  • menu_jump

    Jump into the file selection menu when Tab Tab is hit.

  • mid

    If this option is set and the cursor moves off the window, the window will
    be scrolled so that the cursor is in the center. This option is forced on
    slow terminals which don't have scrolling commands.

  • left nn

    This sets the number of columns the screen scrolls to the left when cursor
    moves past the left edge or when the crawll command is issued. If nn is
    negative, then it's the fraction of the screen to scroll. For example, -2
    means scroll 1/2 the screen.

  • right nn

    This sets the number of columns the screen scrolls to the right when cursor
    moves past the right edge or when the crawlr command is issued. If nn is
    negative, then it's the fraction of the screen to scroll. For example, -3
    means scroll 1/3 the screen.

  • mouse

    Enable xterm mouse support.

  • nobackups

    Disable backup files.

  • nocurdir

    Disable current-directory prefix in prompts.

  • noexmsg

    Disable exiting message ("File not changed so no update needed")

  • nolinefeeds

    Disable sending linefeeds to
    preserve screen history in terminal emulator's scroll-back buffer (only
    relevant when notite mode is enabled).

  • nolocks

    Disable EMACS compatible file locks.

  • nomodcheck

    Disable periodic file modification check.

  • nonotice

    This option prevents the copyright notice from being displayed when the
    editor starts.

  • nosta

    This option eliminates the top-most status line. It's nice for when you
    only want to see your text on the screen or if you're using a vt52.

  • notagsmenu

    Disable selection menu for tags search with multiple results.

  • notite

    Disable ti and te termcap sequences which are usually
    set up to save and restore the terminal screen contents when JOE starts and

  • pastehack

    If keyboard input comes in as one block assume it's a mouse
    paste and disable autoindent and wordwrap.

  • noxon

    Disable ^S and ^Q flow control, possibly allowing ^S and ^Q to be used as
    editor keys.

  • orphan

    Orphan extra files given on the command line instead of creating windows for
    them (the files are loaded, but you need to use switch-buffer commands to
    access them).

  • pg nnn

    Set number of lines to keep during Page Up and Page Down (use -1 for 1/2
    window size).

  • regex

    Use standard regular expression syntax by default, instead of the JOE syntax
    (where special characters have their meaning only when preceded with

  • restore

    Set to have cursor positions restored to last positions of previously edited

  • rtbutton

    Swap left and right mouse buttons.

  • search_prompting

    Show previous search string in search command (like in PICO).

  • skiptop nnn

    When set to N, the first N lines of the terminal screen are not used by JOE
    and are instead left with their original contents. This is useful for
    programs which call JOE to leave a message for the user.

  • square

    Enable rectangular block mode.

  • transpose

    Transpose rows with columns in all menus.

  • title

    Display context (titles) in status line. When enabled this shows the first
    line of the function that the cursor is in on the status line. The syntax
    file context.jsf identifies which lines are title lines.

  • type

    Select file type, overriding the automatically determined type. The file
    types are defined in the ftyperc file.

  • undo_keep nnn

    Sets number of undo records to keep (0 means infinite).

  • usetabs

    Set to allow rectangular block operations to use

  • wrap

    Enable search to wrap to beginning of file.

The following local options may be specified on the command line:

  • +nnn

    The cursor starts on the specified line.

  • autoindent

    Enable auto-indent mode. When you hit Enter on an indented line, the
    indentation is duplicated onto the new line.

  • c_comment

    Enable ^G skipping of C-style comments / ... /

  • cpara characters

    Sets list of characters which can indent paragraphs.

  • cnotpara characters

    Sets list of characters which begin lines which are definitely not part of

  • cpp_comment

    Enable ^G skipping of C++-style comments // ...

  • crlf

    JOE uses CR-LF as the end of line sequence instead of just LF. This is for
    editing MS-DOS or VMS files.

  • encoding encoding

    Set file encoding (like utf-8 or 8859-1).

  • flowed

    Set to force an extra space after each line of a paragraph but the last.

  • force

    When set, a final newline is appended to the file if
    there isn't one when the file is saved.

  • french

    When set, only one space is inserted after periods in paragraph reformats
    instead of two.

  • hex

    Enable hex-dump mode.

  • highlight

    Enable syntax highlighting.

  • highlighter_context

    Enable use of syntax file to identify comments and strings which should be
    skipped over during ^G matching.

  • indentc nnn

    Sets the indentation character for shift left and shift right (^K , and
    ^K .). Use 32 for Space, 9 for Tab.

  • indentfirst

    When set, the smart home key jumps to the indentation point first, otherwise
    it jumps to column 1 first.

  • istep nnn

    Sets indentation step.

  • linums

    Enable line number display.

  • lmargin

    Set left margin.

  • lmsg

    Define left-side status bar message.

  • overwrite

    Enable overtype mode. Typing overwrites existing characters instead of
    inserting before them.

  • picture

    Enable "picture" mode- allows cursor to go past ends of lines.

  • pound_comment

    ^G ignores # ... comments.

  • purify

    Fix indentation if necessary before shifting or smart backspace. For
    example, if indentation uses a mix of tabs and spaces, and indentc is
    space, then indentation will be converted to all spaces before the shifting

  • rdonly

    Set read-only mode.

  • rmargin nnn

    Set right margin.

  • rmsg string

    Define right-side status bar message.

  • semi_comment

    ^G ignores ; ... comments.

  • single_quoted

    ^G ignores '...'

  • smartbacks

    Enable smart backspace and tab. When this mode is set backspace and tab
    indent or unindent based on the values of the istep and indentc options.

  • smarthome

    Home key first moves cursor to beginning of line, then if hit again, to
    the first non-blank character.

  • smsg string

    Define status command format when cursor is on a character.

  • spaces

    Insert spaces when Tab key is hit.

  • syntax syntax

    Set syntax for syntax highlighting.

  • tab nnn

    Set tab stop width.

  • text_delimiters word delimiter list

    Give list of word delimiters which ^G will step through.

For example, "begin=end:if=elif=else=endif" means that ^G will jump
between the matching if, elif, else and endif.

  • vhdl_comment

    ^G ignores -- ... comments

  • wordwrap

    JOE wraps the previous word when you type past the right margin.

  • zmsg string

    Define status command format when cursor is at end of file.

  • xmsg string

    Define startup message (usually the copyright notice).

  • aborthint string

    Give the key sequence to show in prompts for abort (usually ^C).

  • helphint string

    Give the key sequence to show in prompts for help (usually ^K H).

Colors and attributes

Combine attributes and up to one foreground color and one background color
to create arguments for color options like text_color. For example:

  • Attributes: bold, inverse, blink, dim, underline, and italic

  • Foreground colors: white, cyan, magenta, blue, yellow, green, red, or black

  • Background colors: bg_white, bg_cyan, bg_magenta, bg_blue, bg_yellow, bg_green, bg_red or bg_black

With a 16 color or 256 color terminal emulator (export TERM=xterm-16color), these
brighter than normal colors become available:

Note that you need an xterm which was compiled to support 16 or 256 colors
and a matching termcap/terminfo entry for it.


  • Background: bg_WHITE, bg_CYAN, bg_MAGENTA, bg_BLUE, bg_YELLOW, bg_GREEN, bg_RED or bg_BLACK

With a 256 color terminal emulator (export TERM=xterm-256color), these become available:

Note that you need an xterm which was compiled to support 256 colors and a
matching termcap/terminfo entry for it.

  • fg_RGB and bg_RGB, where R, G and B rand from 0 - 5. So: fg_500 is bright red.

  • fg_NN and bg_NN give shades of grey, where the intensity, NN, ranges from 0 - 23.

Status line definition strings

-lmsg defines the left-justified string and -rmsg defines the
right-justified string. The first character of -rmsg is the background fill

-smsg defines the status command (^K Space). -zmsg defines it when the cursor
is at the end of the file. The last character of smsg or zmsg is the fill character.

The following escape sequences can be used in these strings:

%t  12 hour time
%u  24 hour time
%T  O for overtype mode, I for insert mode
%W  W if wordwrap is enabled
%I  A if autoindent is enabled
%X  Rectangle mode indicator
%n  File name
%m  '(Modified)' if file has been changed
%*  '*' if file has been changed
%R  Read-only indicator
%r  Row (line) number
%c  Column number
%o  Byte offset into file
%O  Byte offset into file in hex
%a  Ascii value of character under cursor
%A  Ascii value of character under cursor in hex
%w  Width of character under cursor
%p  Percent of file cursor is at
%l  No. lines in file
%k  Entered prefix keys
%S  '*SHELL*' if there is a shell running in window
%M  Macro recording message
%y  Syntax
%e  Encoding
%x  Context (first non-indented line going backwards)
%dd day
%dm month
%dY year
%Ename%  value of environment variable
%Tname%  value of option (ON or OFF for Boolean options)

These formatting escape sequences may also be given:

\i  Inverse
\u  Underline
\b  Bold
\d  Dim
\f  Blink
\l  Italic

Basic Editing

When you type characters into the editor, they are normally inserted into
the file being edited (or appended to the file if the cursor is at the end
of the file). This is the normal operating mode of the editor. If you want
to replace some existing text, you have to delete the old text before or
after you type in the replacement text. The Backspace key can be used
for deleting text: move the cursor to right after the text you want to
delete and hit Backspace a number of times.

Hit the Enter or Return key to insert a line-break. For
example, if the cursor was in the middle of a line and you hit Enter,
the line would be split into two lines with the cursor appearing at the
beginning of the second line. Hit Backspace at the beginning of a
line to eliminate a line-break.

Use the arrow keys to move around the file. If your keyboard doesn't have
arrow keys (or if they don't work for some reason), use ^F to move
forwards (right), ^B to move backwards (left), ^P to move to the
previous line (up), and ^N to move to the next line (down). The right
and left arrow keys simply move forwards or backwards one character at a
time through the text: if you're at the beginning of a line and
you press left-arrow, you will end up at the end of the previous line. The
up and down arrow keys move forwards and backwards by enough characters so
that the cursor appears in the same column that it was in on the original

If you want to indent the text you enter, you can use the Tab key.
This inserts a special control character which makes the characters which
follow it begin at the next tab stop. Tab stops normally occur every 8
columns, but this can be changed with the ^T D command. PASCAL and C
programmers often set tab stops on every 4 columns.

If for some reason your terminal screen gets messed up (for example, if
you receive a mail notice from biff), you can have the editor refresh the
screen by hitting ^R.

There are many other keys for deleting text and moving around the file. For
example, hit ^D to delete the character the cursor is on instead of
deleting backwards like Backspace. ^D will also delete a
line-break if the cursor is at the end of a line. Type ^Y to delete
the entire line the cursor is on or ^J to delete just from the cursor
to the end of the line.

Hit ^A to move the cursor to the beginning of the line it's on. Hit
^E to move the cursor to the end of the line. Hit ^U or
^V for scrolling the cursor up or down 1/2 a screen's worth.
"Scrolling" means that the text on the screen moves, but the cursor stays at
the same place relative to the screen. Hit ^K U or ^K V to move
the cursor to the beginning or the end of the file. Look at the help
screens in the editor to find even more delete and movement commands.

If you make a mistake, you can hit ^_ to "undo" it. On most keyboards
you hit just ^- to get ^_, but on some you might have to hold
both the Shift and Control keys down at the same time to get it.
If you "undo" too much, you can "redo" the changes back into existence by
hitting ^^ (type this with just ^6 on most keyboards).

Cursor position history

If you were editing in one place within the file, and you then temporarily
had to look or edit some other place within the file, you can get back to
the original place by hitting ^K -. This command actually returns you
to the last place you made a change in the file. You can step through a
history of places with ^K - and ^K =, in the same way you can
step through the history of changes with the "undo" and "redo" commands.

Save and exit

When you are done editing the file, hit ^K X to exit the editor. You
will be prompted for a file name if you hadn't already named the file you
were editing.

When you edit a file, you actually edit only a copy of the file. So if you
decide that you don't want the changes you made to a file during a
particular edit session, you can hit ^C to exit the editor without
saving them.

If you edit a file and save the changes, a backup copy of that file is
created in the current directory, with a ~ appended to the name, which
contains the original version of the file.

File operations

You can hit ^K D to save the current file (possibly under a different
name from what the file was called originally). After the file is saved,
you can hit ^K E to edit a different file.

If you want to save only a selected section of the file, see the section on
Blocks below.

If you want to include another file in the file you're editing, use ^K
to insert it.


Wherever JOE expects you to enter a file name, whether on the command line
or in prompts within the editor, you may also type:

  • !command

To read or write data to or from a shell command. For example,
use joe '!ls' to get a copy of your directory listing to edit or from
within the editor use ^K D !mail jhallen@world.std.com to send the
file being edited to me.

  • >>filename

Use this to have JOE append the edited text to the end of the file

  • filename,START,SIZE

Use this to access a fixed section of a file or device. START and
SIZE may be entered in decimal (ex.: 123) octal (ex.: 0777) or
hexadecimal (ex.: 0xFF). For example, use joe /dev/fd0,508,2 to edit
bytes 508 and 509 of the first floppy drive in Linux.

  • -

Use this to get input from the standard input or to write output to the
standard output. For example, you can put JOE in a pipe of commands:
quota -v | joe | mail root, if you want to complain about your low

Using JOE in a shell script

JOE used to use /dev/tty to access the terminal. This caused a problem with
idle-session killers (they would kill JOE because the real tty device was
not being accessed for a long time), so now JOE only uses /dev/tty if you
need to pipe a file into JOE, as in:

echo "hi" | joe

If you want to use JOE in a shell script which has its stdin/stdout
redirected, but you do not need to pipe to it, you should simply redirect
JOE's stdin/stdout to /dev/tty:

joe filename  </dev/tty >/dev/tty

Word wrap and formatting

If you type past the right edge of the screen in a C or PASCAL language
file, the screen will scroll to the right to follow the cursor. If you type
past the right edge of the screen in a normal file (one whose name doesn't
end in .c, .h or .p), JOE will automatically wrap the last word onto the
next line so that you don't have to hit Enter. This is called
word-wrap mode. Word-wrap can be turned on or off with the ^T W
command. JOE's initialization file is usually set up so that this mode is
automatically turned on for all non-program files. See the section below on
the joerc file to change this and other defaults.

Aside for Word-wrap mode, JOE does not automatically keep paragraphs
formatted like some word-processors. Instead, if you need a paragraph to be
reformatted, hit ^K J. This command "fills in" the paragraph that the
cursor is in, fitting as many words in a line as is possible. A paragraph,
in this case, is a block of text separated above and below by a blank line.

The margins which JOE uses for paragraph formatting and word-wrap can be set
with the ^T L and ^T R commands. If the left margin is set to
a value other than 1, then when you start typing at the beginning of a line,
the cursor will immediately jump to the left margin.

There are a number of options which control the paragraph reformatter and
word wrapper:

  • The cpara option provides a list of characters which can indent a
    paragraph. For example, in e-mail quoted matter is indicated by >
    at the beginnings of line, so this character should be in the cpara list.

  • The cnotpara option provides a list of characters which, if they are
    the first non-whitespace character of a line, indicate that the line is not
    to be included as part of a paragraph for formatting. For example, lines
    beginning with '.' in nroff can not be paragraph lines.

  • Autoindent mode affects the formatter. If autoindent is disabled, only
    the first line will be indented. If autoindent is enabled, the entire
    paragraph is indented.

  • french determines how many spaces are inserted after periods.

  • When flowed is enabled, a space is inserted after each but the
    last line of the paragraph. This indicates that the lines belong together
    as a single paragraph in some programs.

  • When overtype is enabled, the word wrapper will not insert lines.


If you want to center a line within the margins, use the ^K A

Spell checker

Hit Esc N to check the spelling of the word the cursor is on using the
aspell program (or ispell program if you modify the joerc file). Hit
Esc L to check the highlighted block or the entire file if no block is

JOE passes the language and character encoding to the spell checker. To
change the language, hit ^T V. For example, use en_US for English.

Overtype mode

Sometimes it's tiresome to have to delete old text before or after you
insert new text. This happens, for example, when you are changing a table
and you want to maintain the column position of the right side of the table.
When this occurs, you can put the editor in overtype mode with ^T T.
When the editor is in this mode, the characters you type in replace existing
characters, in the way an idealized typewriter would. Also, Backspace
simply moves left instead of deleting the character to the left, when it's
not at the end or beginning of a line. Overtype mode is not the natural
way of dealing with text electronically, so you should go back to
insert-mode as soon as possible by typing ^T T again.

If you need to insert while you're in overtype mode, hit ^@. This
inserts a single Space into the text.

Control and Meta characters

Each character is represented by a number. For example, the number for 'A'
is 65 and the number for '1' is 49. All of the characters which you
normally see have numbers in the range of 32 - 126 (this particular
arbitrary assignment between characters and numbers is called the ASCII
character set). The numbers outside of this range, from 0 to 255, aren't
usually displayed, but sometimes have other special meanings. The number
10, for example, is used for the line-breaks. You can enter these special,
non-displayed control characters by first hitting ^Q and then
hitting a character in the range @ A B C ... X Y Z [ ^ ] \ _ to get
the number 0 - 31, and ? to get 127. For example, if you hit ^Q J,
you'll insert a line-break character, or if you hit ^Q I, you'll insert
a Tab character (which does the same thing the Tab key does). A useful
control character to enter is 12 (^Q L), which causes most printers to
advance to the top of the page. You'll notice that JOE displays this
character as an underlined L. You can enter the characters above 127, the
meta characters, by first hitting ^\. This adds 128
to the next (possibly control) character entered. JOE displays characters
above 128 in inverse-video. Some foreign languages, which have more letters
than English, use the meta characters for the rest of their alphabet. You
have to put the editor in asis mode to have these
passed untranslated to the terminal.

Note: JOE now normally passes all 8-bits to the terminal unless the
locale is set to C or POSIX. If the locale is C or POSIX, then the asis
flag determines if meta characters are shown in inverse video or passed
directly to the terminal.

Note: In older version of JOE, you had to use Esc ' to enter control

Character sets and UTF-8

JOE natively handles two classes of character sets: UTF-8 and byte coded
(like ISO-8859-1). For these character sets, the file is loaded as-is into
memory, and is exactly preserved during save, even if it contains UTF-8
coding errors.

It can not yet natively handle other major classes such as UTF-16 or GB2312.
There are other restrictions: character sets must use LF (0x0A) or CR-LF
(0x0D - 0x0A) as line terminators, space must be 0x20 and tab must be 0x09.
Basically, the files must be UNIX or MS-DOS compatible text files.

This means EBCDIC will not work properly (but you would need to handle fixed
record length lines anyway) and character sets which use CR terminated lines
(MACs) will not yet work.

JOE now supports UTF-16 (both big endian and little endian). It supports
UTF-16 by converting to UTF-8 during load, and converting back to UTF-16
during save.

The terminal and the file can have different encodings. JOE will translate
between the two. Currently, one of the two must be UTF-8 for translation to

The character set for the terminal and the default character set assumed for
files is determined by the 'LC_ALL' environment variable (and if that's not
set, LC_CTYPE and LANG are also checked).

For example, if LC_ALL is set to:


Then the character set will be ISO-8859-1.

If LC_ALL is set to:


The character set will be UTF-8.

Hit ^T E to change the coding for the file. Hit Tab Tab at
this prompt to get a list of available codings. There are a number of
built-in character sets, plus you can install character sets in the
~/.joe/charmaps and /usr/share/joe/charmaps directories.

Check: /usr/share/i18n/charmaps for example character set files. Only
byte oriented character sets will work. Also, the file should not be
gzipped (all of the charmap files in /usr/share/i18n/charmaps on my computer
were compressed). The parser is very bad, so basically the file has to look
exactly like the example one in /usr/share/joe/charmaps.

You can hit ^K Space to see the current character set.

You can hit ^Q x to enter a Unicode character if the file coding is


Most prompts record a history of the responses you give them. You can hit
up and down arrow to step through these histories.

Prompts are actually single line windows with no status line, so you can use
any editing command that you normally use on text within the prompts. The
prompt history is actually just other lines of the same "prompt file". Thus
you can can search backwards though the prompt history with the normal ^K
command if you want.

Since prompts are windows, you can also switch out of them with ^K P
and ^K N.

Completion and selection menus

You can hit Tab in just about any prompt to request JOE to complete the
word you are typing. If JOE beeps, there are either no completions or many.
As with the "bash" shell, hit Tab twice to bring up a list of all the
possibilities. This list is actually a menu, but by default, the cursor
does not jump into it since it is usually easier to just type in your
selection. You can, however, jump into the menu window with ^K P (move to
previous window) and use the arrow keys and <Enter> to make your
selection. Also in a menu, you can hit the first letter of any of the items
to make the cursor jump directly to it. The ^T option menu works like

If the menu is too large to fit in the window, you can hit Page Up and
Page Down to scroll it (even if you have not jumped into it).

Tab completion works in the search and replace prompts as well. In this
case, JOE tries to complete the word based on the contents of the buffer.
If you need search for the Tab character itself, you can enter it with ^Q

Also, you can hit Esc Enter in a text window to request JOE to
complete the word you are typing. As with the search prompt, JOE tries to
complete the word based on the contents of the buffer. It will bring up a
menu of possibilities if you hit Esc Enter twice.

Where am I?

Hit ^K Space to have JOE report the line number, column number, and
byte number on the last line of the screen. The number associated with the
character the cursor is on (its ASCII code) is also shown. You can have the
line number and/or column number always displayed on the status line by
placing the appropriate escape sequences in the status line setup
strings. Edit the joerc file for details.

What if I hit ^K by accident?

Hit the space bar. This runs an innocuous command (it shows the line
number on the status bar).

Temporarily suspending the editor

If you need to temporarily stop the editor and go back to the shell, hit
^K Z. You might want to do this to stop whatever you're editing and
answer an e-mail message or read this man page, for example. You have to
type fg or exit (you'll be told which when you hit ^K Z)
to return to the editor.

Searching for text

Hit ^K F to have the editor search forwards or backwards for a text
fragment (string) for you. You will be prompted for the text to
search for. After you hit Enter, you are prompted to enter options.
You can just hit Enter again to have the editor immediately search
forwards for the text, or you can enter one or more of these options:

  • b

Search backwards instead of forwards.

  • i

Treat uppercase and lower case letters as the same when searching. Normally
uppercase and lowercase letters are considered to be different.

  • nnn

(where nnn is a number) If you enter a number, JOE searches for the
Nth occurrence of the text. This is useful for going to specific places in
files structured in some regular manner.

  • r

Replace text. If you enter the r option, then you will be further
prompted for replacement text. Each time the editor finds the search text,
you will be prompted as to whether you want to replace the found search text
with the replacement text. You hit: y to replace the text and then
find the next occurrence, n to not replace this text, but to then find
the next occurrence, r to replace all of the remaining occurrences of
the search text in the remainder of the file without asking for confirmation
(subject to the nnn option above), or ^C to stop searching and

You can also hit B or Backspace to back up to the previously
found text (if it had been replaced, the replacement is undone).

  • a

The search covers all loaded buffers. So to replace all instances of "foo"
with "bar" in all .c files in the current directory:

joe *.c
   ^K F
       foo <Enter>
       ra <Enter>
       bar <Enter>
  • e

The search covers all files in the grep or make error list. You can use a
UNIX command to generate a list of files and search and replace through the
list. So to replace all instances of "foo" with "bar" in all .c files which
begin with f. You can also use "ls" and "find" instead of grep to create
the file list.

Esc G
  grep -n foo f*.c <Enter>
^K F
       foo <Enter>
   re <Enter>
   bar <Enter>
  • x

JOE will use the standard syntax for regular expressions if this option is
given. In the standard syntax, these characters have their special
meanings directly, and do not have to be escaped with backslash: ., *, +, ?,
{, }, (, ), |, ^, $ and [.

  • y

JOE will use the JOE syntax for regular expressions instead of the standard
syntax. This overrides the "-regex" option.

  • v

JOE will send debug information about the regular expression to the startup
log. The log can be viewed with the showlog command.

You can hit ^L to repeat the previous search.

You can hit ^K H at the search and replace options prompt to bring up a list
of all search and replace options.

Regular Expressions

A number of special character sequences may be entered as search

  • \*

This finds zero or more of the item to the left. For example, if you give
AB\*C as the search text, JOE will try to find an A followed by any
number of Bs, and then a C.

  • \+

This finds one or more of the item to the left. For example, if you give
AB\+C as the search text, JOE will try to find an A followed by one
or more Bs, and then a C.

  • \?

This indicates that the item to the left is optional. For example, if you give
AB\?C as the search text, JOE will find AC or ABC.

  • \{min,max}

This indicates that JOE should try to find a string with a specific number
of occurrences of the item to the left. For example, AX\{2,5}B will
match these strings: AXXB, AXXXB, AXXXXB, and AXXXXXB. Min can be left out
to indicate 0 occurrences. Max (and the comma) can be left out to indicate
any number of occurrences.

  • \.

This finds exactly one character. For example, if you give A\.B as
the search text, JOE will find AXB, but not AB or AXXB.

  • \!

This works like ., but matches a balanced C-language expression.
For example, if you search for malloc(\!\*), then JOE will find all
function calls to malloc, even if there was a ) within the

  • \|

This finds the item on the left or the item on the right. For example, if
you give A\|B as the search text, JOE will try to find either an A or
a B.

  • \( \)

Use these to group characters together. For example, if you search for
\(foo\)\+, then JOE will find strings like "foo", and "foofoofoo".

  • \^ \$

These match the beginnings and endings of lines. For example, if you give
\^test\$, then JOE with find test on a line by itself.

  • \< \>

These match the beginnings and endings of words. For example, if you give
\<is\>, then JOE will find the word "is" but will not find the "is" in

  • \[...]

This matches any single character which appears within the brackets. For
example, if \[Tt]his is entered as the search string, then JOE finds
both This and this. Ranges of characters can be entered within
the brackets. For example, \[A-Z] finds any uppercase letter. If
the first character given in the brackets is ^, then JOE tries to find
any character not given in the the brackets. To include - itself, include
it as the last or first character (possibly after ^).

  • \\

Matches a single \.

  • \n

This finds the special end-of-line or line-break character.

A number of special character sequences may also be given in the replacement

  • \&

This gets replaced by the text which matched the search string. For
example, if the search string was \<\*\>, which matches words, and
you give "\&", then JOE will put quote marks around words.

  • \1 - \9

These get replaced with the text which matched the Nth grouping; the text
within the Nth set of \( \).

  • \l, \u

Convert the next character of the replacement text to lowercase or uppercase.

  • \L, \U

Convert all following replacement text to lowercase or uppercase. Conversion
stops when \E is encountered.

  • \\

Use this if you need to put a \ in the replacement string.

  • \n

Use this if you need to put a line-break in the replacement string.

Some examples:

Suppose you have a list of addresses, each on a separate line, which starts
with "Address:" and has each element separated by commas. Like so:

Address: S. Holmes, 221b Baker St., London, England

If you wanted to rearrange the list, to get the country first, then the
city, then the person's name, and then the address, you could do this:

Type ^K F to start the search, and type:


to match "Address:", the four comma-separated elements, and then the end of
the line. When asked for options, you would type r to replace the
string, and then type:


To shuffle the information the way you want it. After hitting return, the
search would begin, and the sample line would be changed to:

Address: England, London, S. Holmes, 221b Baker St.

Escape sequences

JOE understands the following escape sequences withing search and
replacement strings:

  • \x{10ffff}

This matches a specific Unicode code point given in hexadecimal.

  • \xFF

This matches a specific character specified in hexadecimal.

  • \377

This matches a specific character specified in octal.

  • \p{Ll}

This matches any character in the named Unicode category or block.

The block names, such as "Latin-1 Supplement" or "Arabic" can be found here:

Unicode Blocks

The category names such as "Ll" can be found here:

Unicode Categories

Note that a single letter matches all of the category names which start with
that letter. For example, \p{N} (any number) include \p{Nd} (decimal
digit), \p{Nl} (letter number) and \p{No} (other number).

  • \d

This matches any Unicode digit. This is the same as \p{Nd}.

  • \D

This matches anything except for a Unicode digit. This is the same as

  • \w

This matches any word character. This is the same as

  • \W

This matches anything except for a word character. This is the same
as \[\p{C}\p{P}\p{Z}].

  • \s

This matches any space character. This is the same as

  • \S

This matches anything except for a spacing character. This is the
same as \[^\t\r\f\n\p{Z}].

  • \i

This matches an identifier start character. This is the same as

  • \I

This matches anything except for an identifier start character. This is the
same as \[^\p{L}\p{Pc}\p{Nl}].

  • \c

This matches an identifier continuation character. This is the same as

  • \C

This matches anything except for an identifier continuation character. This
is the same as \[^\i\p{Mn}\p{Mc}\p{Nd}\x{200c}\x{200d}].

  • \t Tab
  • \n Newline
  • \r Carriage return
  • \b Backspace
  • \a Alert
  • \f Formfeed
  • \e Escape
  • \\ Backslash

Use Esc S to start an increment search forwards, or Esc R to start
an incremental search backwards. As you type the search string, the cursor
will jump to the first text that matches the regular expression you have
entered so far.

Hit Esc S or Esc R again to find the next occurrence of the text or
to switch the direction of the search.

^S, ^\ and ^L have the same effect as Esc S. ^R has the same
effect as Esc R. These keys are to support JMACS.

Hit Backspace to undo the last incremental search action. The last
action could be a repeat of a previous search or the entering of a new

Use ^Q to insert control characters into the search text. Previously,
` could also be used for this.

Hit any other key to exit the increment search.

Goto matching delimiter

Hit ^G to jump between matching delimiters. This works on both
character delimiters (like '(' and ')') and word delimiters for languages
like Pascal and Verilog which use "begin" and "end" to delimit blocks. It
also works for matching start and end tags in XML. If a word is not known,
^G starts a search with the word moved into the search prompt.

For ^G to work on word delimiters, the cursor must be positioned
on the first letter of the word. So in XML, if the cursor is on the < in
<foo>, it will jump to the >. But if it is one the 'f', it will
jump to the matching </foo>. Likewise, in C, ^G will jump between #if, #else
and #endif, but you need to position the cursor on the letter,
not the '#'.

^G is smart enough to skip delimiters found in quoted or
commented-out matter. You need to tell JOE how your language indicates
this: see the ftyperc file for examples of how this is done.

The are a number of options which control the behavior of ^G. These
options control which kinds of comments ^G can skip over:

  • c_comment
  • cpp_comment
  • pount_comment
  • semi_comment
  • vhdl_comment

These options determine which kinds of strings ^G can skip over:

  • single_quoted
  • double_quoted

This option allows an annotated syntax file to determine which text can be
counted as comments or strings which can be skipped over by ^G:

  • highlighter_context

This option enables the use of syntax files to identify comments and strings
which should be skipped over during ^G matching. The syntax file states
should be annotated with the string and comment keywords for this to

  • text_delimiters

This option provides a list of word delimiters to match. For example,
"begin=end:if=elif=else=endif" means that ^G will jump between the
matching if, elif, else and endif. It will also jump between begin and end.

^G has a built-in table for matching character delimiters- it knows that
( goes with ).

^G has a built-in parser to handle start/end tag matching for XML.


If you want to move, copy, save or delete a specific section of text, you
can do it with highlighted blocks. First, move the cursor to the start of
the section of text you want to work on, and press ^K B. Then move
the cursor to the character just after the end of the text you want to
affect and press ^K K. The text between the ^K B and ^K K
should become highlighted. Now you can move your cursor to someplace else
in your document and press ^K M to move the highlighted text there.
You can press ^K C to make a copy of the highlighted text and insert
it to where the cursor is positioned. ^K Y to deletes the highlighted
text. ^K W, writes the highlighted text to a file.

A very useful command is ^K /, which filters a block of text through a
UNIX command. For example, if you select a list of words with ^K B
and ^K K, and then type ^K / sort, the list of words will be
sorted. Another useful UNIX command for ^K /, is tr. If you
type ^K / tr a-z A-Z, then all of the letters in the highlighted block
will be converted to uppercase.

How do I deselect a highlighted region?

After you are finished with some region operations, you can just leave the
highlighting on if you don't mind it (but don't accidentally hit ^K Y).
If it really bothers you, however, just hit ^K B ^K K, to turn the
highlighting off.

Beginning with JOE 4.2, you can hit ^C to cancel the region selection.

New ways of selecting regions

The classic way is to hit ^K B at the beginning and ^K K at the
end. These set pointers called markb and markk. Once these are set you
can jump to markb with Esc B and jump to markk with Esc K.

New way: hit Ctrl-Right Arrow to start selecting rightward. Each time
you hit Ctrl-Right Arrow, the block is extended one more to the right.
This uses a simple macro: "begin_marking,rtarw,toggle_marking".

Unfortunately, there is no standard way to get the keysequence given by the
terminal emulator when you hit Ctrl-Right Arrow. Instead you have to
determine this sequence yourself and enter it directly in the joerc file.
Some examples are given for Xterm and gnome-terminal. Hit ^Q
Ctrl-Right Arrow within JOE to have the sequence shown on your screen.
Note that Putty uses Esc Esc [ C which will not appear with ^Q
Right Arrow
(also Esc Esc is the set bookmark command, so you need to
unbind it to do this in Putty).

Also you can hit Ctrl-Delete to cut and Ctrl-Insert to paste if the
sequence for these keys are known.

The mouse can also be used to select text if mouse support is enabled in

Indenting program blocks

Auto-indent mode is toggled with the ^T I command. The joerc file
is normally set up so that files with names ending with .p, .c or .h have
auto-indent mode enabled. When auto-indent mode is enabled and you hit
Enter, the cursor will be placed in the same column that the first
non-whitespace character was on in the original line.

You can use the ^K , and ^K . commands to shift a block of text to
the left or right. If no highlighting is set when you give these commands,
the program block (as indicated by indentation) that the cursor is located in
will be selected, and will be moved by subsequent ^K , and ^K .

The number of columns these commands shift by and the character used for
shifting can be set through the istep and indentc options. These options
are available in the ^T menu. Also, ^T = can be used to quickly
select from a number of common values for indentation step and character.

JOE has a number of additional options related to indenting programs:

  • smartbacks

    Enable smart backspace and tab. When this mode is set Backspace and Tab
    indent or unindent based on the values of the istep and indentc options.

  • smarthome

    The Home and ^A keys first move the cursor to the beginning of the
    line, then if hit again, to the first non-blank character.

  • indentfirst

    Smart home goes to first non-blank character first, instead of going
    to the beginning of the line first.

  • purify

    Fix indentation if necessary before shifting or smart backspace. For
    example, if indentation uses a mix of tabs and spaces, and indentc is
    space, then indentation will be converted to all spaces before the shifting

  • guess_indent

    When set, JOE tries to guess the indentation character and indentation
    step based on the contents of the file. The algorithm is to find the
    greatest common factor of the three most common indentations found in the

Rectangle mode

Type ^T X to have ^K B and ^K K select rectangular blocks
instead of stream-of-text blocks. This is also known as columnar mode.
This mode is useful for moving, copying, deleting or saving columns of text.
You can also filter columns of text with the ^K / command- if you want
to sort a column, for example. The insert file command, ^K R is also

When rectangle mode is selected, overtype mode is also useful
(^T T). When overtype mode is selected, rectangles will replace
existing text instead of getting inserted before it. Also the delete block
command (^K Y) will clear the selected rectangle with Spaces and Tabs
instead of deleting it. Overtype mode is especially useful for the filter
block command (^K /), since it will maintain the original width of the
selected column.

Picture mode

Use ^T P to enter or exit picture mode. Picture mode helps with ASCII

Picture mode controls how JOE handles the case where the cursor is past the
ends of lines. This happens when you use the up or down arrow keys to move
the cursor from the end of a long line to a short line.

If you attempt to type a character in this case:

If picture mode is off, the cursor will jump to the end of the line and
insert it there.

If picture mode is on, the line is filled with spaces so that the character
can be inserted at the cursor position.


You can edit more than one file at the same time or edit two or more
different places of the same file. To do this, hit ^K O, to split the
screen into two windows. Use ^K P or ^K N to move the cursor
into the top window or the lower window. Use ^K E to edit a new
file in one of the windows. A window will go away when you save the file
with ^K X or abort the file with ^C. If you abort a file which
exists in two windows, one of the window goes away, not the file.

You can hit ^K O within a window to create even more windows. If you
have too many windows on the screen, but you don't want to eliminate them,
you can hit ^K I. This will show only the window the cursor is in, or
if there was only one window on the screen to begin with, try to fit all
hidden windows on the screen. If there are more windows than can fit on
the screen, you can hit ^K N on the bottom-most window or ^K P
on the top-most window to get to them.

If you gave more than one file name to JOE on the command line, each file
will be placed in a different window.

You can change the height of the windows with the ^K G and ^K T

Windowing system model

JOE has an unusual model for its windowing system. Basically you have a ring
of windows, but only a section of this ring may fit on the screen. The windows
not on the screen still exist, they are just scrolled off. When you hit
^K N on the bottom window of the screen, it scrolls further windows from
the ring onto the screen, possibly letting the top window scroll out of

Native JOE tries to keep each loaded buffer in a window, so users can find
all of the buffers by scrolling through the windows. The explode
command (^K I) either expands all windows to the size of the screen so
that only one window can fit on the screen, or shrinks them all as much as
possible to fit many on the screen.

On the other hand, JOE supports "orphan" buffers- files loaded into the
editor, but which are not in a window. ^C normally closes a window and
discards the buffer that was in it. If you hit ^C on the last remaining
window, it will normally exit the editor. However, if there are orphan
buffers, ^C will instead load them into this final window to give you
a chance to explicitly discard them. If the orphan option is given on
the command line, as in joe -orphan *.c, then JOE only loads the first
file into a window and leaves all the rest as orphans.

orphan also controls whether the edit command ^K E creates a new
window for a newly loaded file, or reuses the current window (orphaning its
previous occupant).

The bufed command prompts for a name of a buffer to switch into a window.
Its completion list will show all buffers, including orphans and buffers
which appear in other windows. Esc V and Esc U (nbuf and
pbuf commands) allow you to cycle through all buffers within a single

Windows maintain a stack of occupants to support the pop-up shell window
feature. When a pop-up window is dismissed, the previous buffer is returned
to the window.

Scratch buffers

Scratch buffers are buffers which JOE does not worry about trying to
preserve. JOE will not ask to save modified scratch buffers. Pop-up shell
windows, the startup log and compile and grep message windows are scratch
buffers. You can create your own scratch buffer with the scratch

The following commands load scratch buffers:

  • showlog Show startup log
  • mwind Show message window (compile / grep messages from Esc C and
    Esc G commands).

Keyboard macros

Macros allow you to record a series of keystrokes and replay them with the
press of two keys. This is useful to automate repetitive tasks. To start a
macro recording, hit ^K [ followed by a number from 0 to 9. The
status line will display (Macro n recording...). Now, type in the series of
keystrokes that you want to be able to repeat. The commands you type will
have their usual effects. Hit ^K ] to stop recording the macro. Hit
^K followed by the number you recorded the macro in to execute one
iteration of the key-strokes.

For example, if you want to put "**" in front of a number of lines, you can

^K [ 0 ^A ** <down arrow> ^K ]

Which starts the macro recording, moves the cursor to the beginning of the
line, inserts "**", moves the cursor down one line, and then ends the
recording. Since we included the key-strokes needed to position the cursor
on the next line, we can repeatedly use this macro without having to move
the cursor ourselves, something you should always keep in mind when
recording a macro.

Keyboard macro subroutines

If you find that the macro you are recording itself has a repeated set of
key-strokes in it, you can record a macro within the macro, as long as you
use a different macro number. Also you can execute previously recorded
macros from within new macros.

Query suspend

If your macro includes a prompt for user input, and you want the user to
fill in the prompt every time the macro is executed, hit ^K ? at the
point in the macro recording where the user action is required. Keyboard
input will not be recorded at this point. When the user completes the
prompt, macro recording will continue.

When the macro is executed, the macro player will pause at the point where
^K ? was entered to allow user input. When the user completes the
prompt, the player continues with the rest of the macro.


You can use the repeat command, ^K \, to repeat a macro, or any other
edit command or even a normal character, a specified number of times. Hit
^K \, type in the number of times you want the command repeated and
press Enter. The next edit command you now give will be repeated
that many times.
For example, to delete the next 20 lines of text, type:

^K \ 20<return>^Y

Macros and commands

A macro is a comma separated list of commands. When the macro is executed,
each command is executed until either the end of the list is reached, or one
of the commands fails (non-zero return value from the command). Failed
commands beep if you have beeps enabled (^T B).

Hit Esc D to insert the current set of keyboard macros as text into the
current buffer. For example, the "**" insert macro above looks like this:

home,"**",dnarw ^K 0    Macro 0

You could insert this into your .joerc file and change the key sequence (the
K 0) to something more permanent.

Define your own

You can bind macros to key sequences or define your own named macros in the
joerc file. For example, this will define a macro called foo:

:def foo eof,bol

foo will position the cursor at the beginning of the last line of the
file. eof jumps to the end of the file. bol jumps to the beginning
of a line. Once a macro has been named this way it will show up in the
completion list of the Esc X command prompt.

Command prompt

You can execute a macro directly by typing it into the command prompt. Hit
Esc X to bring up the command prompt. Hit Tab at this prompt for a
completion list of all available commands.

Here is a complete list of commands.

Macro don't stop modifier

Sometimes, you expect commands to sometimes fail, but want the rest of the
commands in the list to be executed anyway. To mark a command which is
allowed to fail, postfix it with '!'. For example, here a macro which hits
down page in the window above:


If prevw fails, the macro is aborted as usual. Even if pgdn fails (already
at end of buffer), nextw will be executed so that the cursor is returned to
the original window.

Macro repeat argument modifiers

Repeat arguments can be specified with ^K \. When a command is executed
with a repeat argument, it is repeatedly executed the specified number of
times. If the repeat argument is negative, an opposite command (if one
exists) is executed instead. For example, if you repeat "rtarw" -3 times,
"ltarw" will be repeated 3 times. If a negative argument is given for a
command which does not have an opposite, the repeat argument is ignored.

Normally, if a repeat argument is specified for a macro, the macro is simply
repeated the given number of times. If a negative argument is given, the
argument is ignored.

Sometimes you want to allow negative arguments for macros and have their
behavior modified. To do this, postfix each command within the macro which
should be switched to its opposite for negative arguments with '-'. For
example, here is the page down other window macro:


Now if you execute this with an argument of -2, it will be repeated twice,
but pgup will be executed instead of pgdn. (note that several postfix
modifiers can be placed after each command).

Sometimes when a repeat argument is given to macro, you want only one of the
commands in the list to be repeated, not the entire macro. This can be
indicated as follows:


If this is executed with an argument of 2, prevw is executed once, pgdn is
executed twice, and nextw is executed once.

Finally, even more complex semantics can be expressed with the "if" command:


When the macro is executed, the "arg" math variable is set to the given
repeat argument. The "argset" variable is set to true if the user set an
argument, even if it's 1. If no argument was given, argset is false.

If any command in the list is postfixed with ~ (if above), the macro is not
repeated, even if there is an argument. 'arg' is still set to the given
repeat count, however.

'psh'/'query' interaction

The 'psh' command saves the ^K B and ^K K positions on a stack. When the
macro completes, (or when the 'pop' command is called) the positions are

The 'query' command suspends macro execution until the current dialog is
complete. It also suspends the automatic 'pop' which happens at the end
of a macro- so if the macro ends in a dialog you often want to call 'query'
to prevent the ^K B ^K K positions from being restored too early.

If you are editing a large C program with many source files, you can use the
ctags program to generate a tags file. This file contains a
list of program symbols and the files and positions where the symbols are

First, create the tags file with the "ctags" program. For example:

ctags *.c *.h

This will create a file called "tags" in the current directory.

JOE looks for the "tags" file in the current directory. If there is none,
it will try to open the file specified by the TAGS environment variable.

Paths in the tags file are always relative to location of the tags file

The tags file contains a list of identifier definition locations in one of
these formats:

identifier filename /search-expression/[;comments]

identifier filename ?search-expression?[;comments]

identifier filename line-number[;comments]

Some versions of ctags include class-names in the identifiers:


In this case, JOE will match on any of these strings:


Some versions of ctags include a filename in the identifier:


In this case JOE will only find the identifier if the buffer name matches
the filename.

The search-expression is a vi regular expression, but JOE only supports the
following special characters:

^ at the beginning means expression starts at beginning of line

$ at the end means expression ends at end of line

\x quote x (suppress meaning of /, ?, ^ or $)

Type ^K ; to bring up a tags search prompt. If the cursor had been on an
identifier, the prompt is pre-loaded with it. Tab completion works in this
prompt (it uses the tags file to find completions).

When you hit Enter, the tags search commences:

If there is one and only one match, JOE will jump directly to the

If there are multiple matches, then the behavior is controlled by the
notagsmenu option. If notagsmenu is enabled JOE jumps to the first
definition. If you hit ^K ; again before hitting any other keys, JOE jumps
to the next definition, and so on. The "tagjump" command also performs this

If notagsmenu is disabled, JOE brings up a menu of all the matches. You
select the one you want and JOE jumps to it. If you hit ^K ; again before
hitting any other keys, the same menu re-appears with the cursor left in the
original location.

You can hit ^K - to move the cursor back to the original location before the
tags search (often ^C will work as well).

Since ^K ; loads the definition file into the current window, you
probably want to split the window first with ^K O, to have both the
original file and the definition file loaded.


JOE has a built-in calculator which can be invoked with Esc M.

Math functions

sin, cos, tan, exp, sqrt, cbrt, ln, log,
asin, acos, atan, sinh, cosh, tanh, asinh, acosh,
atanh, int, floor, ceil, abs, erf, erfc, j0,
j1, y0, y1


  • e

    Set to 'e'

  • pi

    Set to 'pi'

  • top

    Set to line number of top window line

  • lines

    Set to number of lines in file

  • line

    Set to current line number

  • col

    Set to current column number

  • byte

    Set to current byte number

  • size

    Set to buffer size

  • height

    Set to window height

  • width

    Set to window width

  • char

    Set to ASCII val of character under cursor

  • markv

    True if there is a valid block set (^KB ... ^KK)

  • rdonly

    True if file is read-only

  • arg

    Current repeat argument

  • argset

    True if a repeat argument was given

  • is_shell

    True if executed in an active shell window

  • no_windows

    No. buffer windows on the screen

  • ans

    Result of previous expression


  • hex

    Hex display mode

  • dec

    Decimal display mode

  • ins

    Insert 'ans' into buffer

  • sum

    Sum of numbers in block

  • cnt

    Count numbers in block

  • avg

    Average value of numbers in block

  • dev

    Standard deviation of numbers in block

  • eval

    Evaluate math expressions in block (or whole file if no block set).

  • joe(...)

    Execute a JOE macro (argument in same format as joerc file macros). Return value of JOE macro is returned (for macro success, return true (non-zero)).

For example:

joe(sys,"[ 1 == 1 ]",rtn)

([ 1 == 1 ]) is a shell command. "[" is a synonym for
the "test" UNIX command.

Returns true.

Remember: argument for JOE macro command
"if" is a math expression. So for example, the

if,"joe(sys,\"[ 1 == 1 ]\",rtn)",then,"TRUE",endif

Types TRUE into the buffer.


  • !x

    Logical not of x.

  • x^y

    Raise x to power of y.

  • a*b


  • a/b


  • a%b


  • a+b


  • a-b


  • a<b

    True if a is less than b.

  • a<=b

    True if a is less than or equal to b.

  • a>b

    True if a is greater than b.

  • a>=b

    True if a is greater than or equal to b.

  • a==b

    True if a equals b.

  • a!=b

    True if a does not equal b.

  • a&&b

    True if both a and b are true.

  • a||b

    True if ether a or b are true.

  • a?b:c

    If a is true return b, otherwise return c.

  • a=b

    Assign b to a.

  • a:b

    Execute a, then execute b.

&&, || and ? : work as in C and sh as far as side effects: if the
left side of && is false, the right side is not evaluated.

: is expression separator.

Shell windows

Hit ^K ' to run a command shell in one of JOE's windows. When the
cursor is at the end of a shell window (use ^K V if it's not),
whatever you type is passed to the shell instead of the buffer. Any output
from the shell or from commands executed in the shell is appended to the
shell window (the cursor will follow this output if it's at the end of the
shell window). This command is useful for recording the results of shell
commands- for example the output of make, the result of grepping
a set of files for a string, or directory listings from FTP sessions.
Besides typeable characters, the keys ^C, Backspace, Del, Return and
^D are passed to the shell. Type the shell exit command to stop recording
shell output. If you press ^C in a shell window, when the cursor is
not at the end of the window, the shell is killed.

If you use Bash, you can hit: ^Q Up Arrow and ^Q Down Arrow to
scroll through Bash's history buffer. Other keys work as well: try
^Q ^A to go to beginning of line or ^Q ^E to go to end of line.
Unfortunately JOE only emulates a dumb terminal, so you have to use a lot of
imagination to do any editing beyond hitting backspace.

In general, any character quoted with ^Q is sent to the shell.

Also sent to the shell: Tab, Backspace, Enter, ^C and ^D.

Pop-up shell windows

Hit F1 - F4 to open and switch between shell windows.

Pop-up shell windows use a full terminal emulator so that when you type "man ls" it's
formatted correctly (it works well enough so that some interactive programs
can be used). Even so, the shell window is still an edit buffer.

The old shell window (with no terminal emulation) still exists: use ^K ' to
invoke it as usual. This is useful to see control sequences emitted by a

More of the keys get passed to the running program in pop-up shell windows
compared with the older one. There is a :vtshell section of the joerc file to
control which ones. In particular arrow keys and Ctrl-C are passed to the
program. It means you can easily step through bash history with the arrow
keys, or abort programs the normal way with Ctrl-C.

On the other hand, loss of Ctrl-C means it's less obvious how to close the
window. One way is to move the cursor off of the shell data entry point
(with Ctrl-P), and then hit Ctrl-C. Another is to hit ^K Q. Finally, you
can type 'pop' at the command prompt.

If you need to pass a key to the shell that JOE normally uses, quote it. For
example, if you invoke "emacs -nw" in the shell window, you can exit it with:

^Q ^X ^C

To quickly position the cursor back to the point where data is entered into
the shell, hit ^K V.

When you open a shell window, a JOE-specific startup-script is sourced.
It's located in /etc/joe/shell.sh (also /etc/joe/shell.csh). It contains
some aliases which allow you to control JOE with fake shell commands. I
have these commands so far:

  • clear

    erase shell window (delete buffer contents)

  • joe file

    edit a file in JOE

  • math 1+2

    evaluate equation using JOE's calculator

  • cd xyz

    change directory, keep JOE up to date

  • markb

    same as ^KB

  • markk

    same as ^KK

  • mark command

    execute shell command, mark it's output

  • parse command

    execute shell command, parse it's output for file names and line numbers (for find or grep)

  • parser comman

    execute shell command, parse it's output for errors (for gcc)

  • release

    release parsed errors

  • pop

    dismiss shell window (same as ^K Q)

These work by emitting an escape sequence recognized by the terminal
emulator: Esc { joe_macro }. When this is received, the macro is executed.
For security, only macros defined in the joerc file which begin with
"shell_" can be executed this way.

Use cases

Pop-up shell windows have a number of nice use cases:

  • Use it to browse manual pages

    Hit F1 and type "man fopen". Use 'b' ('u') and space to control
    more (or less) while viewing the manual. You can leave the manual
    on the screen in one window while editing in another window.

  • Use it to switch directories

    Hit F1 and navigate to the directory while using cd. Once
    you are in the right place, hit ^K E to load a file (or type "edit file"
    from the shell).

  • Use it in conjunction with the error parser to find files

    Hit F1 and navigate to a directory. Use grep or find (or both)
    to generate a list of files):

        parse grep -n FIXME *.c


        markb; find . | xargs grep -n FIXME; markk; parse

(Note that you can't say this:

        parse find . | xargs grep -n FIXME

...the issue is that only the words to the left of the pipe symbol
are passed as arguments to the parse command).

Now use ^P to position the cursor on one of the lines of the list. Hit
Esc Space to have JOE edit the file and jump to the specified line (also
you can use Esc - and Esc = to step through the list).

  • Use it in conjunction with search and replace to edit many files

    Once JOE has a list of files (from above), use search and replace
    with the 'e' option to visit all of them:

        ^K F
           Find: <text>
           Options: re
           Replace: <replacement text>
  • Build your project

Easily capture errors from a build with:

        parserr make

Hit Esc = and Esc - to step through the errors.

How it works..

  • There is a new mode "ansi". (Esc X mode ansi). When this mode is
    enabled, the screen updater hides escape sequences which are in the
    buffer. Otherwise you get a big mess from the sequences surrounding
    colored output from 'ls'.

  • There is a new built-in syntax: "ansi". (^T Y ansi). This syntax
    parses the ANSI color control sequences so that text gets colored.

  • There is a terminal emulator to interpret control sequences from the
    shell program. It emulates a terminal by modifying the contents of an
    edit buffer.

  • When the edit window is resized we tell the shell by issuing the
    TIOCSSIZE or TIOCSWINSZ ioctl. This way, the program running in the
    shell knows the window size.

Compiler and grep/find parsers

JOE has two parsers which can be used to generate the error list (list of
file names / line numbers).

The "parserr" command parses the entire buffer, or if the block is set, just
the highighted block for compiler error messages. The messages should be in
this format:

<junk> file.name <junk> line-number <junk> : <junk>

The file name needs to be made of numbers, letters, '/', '.' and '-'. It
must have at leat one '.' in it. There needs to be a colon somewhere after
the line number. Lines not in this format are ignored.

The "gparse' command parses the entire buffer, or if the block is set, just
the highlighted block for a list of filenames or filenames with line numbers
from "grep -n", "find" and similar programs.




Once JOE has the error list, there are a number of things you can do with

  • Visit the files/locations in the list with Esc - and Esc =

  • Search and replace across all files in the list by using the 'e' search
    and replace option.

  • Clear the list by using the "release" command.

Also, you can use Esc Space ('jump' command) to parse the line the cursor is
on and jump to the parsed filename and line number. 'jump' uses the
grep/find parser unless 'parserr' had been previously issued in the buffer.


Hit Esc G to bring up the prompt. Enter a command which results in file
names with line numbers, for example: 'grep -n fred *.c'. This will list all
instances of 'fred' in the *.c files. You need the '-n' to get the line

Now you can hit Esc Space on one of the lines to jump to the selected
file. Also, you can use Esc = and Esc - to step through each line.


Hit Esc C to save all modified files and then bring up the compile prompt.
Enter the command you want to use for the compiler (typically "make -w"). The
compiler will run in a shell window. When it's complete, the results are

The '-w' flag should be given to "make" so that it prints messages whenever
it changes directories. The message are in this format:

make[1]: Entering directory `/home/jhallen/joe-editor-mercurial/joe'

If there are any errors or warnings from the compiler you can hit
Esc Space on one of the lines to jump to the selected file. Also,
you can use Esc = and Esc - to step through each line.

Syntax highlighting

To enable highlight use ^T H.

To select the syntax, use ^T Y. You can hit Tab Tab at the prompt for a
completion list.

JOE tries to determine the syntax to use based on the name and contents of
the file. The configuration file /etc/joe/ftyperc contains the definitions.

Each syntax is defined by a file located /usr/share/joe/syntax/.

How JOE syntax highlighting works

from c.jsf,
slightly modified

A deterministic state machine that performs lexical analysis of the target
language is provided in a syntax file. (This is the "assembly language" of
syntax highlighting. A separate program could in principal be used to
convert a regular expression NFA syntax into this format).

Each state begins with:

:<name> <color-name> <context>

<name> is the state's name.

<color-name> is the color used for characters eaten by the state
(really a symbol for a user definable color).

<context> tells JOE if the current character is part of a comment or a
string. This allows JOE to skip over comments and strings when matching
characters such as parentheses. To use this feature, the
highlighter_context option must be applied to the files highlighted by the
corresponding syntax. To apply the option, add it to ftyperc for those file

The valid contexts are:

  • comment This character is part of a comment. Example: /* comment */

  • string This character is part of a string. Examples: "string" 'c' 'string'

The comment and string delimiters themselves should be marked with the
appropriate context. The context is considered to be part of the color, so
the recolor=-N and recolormark options apply the context to previous

The first state defined is the initial state.

Within a state, define transitions (jumps) to other states. Each
jump has the form:

    <character-list> <target-state-name> [<option>s]

There are three ways to specify <character-list>s, either * for any
character not otherwise specified, % or & to match the character in
the delimiter match buffer (% matches the saved character exactly, while
& matches the opposite character, for example ( will match ) when
& is used) or a literal list of characters within quotes (ranges and
escape sequences allowed: see Escape Sequences). When the next
character matches any in the list, a jump to the target-state is taken and
the character is eaten (we advance to the next character of the file to be

The * transition should be the first transition specified in the state.

There are several options:

  • noeat - Do not eat the character, instead feed it to the next state
    (this tends to make the states smaller, but be careful: you
    can make infinite loops). 'noeat' implies 'recolor=-1'.

  • recolor=-N - Recolor the past N characters with the color of the
    target-state. For example once /* is recognized as the
    start of C comment, you want to color the /* with the C
    comment color with recolor=-2.

  • mark - Mark beginning of a region with current position.

  • markend - Mark end of region.

  • recolormark - Recolor all of the characters in the marked region with
    the color of the target-state. If markend is not given,
    all of the characters up to the current position are recolored.
    Note that the marked region can not cross line boundaries and
    must be on the same line as recolormark.

  • buffer - Start copying characters to a string buffer, beginning with this
    one (it's OK to not terminate buffering with a matching
    'strings', 'istrings' or 'hold' option- the buffer is limited
    to leading 23 characters).

  • save_c - Save character in delimiter match buffer.

  • save_s - Copy string buffer to delimiter match buffer.

  • strings - A list of strings follows. If the buffer matches any of the
    given strings, a jump to the target-state in the string list
    is taken instead of the normal jump.

  • istrings - Same as strings, but case is ignored.
    Note: strings and istrings should be the last option on the
    line. They cause any options which follow them to be ignored.

  • hold - Stop buffering string- a future 'strings' or 'istrings' will
    look at contents of buffer at this point. Useful for distinguishing
    commands and function calls in some languages 'write 7' is a command
    'write (' is a function call- hold lets us stop at the space and delay
    the string lookup until the ( or 7.

The format of the string list is:

    "string"   <target-state> [<options>s]
    "string"   <target-state> [<options>s]
    "&"        <target-state> [<options>s]   # matches contents of delimiter match buffer

(all of the options above are allowed except "strings", "istrings" and "noeat". noeat is
always implied after a matched string).

Weirdness: only states have colors, not transitions. This means that you
sometimes have to make dummy states with

    *    <next-state>    noeat

just to get a color specification.

Delimiter match buffer is for perl and shell: a regex in perl can be s<..>(...)
and in shell you can say: <<EOS ....... EOS. The idea is that you capture
the first delimiter into the match buffer (the < or first "EOS") and then
match it to the second one with "&" in a string or character list.


Highlighter state machines can now make subroutine calls. This works by
template instantiation: the called state machine is included in your
current state machine, but is modified so that the return address points
to the called. There is still no run-time stack (the state is represented
as a single integer plus the saved delimiter string).

Recursion is allowed, but is self limited to 5 levels.

Note: this recursion limit is obsolete. Subroutines now do use a stack
so the call-depth is limitless.

To call a subroutine, use the 'call' option:

    "\""    fred    call=string(dquote)

The subroutine called 'string' is called and the jump to 'fred' is
ignored. The 'dquote' option is passed to the subroutine.

If you use recolor along with call, the color used is that of the first
state of the subroutine.

The subroutine itself returns to the caller like this:

    "\""    whatever    return

If we're in a subroutine, it returns to the target state of the call ("fred"
in the above example). If we're not in a subroutine, it jumps to

If you use recolor along with return, the color used is from the returned
state ("fred" in the example above).

There are several ways of delimiting subroutines which show up in how it
is called. Here are the options:

  • call=string() - A file called string.jsf is the subroutine.
    The entire file is the subroutine. The starting
    point is the first state in the file.

  • call=library.string() - A file called library.jsf has the subroutine.
    The subroutine within the file is called string.

  • call=.string() - There is a subroutine called string in the current file.

When a subroutine is within a file, but is not the whole file, it is delimited
as follows:

.subr string

. . . states for string subroutine . . .


Option flags can be passed to subroutines which control preprocessor-like
directives. For example:

.ifdef dquote
    "\""    idle    return
.ifdef squote
    "'"     idle    return

.else is also available. .ifdefs can be nested.

The joerc file

^T options, the help screens and the key-sequence to editor command
bindings are all defined in JOE's initialization file. If you make a copy
of this file (which normally resides in /etc/joe/joerc) to
$HOME/.joerc, you can customize these setting to your liking. The
syntax of the initialization file should be fairly obvious and there are
further instructions in it.

The joerc file has a directive to include another file (:include). This
facility is used to include a file called ftyperc (usually located in
/etc/joe/ftyperc). ftyperc has the file type table which determines
which local options (including syntax for the highlighter) are applied to
each file type.

Initialization file loading sequence

If the path for an initialization file begins with '/' (you can specify this
with the include directive), JOE only tries to load it from the absolute
path. Otherwise, JOE tries to load initialization files (the joerc file and
any files included in it, typically ftyperc) from three places:

  • "$HOME/.joerc" - The user's personalized joerc file.

  • "/etc/joe/joerc" - The system's joerc file.
    The exact path is fixed during the build, and is determined by the
    --sysconfdir configure script option.

  • "*joerc" - Built-in file
    This means JOE searches for the file in a table of files linked in with the
    JOE binary (they are in the builtins.c file). A built-in joerc file is
    provided so that the editor will run in cases where system's joerc is

If the system's joerc file is newer than the user's joerc file, JOE will
print a warning in the startup log. Previous versions of JOE would prompt
the user for this case- the idea was that JOE may be unusable with an out of
date initialization file.

joerc file sections

The joerc file is broken up into a number of sections:

  • Global options
    Options which are not file specific, like noxon.

  • File name and content dependent options
    Options which depend on the file type, such as autoindent. The
    ftyperc file is included in this section.

  • ^T menu system definition
    Use :defmenu to define a named menu of macros. The menu command
    brings up a specific named menu. ^T is a macro which brings up the root
    menu: menu,"root",rtn.

  • Help screen contents
    Each help screen is named. The name is used to implement context
    dependent help.

  • Key bindings
    Key binding tables are defined. You can define as many as you like (you
    can switch to a specific one with the keymap command), but
    the following must be provided:

    • main Editing windows
    • prompt Prompt windows
    • query Single-character query prompts
    • querya Single-character query for quote
    • querysr Single-character query for search and replace
    • shell Shell windows
    • vtshell Terminal emulator shell windows

Key binding tables can inherit bindings from already defined tables. This
allows you to group common key bindings into a single table which is
inherited by the others.

Mode command

Many options can be controlled with the ^T menu. This menu is defined
in the joerc file. Each option in the ^T menu just executes a macro.
Usually the macro is the mode command. You can execute the mode command
directly with:

Esc X mode <enter>

Hit Tab Tab for a completion list of all options.

This command calls up a named menu of macros which was defined in the
joerc file.

Esc X menu <enter>

As usual, hit Tab Tab at the prompt for a completion list of the
menus which exist.

^T is bound to the simple macro menu,"root",rtn- it brings up the
root of the options menu system.

Xterm Mouse support

There are two levels of mouse support. The -mouse option enables the
first level, which will work with any stock Xterm. If -joexterm is also
set, mouse support is enhanced, but you need a recent version of XTerm,
and it needs to be ./configured with the --enable-paste64 option.

When -mouse is set, you can:

  • Left-click in a text window to set the cursor position. Left-click in a
    different window to move the cursor to a different window.

  • Select text with the mouse. Left-click and drag to select some text- it
    will be as if you had used ^K B and ^K K to mark it. Left-click (but don't
    drag) to position the cursor somewhere else. Middle click to copy the
    selected text to the cursor- it will be as if you had hit ^K C. If you drag
    past the edge of the text window, the window will auto-scroll to select more
    text. Unfortunately, Xterm does not send any codes when the cursor is
    outside of the Xterm frame itself, so this only works if the mouse is still
    contained within the Xterm frame. I've sent a patch to the Xterm maintainer
    to improve this, but he has not taken it yet.

  • Resize windows with the mouse: click and hold on a status line
    dividing two windows to move it.

  • Select menu entries (such as any completion menu or the ^T options
    menu): click on the menu item to position the cursor on it. Double-click on
    a menu item to select it (same as hitting return with cursor on it).

  • If your mouse has a wheel, turning the wheel will scroll the window with
    the cursor.

Unfortunately, when -mouse is selected, cut and paste between X windows
does not work as it normally does in a shell window (left-click and drag to
select, middle click to paste). Instead, you have to hold the shift key
down to do this: shift-left-click and drag to select, and shift-middle click
to paste. Note that pasting text into JOE this way has problems: any `
characters will get messed up because ` means quote the following control
character. Also if auto-indent is enabled, pasted text will not be indented

Note: these problems with pasting have been resolved in recent versions
of JOE.

  • JOE enables "bracketed paste" mode in Xterm so that pasted text is
    bracketed with an escape sequence. This sequence causes JOE to disable
    the autoindent, wordwrap and spaces modes for the paste, and restores them
    when the paste is complete.

  • Even if the terminal emulator does not have this bracketed paste mode,
    JOE detects pasted text by timing: If text arrives all at once (all in the
    same buffer), the text is assumed to be pasted text and autoindent and
    wordwrap are temporarily disabled.

When -joexterm is set (and you have ./configured Xterm with

  • Cut & paste are properly integrated with X. Text selected with
    left-click-drag is available for pasting into other X windows (even if the
    selected text is larger than the text window). Text selected in other X
    windows can be pasted into JOE with middle-click. There are no problems
    pasting text containing ` or with auto-indent.

--enable-paste64 allows an application program to communicate Base-64
encoded selection data to and from the Xterm. The program has full control
over what is in the selection data and when it is received or sent.

Color Xterm support

JOE can make use of monochrome Xterm, 8-color Xterm, 16-color Xterm,
88-color Xterm and 256-color Xterm. The number of colors which Xterm
supports is determined by which "configure" script options are set before
the Xterm source code is compiled. The termcap or terminfo entry must
support how your Xterm is configured. On my Slackware Linux distribution,
you have to set the TERM environment variable to one of these:

  • xterm
  • xterm-color
  • xterm-16color
  • xterm-88color
  • xterm-256color

If the termcap/terminfo entry is missing, you can add the "-assume_256color"
option to the joerc file. Note that this was broken for terminfo in
versions of JOE below 3.4.

When it is working, the command: "joe -assume_256color -text_color bg_222"
should have a gray background.

Hex edit mode

When this mode is selected (either put -hex on the command line, or look for
"Hex edit mode" after hitting ^T), the buffer is displayed as a hex dump,
but all of the editing commands operate the same way. It is most useful to
select overtype mode in conjunction with hex dump (hit ^T T). Then typing
will not insert.

  • To enter the hex byte 0xF8 type ^Q x F 8

  • You can use ^K C to copy a block as usual. If overtype mode is selected,
    the block will overwrite the destination data without changing the size of
    the file. Otherwise it inserts.

  • Hit Esc X byte <Enter>, to jump to a particular byte offset. Hex values
    can be entered into this prompt like this: 0x2000.

  • Search, incremental search, and search & replace all operate as usual.

Environment variables

For JOE to operate correctly, a number of other environment settings must be
correct. The throughput (baud rate) of the connection between the computer
and your terminal must be set correctly for JOE to update the screen
smoothly and allow typeahead to defer the screen update. Use the stty nnn
command to set this. You want to set it as close as possible to
actual throughput of the connection. For example, if you are connected via
a 1200 baud modem, you want to use this value for stty. If you are
connected via 14.4k modem, but the terminal server you are connected to
connects to the computer a 9600 baud, you want to set your speed as 9600
baud. The special baud rate of 38400 or extb is used to indicate that
you have a very-high speed connection, such as a memory mapped console or an
X-window terminal emulator. If you can't use stty to set the actual
throughput (perhaps because of a modem communicating with the computer at a
different rate than it's communicating over the phone line), you can put a
numeric value in the BAUD environment variable instead (use setenv
BAUD 9600
for csh or BAUD=9600; export BAUD for sh).

The TERM environment variable must be set to the type of terminal
you're using. If the size (number of lines/columns) of your terminal is
different from what is reported in the TERMCAP or TERMINFO entry, you can
set this with the stty rows nn cols nn command, or by setting the
LINES and COLUMNS environment variables. The terminal size is
variable on modern systems and is determined by an ioctl, so these
parameters often have no effect.

JOE normally expects that flow control between the computer and your
terminal to use ^S/^Q handshaking (i.e., if the computer is sending
characters too fast for your terminal, your terminal sends ^S to stop the
output and ^Q to restart it). If the flow control uses out-of-band or
hardware handshaking or if your terminal is fast enough to always keep up
with the computer output and you wish to map ^S/^Q to edit commands, you can
set the environment variable NOXON to have JOE attempt to turn off
^S/^Q handshaking. If the connection between the computer and your terminal
uses no handshaking and your terminal is not fast enough to keep up with the
output of the computer, you can set the environment variable DOPADDING
to have JOE slow down the output by interspersing PAD characters
between the terminal screen update sequences.

Here is a complete list of the environment variables:

  • BAUD

    Tell JOE the baud rate of the terminal (overrides value reported by stty).


    Set number of columns in terminal emulator (in case
    termcap entry is wrong). This is only useful on old system which don't have
    the "get window size" ioctl.


    Enable JOE to send padding NULs to the terminal
    when set (for very old terminals).

  • HOME

    Used to get path to home directory for ~
    expansion and also to find ~/.joerc file ~/.joe directory.


    Used to get hostname to put in EMACS compatible locks.


    Gives terminal type: JOE will use this instead of TERM if it's set.

  • LANG

    Sets locale (like en_US.utf-8). JOE uses
    the first of these which is set: LC_ALL, LC_CTYPE, LANG.

  • LC_ALL

    Sets locale (like en_US.utf-8). JOE
    uses the first of these which is set: LC_ALL, LC_CTYPE, LANG.


    Sets locale (like en_US.utf-8). JOE
    uses the first of these which is set: LC_ALL, LC_CTYPE, LANG.


    Set number of lines in terminal emulator (in case
    termcap entry is wrong). This is only useful on old system which don't have
    the "get window size" ioctl.


    Disable ^S and ^Q flow control, possibly
    allowing ^S and ^Q to be used as editor keys.


    Path to shell (like /bin/sh). This is
    used in several places: If you are on a system with no job control, this
    shell is invoked when you hit ^K Z. Also this is the shell which is run in shell
    windows. If SHELL is not set (Cygwin) or if it's set to /bin/sh, JOE
    invokes the first of these which exists: /bin/bash, /usr/bin/bash, /bin/sh.


    If this is set, it is
    appended to the file name instead of ~ to create the backup file name.

  • TAGS

    If set to a path to a file, JOE tries to
    use this as the "tags" file if there is no "tags" file in the current

  • TEMP

    If set, gives path to directory to open
    swapfile instead of /tmp


    Used by JOE's built-in termcap file
    parser (not used for terminfo). A termcap entry can be placed directly in
    this variable (which will be used if it matches TERM), or if it begins with
    /, it gives a list of paths to termcap files to search.


    Gives list of paths to termcap files to search when TERMCAP has a
    termcap entry (otherwise it's ignored). The default list of paths to
    termcap files (when TERMCAP and TERMPATH do not have it) is: "~/.termcap
    /etc/joe/termcap /etc/termcap"

  • TERM

    Gives terminal type, like "vt100" or "xterm".

  • USER

    Used to get user name for EMACS compatible file locks.

JOE commands grouped by function

These commands can be entered at the Esc X prompt.

Background programs

  • bknd

    Run a shell in a window

  • vtbknd

    Run a shell in a terminal emulator window

  • killproc

    Kill program in current window

  • run

    Run a UNIX command in a window

  • sys

    Run a UNIX command and return to editor when done (I/O does not go through editor, but we get the command's return status).


  • blkcpy

    Copy marked block to cursor

  • blkdel

    Delete marked block

  • blkmove

    Move marked block to cursor

  • blksave

    Save marked block into a file

  • copy

    Copy block to kill-ring

  • drop

    Set markb. If it was already set, eliminate Ait.

  • dropon

    Set markb. If it was already set, eliminate it. Turn on marking mode.

  • toggle_marking

    If we're in a block: clear markb and markk. If marking is off: set markb and turn on marking. If marking is on: set markk (swap if necessary with markb) and turn marking off.

  • begin_marking

    If we're on an edge of a block: set markb to other edge and turn on marking mode. Otherwise set markb to cursor and turn on marking mode.

  • select

    Set markb. If it was already set, do nothing.

  • filt

    Filter block or file through a UNIX command

  • markb

    Set beginning of block mark

  • markk

    Set end of block mark

  • markl

    Mark current line

  • nmark

    Eliminate markb and markk

  • picokill

    Delete line or block

  • pop

    Restore markb and markk values from stack

  • psh

    Push markb and markk values onto a stack

  • swap

    Switch cursor with markb

  • tomarkb

    Move cursor to markb

  • tomarkbk

    Move cursor to markb or markk

  • tomarkk

    Move cursor to markk

  • yank

    Insert top of kill ring

  • yankpop

    Scroll through kill ring

  • yapp

    Append next kill to top of kill ring

  • upper

    Convert everything in block to uppercase

  • lower

    Convert everything in block to lowercase


  • bufed

    Buffer menu

  • edit

    Load file into window: asks to reload if buffer exists

  • switch

    Load file into window: always uses buffer if it exists

  • scratch

    Push a scratch buffer into current window

  • popabort

    Abort and pop window from stack (do nothing if stack empty)

  • nbuf

    Load next buffer into current window

  • pbuf

    Load previous buffer into current window

  • reload

    Re-read file into buffer (revert)

  • reloadall

    Re-read all unmodified buffers

Cursor Motion

  • bof

    Move cursor to beginning of file

  • bol

    Move cursor to beginning of line (always)

  • bop

    Move to beginning of a paragraph

  • bos

    Move to beginning of screen

  • bkwdc

    Search backwards for a character

  • byte

    Move cursor to specific byte offset into the file.

  • col

    Move cursor to specific column number.

  • dnarw

    Move cursor down one line

  • eof

    Move cursor to end of file

  • eol

    Move cursor to end of line

  • eop

    Move cursor to end of paragraph

  • fwrdc

    Search forward for matching character

  • gomark

    Move cursor to a bookmark

  • home

    Move cursor to beginning of line

  • line

    Move cursor to specified line

  • ltarw

    Move cursor left

  • nedge

    Move cursor to next edge

  • nextpos

    Move cursor to next position in cursor position history

  • nextword

    Move cursor to end of next word

  • pedge

    Move cursor to previous edge

  • prevpos

    Move cursor to previous position in cursor position history

  • prevword

    Move cursor to beginning of previous word

  • rtarw

    Move cursor right

  • setmark

    Set a bookmark

  • tomatch

    Move cursor to matching delimiter

  • tos

    Move cursor to top of screen

  • uparw

    Move cursor up


  • backs


  • backw

    Backspace a word

  • delbol

    Delete to beginning of line

  • delch

    Delete character under cursor

  • deleol

    Delete to end of line

  • dellin

    Delete entire line

  • delw

    Delete word to right

Error parsing

  • nxterr

    Goto next parsed error

  • parserr

    Parse errors in current file

  • gparse

    Parse grep list in current file

  • jump

    Parse current line and jump to it

  • prverr

    Go to previous parsed error

  • showerr

    Show current message

  • grep

    Execute grep command, parse when done

  • build

    Execute build command, parse when done

  • release

    Release error/grep records


  • cancel

    Like abort, but doesn't return failure: useful in macros to escape out of a prompt.

  • abort

    Abort current buffer/window. Prompt if it is changed.

  • abortbuf

    Like above, but just fail if it would have to prompt because it's the last window on a modified buffer.

  • ask

    Prompt to save current file: user says yes return, user says no: run 'abort'. Use in a macro: "ask,query,exsave"

  • exsave

    Save file and exit

  • lose

    EMACS kill buffer. The buffer is deleted- any windows with it get a replacement scratch buffer.

  • querysave

    Prompt to save each modified buffer. Use in a macro: "querysave,query,killjoe"

  • killjoe

    Exit JOE immediately without checking for modified buffers


  • cd

    Set directory prefix

  • save

    Save file

  • savenow

    Save immediately, unless file name is not known

  • insf

    Insert a file


  • center

    Center line

  • fmtblk

    Format all paragraphs in a block

  • format

    Format current paragraph

  • lindent

    Indent to the left

  • rindent

    Indent to the right


  • help

    Turn help on or off

  • hnext

    Switch to next help screen

  • hprev

    Switch to previous help screen


  • ctrl

    Type next key

  • finish

    Complete word in text window

  • insc

    Insert a space

  • open

    Insert newline

  • quote

    Insert a control character

  • quote8

    Insert a meta character

  • rtn

    Return / Enter key

  • type

    Insert typed character

  • secure_type

    Insert typed character, but only allowed in prompt windows (not allowed in shell windows)


  • macros

    Insert keyboard macros into current file

  • play

    Execute a macro

  • query

    Suspend macro recording for user query

  • record

    Record a macro

  • stop

    Stop recording macro

  • backsmenu

    Undo in file completion menu

  • bofmenu

    Move to beginning of menu

  • bolmenu

    Move to beginning of line in a menu

  • dnarwmenu

    Move down one line in a menu

  • eolmenu

    Move cursor to end of line in a menu

  • eofmenu

    Move cursor to end of menu

  • ltarwmenu

    Move cursor left in a menu

  • rtarwmenu

    Move cursor right in menu

  • uparwmenu

    Move cursor up in menu

  • dnslidemenu

    Scroll menu down one line

  • upslidemenu

    Scroll menu up one line

  • pgupmenu

    Scroll menu up

  • pgdnmenu

    Scroll menu down

  • tabmenu

    Tab through menu


  • beep


  • execmd

    Execute a JOE command

  • debug_joe

    Insert debug information into buffer

  • math


  • maths

    Secure Calculator (no way to run joe() macros)

  • mode

    Mode prompt

  • menu

    Menu prompt

  • msg

    Display a message

  • notmod

    Clear the modified flag

  • retype

    Refresh screen

  • shell

    Suspend process or execute a sub-shell

  • stat

    Display cursor position

  • tag

    Tags file search

  • tagjump

    Jump to next tags file search match (only if notagsmenu is set)

  • timer

    Execute a macro periodically

  • txt

    Insert text. If first character is `, then text is assumed to be a format string (that is, the string used to define the status line for the rmsg and lmsg options) and is formatted before the insertion.

  • name

    Insert current file name

  • language

    Insert current language

  • charset

    Insert current character set

  • keymap

    Switch to another keymap


  • complete

    Complete a file-name in a prompt

  • if

    Only run following cmds if expr is true (non-zero)

  • then

    Same as rtn but only works in prompt windows

  • elsif

    Try a new condition

  • else

    Toggle truth flag

  • endif

    Start running cmds again

Here is an example 'if' macro:

if,"char==65",then,"it's an A",else,"it's not an A",endif __^[ q__

When you hit __^[ q__, if the character under the cursor is an 'A': "it's a A" is inserted into the buffer, otherwise "it's not an A" is inserted.

"if" creates a math prompt (like __Esc M__). "then" is like "rtn"- it hits the return key for this prompt.

Within the math prompt, the following variables are available:

  • char

    ASCII value of character under cursor

  • width

    Width of screen

  • height

    Height of screen

  • byte

    byte number

  • col

    column number

  • line

    line number

  • lines

    no. lines in file

  • top

    line number of top line of window


  • arg

    Prompt for repeat argument

  • uarg

    Universal argument


  • crawll

    Pan screen left

  • crawlr

    Pan screen right

  • dnslide

    Scroll screen down 1 line

  • pgdn

    Scroll screen down

  • pgup

    Scroll screen up

  • upslide

    Scroll up one line

Search and replace

  • ffirst

    Find text

  • fnext

    Repeat previous search

  • isrch

    Incremental search forward

  • qrepl

    Search and replace

  • rfirst

    Search backwards for text

  • rsrch

    Reverse incremental search


  • explode

    Display one window or display all windows

  • dupw

    Duplicate current window

  • groww

    Increase size of window

  • nextw

    Move cursor to next window

  • prevw

    Go to previous window

  • shrinkw

    Shrink window

  • splitw

    Split window into two

  • tw0

    Eliminate this window

  • tw1

    Show only one window

  • mwind

    Get error messages window on the screen and put cursor in it.

  • showlog

    Get startup log scratch buffer into window.

  • mfit

    Fit two windows on the screen: make current window 6 lines, and give rest of space to window above. The window above is either the existing previous window, a newly created one if there wasn't one.


  • redo

    Re-execute the latest undone change

  • undo

    Undo last change


  • tomouse

    Move the cursor to where the mouse was clicked/dragged

  • defmdown

    Default single-click handler, usually bound to MDOWN. Positions cursor to
    mouse and begins a region.

  • defmup

    Default single-click release handler, usually bound to MUP. Completes
    selection of a region.

  • defmdrag

    Default single-click drag handler, usually bound to MDRAG. Selects a region
    of text a character at a time.

  • defm2down

    Default double-click handler, usually bound to M2DOWN.

  • defm2up

    Default double-click release handler, usually bound to M2UP.

  • defm2drag

    Default double-click drag handler, usually bound to M2DRAG. Selects a
    region of text a word at a time.

  • defm3down

    Default triple-click handler, usually bound to M3DOWN.

  • defm3up

    Default triple-click release handler, usually bound to M3UP.

  • defm3drag

    Default triple-click drag handler, usually bound to M3DRAG. Selects a
    region of text a line at a time.

  • defmiddledown

    Default middle click handler, usually bound to MIDDLEDOWN. This inserts

  • defmiddleup

    Default middle button release handler, usually bound to MIDDLEUP.

  • xtmouse

    Handle xterm mouse events, usually bound to Esc [ M. It parses the rest of
    the sequence and generates fake "keys" that can be bound to macros in the
    joerc file. It uses a timer to detect double-click and triple-click. The
    MWUP and MWDOWN.

  • extmouse

    Handle extended xterm mouse events, usually bound to Esc [ \<.

  • paste

    Insert base64 encoded text (for XTerm --enable-base64 option).

  • brpaste

    Disable autoindent, wordwrap and spaces. The idea is to bind this to Esc [ 2 0 0 ~ so that when the terminal emulator sends a mouse paste, the text is inserted as-is.

  • brpaste_done

    Restore autoindent, wordwrap and spaces modes to their original values before brpaste. The idea is to bind this to Esc [ 2 0 1 ~ so that these modes are restored after a mouse paste.

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