How do I use JOE?

JOE is freeware. It is an ASCII text screen editor for UNIX and it makes full use of the power and versatility of UNIX. JOE has the feel of most IBM PC text editors: The key-sequences are reminiscent of WordStar and Turbo-C. JOE has all of the features a UNIX user should expect: full use of termcap/terminfo, excellent screen update optimizations, and all of the UNIX-integration features of VI.

JOE's initialization file determines much of JOE's personality and the name of the initialization file is simply the name of the editor executable followed by "rc". JOE comes with four "rc" files in addition to the basic "joerc", which allow it to emulate these editors

  • JPICO - An enhanced version of the Pine mailer system's PICO editor.
  • JSTAR - A complete imitation of WordStar including many "JOE" extensions.
  • RJOE - A restricted version of JOE which allowed you to edit only the files specified on the command line.
  • JMACS - An imitation of GNU-EMACS.

Starting JOE

To start JOE, type joe at your prompt. To edit a file, type joe filename. The upper left-hand side of the screen shows the name of the file you are editing and its status (whether the document is modified or not).

The upper right-hand side should display the help key. To get help, press the control key (CTRL) and k, then let go of both keys and press h. This key combination will be written as ^kh. To toggle the help screen off, repeat with ^kh.


You can manipulate large areas of text by defining the beginning and ending of a section and then performing operations on that block.

Mark Beginning
Place the cursor where you wish the block to begin and type ^kb.
Mark End
Place the cursor where you wish the block to end and type ^kk.

Now that the block is marked off, you can do the following:

To delete the text block (or yank it), type ^ky.
To move the text of the block to another location (so that it is removed from its original location), position the cursor at the new location (where you would like to move the text) and type ^km.
Copy Text
To copy the text of the block to another location (without deleting the original text), position the cursor at the new location (where you want to insert the copy) and type ^kc.
To write (save) the text of the block to a new file, type ^k

Quick Reference


  • ^b Scroll left
  • ^f Scroll right
  • ^x Forward a word
  • ^a To left edge (of line)
  • ^e To ridge edge (of line)
  • ^p Line up
  • ^n Line down
  • ^u Screen up
  • ^v  Screen down
  • ^ku Top of document
  • ^kv Bottom of document
  • ^kl Go to line #

Find and Replace

  • ^k^f Find text
  • ^kf Find next


  • ^kb Mark beginning of block
  • ^kk Mark end of block
  • ^kc Copy block
  • ^km Move block
  • ^kw Save block
  • ^ky Erase block
  • ^ko Substitute block


  • ^d Delete highlighted character
  • ^w Delete word: right
  • ^o Delete word: left
  • ^j Delete to the end of the line
  • ^y Delete whole line
  • ^k- Undo delete
  • ^k+ Redo delete


  • ^t Set format (margins, etc.)
  • ^l Redraw screen
  • ^ka Center words in line
  • ^kj Format line to margins
  • ^z Suspend (to prompt)
  • ^k, Indent to left (pushes text to left)
  • ^k. Indent to right (pushes text to right)

Window Control

  • ^ko Split windows
  • ^kp Switch to top window
  • ^kn Switch to bottom window
  • ^kg Grow size of current window
  • ^kt Shrink size of current window
  • ^c Close window


  • ^k[ Start recording a macro
  • ^k] Stop recording a macro
  • ^k/ Play a macro
  • ^k= Repeat a macro

File Functions

  • ^kd Save file
  • ^kr Insert a file
  • ^ke Open a new file


  • ^kx Save and exit
  • ^c Exit (without save)

Need help?

Last updated: 

September 24, 2012

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