Unix & Linux Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for users of Linux, FreeBSD and other Un*x-like operating systems. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

While trying to save a file out of Nano the other day, I got an error message saying "XOFF ignored, mumble mumble". I have no idea what that's supposed to mean. Any insights?

share|improve this question
up vote 22 down vote accepted

You typed the XOFF character Ctrl-S. In a traditional terminal environment, XOFF would cause the terminal to pause it's output until you typed the XON character.

Nano ignores this because Nano is a full-screen editor, and pausing it's output is pretty much a nonsensical concept.

As to why the wording is what it is, you'd have to ask the original devs.

share|improve this answer
pausing its output is not nonsensical if you are using 'software flow control' from a host PC on a physical terminal and are using xoff to prevent a buffer overflow when redrawing the screen (paging down, etc). But usually that'd be handled host-side and not user-side, I suppose. – Wyatt8740 Jan 23 at 20:16
Ironically, I mostly use CTRL-X to save and quit in one go, and that always makes me confuse the X and the XOFF bits. – aalaap Jun 6 at 10:42

You pressed Ctrl+S instead of Ctrl+O to save the file. Ctrl+S is an old flow-control key combination to pause the transmission, and stop scrolling, of data to a terminal (internally, the code sent is called XOFF). Ctrl+Q (XON) is the complement to start transmission and resume scrolling.

Nano ignores these code since it doesn't use scrolling. The muttering is likely a result of its frustration that you didn't remember to use Ctrl+O to save.

share|improve this answer
I gave @Michael Kohne the correct answer, only because he was a few seconds quicker than you. I guess I reflexively had used S instead of O. Thanks though! – nathangiesbrecht Apr 3 '13 at 18:59

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.