This is what you will see every time you start up PICO-8. It is a fun retro style command line like the original home computers. You have to type in commands to navigate your folders, load, save, or run your games.

See our Commands Guide to learn what commands you can use in this screen.

To begin editing a blank game, just press:

Pressing ESC while in a game or in an editor will bring you back to the Command Line.


15 Jun 2023

This is where you can type the code of your games. You can organize your code into tabs at the top left. Some information is provided at the bottom about where you are in the code, and how close you are to reaching the limitations of a single game cartridge ("cart" for short). You can click on the bottom right icon (3 horizontal lines) to change the type of limitation that is displayed.

Here are what the buttons and indicators on this screen are:


20 Feb 2023

This is where you can draw the art of your games, called "sprites". There is a large drawing canvas in the upper left, color and tool selections beside it, and at the bottom is your collection of sprites called a "sprite sheet".

To get started, first click somewhere on the sprite sheet, then click on a color of your choice, and then click and drag on the drawing canvas.

Here are what the buttons and indicators on this screen are:

See our Sprites Guide for more details.


20 Feb 2023

This is where you can place your game art to create larger art. You will mostly use this map area to create backgrounds for your games. You can use one sprite from your spritesheet many times in the map. So it is a good idea to create certain sprites that are drawn like tile patterns that look nice when you put many of them next to each other. In fact, we use the word "tile" to refer to a single 8x8 sprite.

To get started, first click on a sprite or "tile" from your sprite sheet, then click anywhere in the map canvas above. You can also click and drag to place many of these tiles down on the map.

You have the same tools here as you do in the Sprite Editor: 


20 Feb 2023

This is where you can make all the beeps and boops of your game. There are many options to create the exact sound effect you want to have. Sometimes you will create just a simple noise for small actions in your game, but sometimes you will also use this editor to create the rhythms and melodies of each layer in your game music. Both your sound effects and your musical layers will share the space in this Sound Editor.

There are actually two modes of viewing this sound editor:

Pitch Mode

Tracker Mode


Loop Controls



20 Feb 2023

This is where you can put your different sound effects together and create music for your game. For example, in Sound Effect #1, you can create a drum beat. In #2, you can create a melody. Then you come here and select the drum beat in one channel, and the melody in another channel to be played at the same time. You can play up to four sound effects at a time in the four channels, which are displayed as columns in this editor.

The music editor will display your notes as you would see them in the Tracker Mode of the Sound Editor.

Here are the tools available at the top of the Music Editor, and an example screen of using Sound #1 in the first column (channel #0).


23 Mar 2023

Here are a list of all keyboard shortcuts that we know about. Some of them are undocumented in the official manual. Also, depending on your OS or Browser (for Education Edition) some shortcuts won't work as described here. These are based on the Windows version and common browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, and Brave.

You can help us keep this updated. Report your findings for how these shortcuts don't work or require different keys on our Discord, or email us at TheNerdyTeachers@gmail.com.

Command Line

ctrl + C Copy text in command line.
ctrl + C (after receiving error message) Copy the full error.

While in Any Editor

alt + ←/→ Switch between PICO-8 editors.
ctrl + R Run game.
ctrl + S Save game.

Code Editor

Standard Shortcuts
ctrl + X Cut selected text to clipboard.
ctrl + C Copy selected text to clipboard.
ctrl + V Paste text from clipboard.
ctrl + Z Undo last edit.
ctrl + Y Redo last edit undone.

Move Cursor/View
ctrl + W/E Jump to the start/end of a line.
home / end Jump to start/end of line.
ctrl + home/end Jump to start/end of code tab.
alt + ↑/↓ Jump to last/next function.
ctrl + ↑/↓ Jump to start/end of code tab.
ctrl + ←/→ Jump to last/next (word, number, symbol).
ctrl + tab Next code tab.
ctrl + shift + tab Back code tab.
mousewheel scroll vertically
ctrl + mousewheel scroll horizontally
ctrl + L Find and jump to line number.

Select Text
click + drag Select specific text.
double click Select full (word, number, symbol).
triple click Select entire line.
shift + ↑/↓/←/→ Select from cursor position to new cursor position.
shift + home/end Select from cursor position to start or end of line.
ctrl + shift + ↑/↓ Select from cursor position to start/end of code tab.
ctrl + A Select all in current tab.

Text Manipulation
ctrl + D Duplicate line.
ctrl + 1 Move line up.
ctrl + 2 Move line down.

ctrl + B

Comment / Uncomment the current line.

(Works for multiple lines, if all lines are the same.)

ctrl + F Search/Find in current tab.
ctrl + G Repeat the search to next instance in current tab.

ctrl + U See help description of keyword. (text cursor must be on keyword)

Auto Complete
shift + enter Automatically complete the block of code with an end. (text cursor must be after certain keywords)

Limitation Displays (bottom right corner)
left click change limitation displayed
right click turn off warning flashing light
ctrl + click (on character limit) switch to tweet characters. (glyphs counted as 2 characters)
ctrl + click (on capacity limit) switch to real time updates in bytes.

ctrl + P (puny font) Enable lowercase PICO-8 letters
ctrl + J Japanese Hiragana
ctrl + K Japanese Katakana

Does not work in Browsers ( Education Edition )
Key Press Supposed to What it does
ctrl + W jump to start of line closes browser tab
alt + ←/→ switch editors moves cursor
alt + ↑/↓ jump to last/next function moves cursor
ctrl + tab switch code tabs switch browser tabs


17 Jul 2024

Images in this Guide by NerdyTeachers is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0