I agree with the others who suggest vi/vim, for the reasons they gave plus: vi isn't actually that hard to learn how to use. a beginner only needs to know about a dozen things, and they can easily do everything that they could do in a more primitive editor:
- a brief intro to vi's modal nature and the Esc key
- cursor movement, hjkl or arrow keys
- slightly more advanced cursor movement, like w and b for word-forward and back
- i for insert, o and O for "open" line for edit,
- x, X, dX for delete next & prev char and delete to direction 'X' (e.g. dw for delete next word)
- r, R, cX for replace char, replace mode, and change to direction 'X'
- p, P for paste forward/back
- . for repeat last command
- :q for quit, :x for save and exit
of those, the only ones that are really essential to know are Esc, i, x, cursor movement, the backspace key, :q and :x - they'll give you ALL the editing power of nano. you can learn them in 5-10 minutes.
you can, of course, spend years mastering all the extra capabilities of vi (and it's inevitable that you will gradually learn more and more about vi as you use it more), but the basics above are enough to do pretty nearly any editing job. certainly more than enough to do anything you could do with nano or joe.
overall, the basics ARE easy enough to learn for a newbie, but (unlike nano and others) doesn't limit you to being a newbie for ever.