Linear and nonlinear low-frequency modes in a magnetized electron plasma are studied, taking into account a proper description of the equilibrium plasma state that is inhomogeneous. Assuming a homogeneous magnetic field and sheared plasma flows, flute-like perturbations are studied in the presence of density and potential gradients. Linear analysis reveals the presence of a streaming instability and depicts conditions for global linear spiral mode. In the nonlinear domain, a tripolar vortex, which is driven and carried by the flow, is found. Also investigated are the consequences of a magnetic shear as well as nonuniformities along the magnetic field lines, which are shown to be responsible for the possible annulment of the magnetic shear effects. Streaming along the lines of the sheared magnetic field is also studied. A variety of nonlinear structures (viz. global multipolar vortices, local vortex chains, and tripolar vortices) is shown to be the consequence of the simultaneous action of the parallel and perpendicular flows. (C) 2001 American Institute of Physics.