Intro Top Key Index
An abbrev is a text string which expands into a different text string when present in the buffer. For example, you might define a few letters as an abbrev for a long phrase that you want to insert frequently. See Abbrevs.
Aborting means getting out of a recursive edit (q.v.). The commands C-] and M-x top-level are used for this. See Quitting.
Alt is the name of a modifier bit which a keyboard input character may
have. To make a character Alt, type it while holding down the
An ASCII character is either an ASCII control character or an ASCII printing character. See User Input.
|ASCII control character|
An ASCII control character is the Control version of an upper-case
letter, or the Control version of one of the characters `
|ASCII printing character|
ASCII printing characters include letters, digits, space, and these
punctuation characters: `
|Auto Fill Mode|
Auto Fill mode is a minor mode in which text that you insert is automatically broken into lines of fixed width. See Filling.
Auto saving is the practice of saving the contents of an Emacs buffer in a specially-named file, so that the information will not be lost if the buffer is lost due to a system error or user error. See Auto Save.
A backup file records the contents that a file had before the current editing session. Emacs makes backup files automatically to help you track down or cancel changes you later regret making. See Backup.
Emacs can balance parentheses manually or automatically. Manual balancing is done by the commands to move over balanced expressions (see Lists). Automatic balancing is done by blinking or highlighting the parenthesis that matches one just inserted (see Matching).
To bind a key sequence means to give it a binding (q.v.). See Rebinding.
A key sequence gets its meaning in Emacs by having a binding, which is a command (q.v.), a Lisp function that is run when the user types that sequence. See Binding. Customization often involves rebinding a character to a different command function. The bindings of all key sequences are recorded in the keymaps (q.v.). See Keymaps.
Blank lines are lines that contain only whitespace. Emacs has several commands for operating on the blank lines in the buffer.
The buffer is the basic editing unit; one buffer corresponds to one text being edited. You can have several buffers, but at any time you are editing only one, the `selected' buffer, though several can be visible when you are using multiple windows (q.v.). Most buffers are visiting (q.v.) some file. See Buffers.
|Buffer Selection History|
Emacs keeps a buffer selection history which records how recently each Emacs buffer has been selected. This is used for choosing a buffer to select. See Buffers.
|Button Down Event|
A button down event is the kind of input event generated right away when you press a mouse button. See Mouse Buttons.
C- in the name of a character is an abbreviation for Control. See C-.
C-M- in the name of a character is an abbreviation for Control-Meta. See C-M-.
Case conversion means changing text from upper case to lower case or vice versa. See Case, for the commands for case conversion.
Characters form the contents of an Emacs buffer; see Text Characters. Also, key sequences (q.v.) are usually made up of characters (though they may include other input events as well). See User Input.
Emacs supports a number of character sets, each of which represents a particular alphabet or script. See International.
A click event is the kind of input event generated when you press a mouse button and release it without moving the mouse. See Mouse Buttons.
A coding system is an encoding for representing text characters in a file or in a stream of information. Emacs has the ability to convert text to or from a variety of coding systems when reading or writing it. See Coding Systems.
A command is a Lisp function specially defined to be able to serve as a key binding in Emacs. When you type a key sequence (q.v.), its binding (q.v.) is looked up in the relevant keymaps (q.v.) to find the command to run. See Commands.
A comment is text in a program which is intended only for humans reading the program, and which is marked specially so that it will be ignored when the program is loaded or compiled. Emacs offers special commands for creating, aligning and killing comments. See Comments.
Compilation is the process of creating an executable program from source code. Emacs has commands for compiling files of Emacs Lisp code (see Byte Compilation) and programs in C and other languages (see Compilation).
A complete key is a key sequence which fully specifies one action to be
performed by Emacs. For example, X and C-f and C-x m
are complete keys. Complete keys derive their meanings from being bound
(q.v.) to commands (q.v.). Thus, X is conventionally bound to
a command to insert `
Completion is what Emacs does when it automatically fills out an
abbreviation for a name into the entire name. Completion is done for
minibuffer (q.v.) arguments when the set of possible valid inputs
is known; for example, on command names, buffer names, and
file names. Completion occurs when
When a line of text is longer than the width of the window, it takes up more than one screen line when displayed. We say that the text line is continued, and all screen lines used for it after the first are called continuation lines. See Continuation.
A control character is a character that you type by holding down the
A copyleft is a notice giving the public legal permission to redistribute a program or other work of art. Copylefts are used by left-wing programmers to promote freedom and cooperation, just as copyrights are used by right-wing programmers to gain power over other people.
The particular form of copyleft used by the GNU project is called the GNU General Public License. See Copying.
The current buffer in Emacs is the Emacs buffer on which most editing commands operate. You can select any Emacs buffer as the current one. See Buffers.
The line point is on (see Point).
The paragraph that point is in. If point is between paragraphs, the current paragraph is the one that follows point. See Paragraphs.
The defun (q.v.) that point is in. If point is between defuns, the current defun is the one that follows point. See Defuns.
The cursor is the rectangle on the screen which indicates the position called point (q.v.) at which insertion and deletion takes place. The cursor is on or under the character that follows point. Often people speak of `the cursor' when, strictly speaking, they mean `point'. See Cursor.
The default for an argument is the value that will be assumed if you
do not specify one. When the minibuffer is used to read an argument,
the default argument is used if you just type
When you specify a file name that does not start with `
A defun is a list at the top level of parenthesis or bracket structure
in a program. It is so named because most such lists in Lisp programs
are calls to the Lisp function
Deletion means erasing text without copying it into the kill ring (q.v.). The alternative is killing (q.v.). See Deletion.
|Deletion of Files|
Deleting a file means erasing it from the file system. See Misc File Ops.
|Deletion of Messages|
Deleting a message means flagging it to be eliminated from your mail file. Until you expunge (q.v.) the Rmail file, you can still undelete the messages you have deleted. See Rmail Deletion.
|Deletion of Windows|
Deleting a window means eliminating it from the screen. Other windows expand to use up the space. The deleted window can never come back, but no actual text is thereby lost. See Windows.
File directories are named collections in the file system, within which you can place individual files or subdirectories. See Directories.
Dired is the Emacs facility that displays the contents of a file directory and allows you to ``edit the directory,'' performing operations on the files in the directory. See Dired.
A disabled command is one that you may not run without special confirmation. The usual reason for disabling a command is that it is confusing for beginning users. See Disabling.
Short for `button down event'.
A drag event is the kind of input event generated when you press a mouse button, move the mouse, and then release the button. See Mouse Buttons.
A file into which Emacs writes all the characters that the user types on the keyboard. Dribble files are used to make a record for debugging Emacs bugs. Emacs does not make a dribble file unless you tell it to. See Bugs.
The echo area is the bottom line of the screen, used for echoing the
arguments to commands, for asking questions, and printing brief messages
(including error messages). The messages are stored in the buffer
Echoing is acknowledging the receipt of commands by displaying them (in the echo area). Emacs never echoes single-character key sequences; longer key sequences echo only if you pause while typing them.
We say that a character is electric if it is normally self-inserting (q.v.), but the current major mode (q.v.) redefines it to do something else as well. For example, some programming language major modes define particular delimiter characters to reindent the line or insert one or more newlines in addition to self-insertion.
An error occurs when an Emacs command cannot execute in the current circumstances. When an error occurs, execution of the command stops (unless the command has been programmed to do otherwise) and Emacs reports the error by printing an error message (q.v.). Type-ahead is discarded. Then Emacs is ready to read another editing command.
An error message is a single line of output displayed by Emacs when the user asks for something impossible to do (such as, killing text forward when point is at the end of the buffer). They appear in the echo area, accompanied by a beep.
Expunging an Rmail file or Dired buffer is an operation that truly discards the messages or files you have previously flagged for deletion.
Emacs used file locking to notice when two different users start to edit one file at the same time. See Interlocking.
A file name is a name that refers to a file. File names may be relative
or absolute; the meaning of a relative file name depends on the current
directory, but an absolute file name refers to the same file regardless
of which directory is current. On GNU and Unix systems, an absolute
file name starts with a slash (the root directory) or with `
Some people use the term ``pathname'' for file names, but we do not; we use the word ``path'' only in the term ``search path'' (q.v.).
A file-name component names a file directly within a particular
directory. On GNU and Unix systems, a file name is a sequence of
file-name components, separated by slashes. For example, `
The fill prefix is a string that should be expected at the beginning of each line when filling is done. It is not regarded as part of the text to be filled. See Filling.
Filling text means shifting text between consecutive lines so that all the lines are approximately the same length. See Filling.
Formatted text is text that displays with formatting information while you edit. Formatting information includes fonts, colors, and specified margins. See Formatted Text.
A frame is a rectangular cluster of Emacs windows. Emacs starts out with one frame, but you can create more. You can subdivide each frame into Emacs windows (q.v.). When you are using X windows, all the frames can be visible at the same time. See Frames.
A function key is a key on the keyboard that sends input but does not correspond to any character. See Function Keys.
Global means `independent of the current environment; in effect throughout Emacs'. It is the opposite of local (q.v.). Particular examples of the use of `global' appear below.
A global definition of an abbrev (q.v.) is effective in all major modes that do not have local (q.v.) definitions for the same abbrev. See Abbrevs.
The global keymap (q.v.) contains key bindings that are in effect except when overridden by local key bindings in a major mode's local keymap (q.v.). See Keymaps.
|Global Mark Ring|
The global mark ring records the series of buffers you have recently set a mark in. In many cases you can use this to backtrack through buffers you have been editing in, or in which you have found tags. See Global Mark Ring.
Global substitution means replacing each occurrence of one string by another string through a large amount of text. See Replace.
The global value of a variable (q.v.) takes effect in all buffers that do not have their own local (q.v.) values for the variable. See Variables.
Graphic characters are those assigned pictorial images rather than
just names. All the non-Meta (q.v.) characters except for the
Control (q.v.) characters are graphic characters. These include
letters, digits, punctuation, and spaces; they do not include
Highlighting text means displaying it with a different foreground and/or background color to make it stand out from the rest of the text in the buffer.
Hardcopy means printed output. Emacs has commands for making printed listings of text in Emacs buffers. See Hardcopy.
Hyper is the name of a modifier bit which a keyboard input character may
have. To make a character Hyper, type it while holding down the
An inbox is a file in which mail is delivered by the operating system. Rmail transfers mail from inboxes to Rmail files (q.v.) in which the mail is then stored permanently or until explicitly deleted. See Rmail Inbox.
Indentation means blank space at the beginning of a line. Most programming languages have conventions for using indentation to illuminate the structure of the program, and Emacs has special commands to adjust indentation. See Indentation.
An indirect buffer is a buffer that shares the text of another buffer, called its base buffer. See Indirect Buffers.
An input event represents, within Emacs, one action taken by the user on the terminal. Input events include typing characters, typing function keys, pressing or releasing mouse buttons, and switching between Emacs frames. See User Input.
An input method is a system for entering non-ASCII text characters by typing sequences of ASCII characters (q.v.). See Input Methods.
Insertion means copying text into the buffer, either from the keyboard or from some other place in Emacs.
Interlocking is a feature for warning when you start to alter a file that someone else is already editing. See Interlocking.
Justification means adding extra spaces to lines of text to make them come exactly to a specified width. See Justification.
Keyboard macros are a way of defining new Emacs commands from sequences of existing ones, with no need to write a Lisp program. See Keyboard Macros.
A key sequence (key, for short) is a sequence of input events (q.v.) that are meaningful as a single unit. If the key sequence is enough to specify one action, it is a complete key (q.v.); if it is not enough, it is a prefix key (q.v.). See Keys.
The keymap is the data structure that records the bindings (q.v.) of
key sequences to the commands that they run. For example, the global
keymap binds the character C-n to the command function
|Keyboard Translation Table|
The keyboard translation table is an array that translates the character codes that come from the terminal into the character codes that make up key sequences. See Keyboard Translations.
The kill ring is where all text you have killed recently is saved. You can reinsert any of the killed text still in the ring; this is called yanking (q.v.). See Yanking.
Killing means erasing text and saving it on the kill ring so it can be yanked (q.v.) later. Some other systems call this ``cutting.'' Most Emacs commands to erase text do killing, as opposed to deletion (q.v.). See Killing.
Killing a job (such as, an invocation of Emacs) means making it cease to exist. Any data within it, if not saved in a file, is lost. See Exiting.
Your choice of language environment specifies defaults for the input method (q.v.) and coding system (q.v.). See Language Environments. These defaults are relevant if you edit non-ASCII text (see International).
A list is, approximately, a text string beginning with an open parenthesis and ending with the matching close parenthesis. In C mode and other non-Lisp modes, groupings surrounded by other kinds of matched delimiters appropriate to the language, such as braces, are also considered lists. Emacs has special commands for many operations on lists. See Lists.
Local means `in effect only in a particular context'; the relevant kind of context is a particular function execution, a particular buffer, or a particular major mode. It is the opposite of `global' (q.v.). Specific uses of `local' in Emacs terminology appear below.
A local abbrev definition is effective only if a particular major mode is selected. In that major mode, it overrides any global definition for the same abbrev. See Abbrevs.
A local keymap is used in a particular major mode; the key bindings (q.v.) in the current local keymap override global bindings of the same key sequences. See Keymaps.
A local value of a variable (q.v.) applies to only one buffer. See Locals.
M- in the name of a character is an abbreviation for
M-C- in the name of a character is an abbreviation for
Control-Meta; it means the same thing as C-M-. If your
terminal lacks a real
M-x is the key sequence which is used to call an Emacs command by name. This is how you run commands that are not bound to key sequences. See M-x.
Mail means messages sent from one user to another through the computer system, to be read at the recipient's convenience. Emacs has commands for composing and sending mail, and for reading and editing the mail you have received. See Sending Mail. See Rmail, for how to read mail.
|Mail Composition Method|
A mail composition method is a program runnable within Emacs for editing and sending a mail message. Emacs lets you select from several alternative mail composition methods. See Mail Methods.
The Emacs major modes are a mutually exclusive set of options, each of which configures Emacs for editing a certain sort of text. Ideally, each programming language has its own major mode. See Major Modes.
The mark points to a position in the text. It specifies one end of the region (q.v.), point being the other end. Many commands operate on all the text from point to the mark. Each buffer has its own mark. See Mark.
The mark ring is used to hold several recent previous locations of the mark, just in case you want to move back to them. Each buffer has its own mark ring; in addition, there is a single global mark ring (q.v.). See Mark Ring.
The menu bar is the line at the top of an Emacs frame. It contains words you can click on with the mouse to bring up menus. The menu bar feature is supported only with X. See Menu Bars.
Meta is the name of a modifier bit which a command character may have.
It is present in a character if the character is typed with the
A Meta character is one whose character code includes the Meta bit.
The minibuffer is the window that appears when necessary inside the echo area (q.v.), used for reading arguments to commands. See Minibuffer.
The minibuffer history records the text you have specified in the past for minibuffer arguments, so you can conveniently use the same text again. See Minibuffer History.
A minor mode is an optional feature of Emacs which can be switched on or off independently of all other features. Each minor mode has a command to turn it on or off. See Minor Modes.
|Minor Mode Keymap|
A keymap that belongs to a minor mode and is active when that mode is enabled. Minor mode keymaps take precedence over the buffer's local keymap, just as the local keymap takes precedence over the global keymap. See Keymaps.
The mode line is the line at the bottom of each window (q.v.), giving status information on the buffer displayed in that window. See Mode Line.
A buffer (q.v.) is modified if its text has been changed since the last time the buffer was saved (or since when it was created, if it has never been saved). See Saving.
Moving text means erasing it from one place and inserting it in another. The usual way to move text by killing (q.v.) and then yanking (q.v.). See Killing.
MULE refers to the Emacs features for editing non-ASCII text using multibyte characters (q.v.). See International.
A multibyte character is a character that takes up several buffer positions. Emacs uses multibyte characters to represent non-ASCII text, since the number of non-ASCII characters is much more than 256. See International Intro.
A named mark is a register (q.v.) in its role of recording a location in text so that you can move point to that location. See Registers.
Narrowing means creating a restriction (q.v.) that limits editing in the current buffer to only a part of the text in the buffer. Text outside that part is inaccessible to the user until the boundaries are widened again, but it is still there, and saving the file saves it all. See Narrowing.
Control-J characters in the buffer terminate lines of text and are therefore also called newlines. See Newline.
A numeric argument is a number, specified before a command, to change the effect of the command. Often the numeric argument serves as a repeat count. See Arguments.
Overwrite mode is a minor mode. When it is enabled, ordinary text characters replace the existing text after point rather than pushing it to the right. See Minor Modes.
A page is a unit of text, delimited by formfeed characters (ASCII control-L, code 014) coming at the beginning of a line. Some Emacs commands are provided for moving over and operating on pages. See Pages.
Paragraphs are the medium-size unit of English text. There are special Emacs commands for moving over and operating on paragraphs. See Paragraphs.
We say that certain Emacs commands parse words or expressions in the text being edited. Really, all they know how to do is find the other end of a word or expression. See Syntax.
Point is the place in the buffer at which insertion and deletion occur. Point is considered to be between two characters, not at one character. The terminal's cursor (q.v.) indicates the location of point. See Point.
See `numeric argument'.
A prefix key is a key sequence (q.v.) whose sole function is to introduce a set of longer key sequences. C-x is an example of prefix key; any two-character sequence starting with C-x is therefore a legitimate key sequence. See Keys.
|Primary Rmail File|
Your primary Rmail file is the file named `
The primary selection is one particular X selection (q.v.); it is the selection that most X applications use for transferring text to and from other applications.
The Emacs kill commands set the primary selection and the yank command uses the primary selection when appropriate. See Killing.
A prompt is text printed to ask the user for input. Displaying a prompt is called prompting. Emacs prompts always appear in the echo area (q.v.). One kind of prompting happens when the minibuffer is used to read an argument (see Minibuffer); the echoing which happens when you pause in the middle of typing a multi-character key sequence is also a kind of prompting (see Echo Area).
Quitting means canceling a partially typed command or a running
command, using C-g (or C-
Quoting means depriving a character of its usual special significance.
The most common kind of quoting in Emacs is with C-q. What
constitutes special significance depends on the context and on
convention. For example, an ``ordinary'' character as an Emacs command
inserts itself; so in this context, a special character is any character
that does not normally insert itself (such as
|Quoting File Names|
Quoting a file name turns off the special significance of constructs
such as `
A read-only buffer is one whose text you are not allowed to change. Normally Emacs makes buffers read-only when they contain text which has a special significance to Emacs; for example, Dired buffers. Visiting a file that is write-protected also makes a read-only buffer. See Buffers.
A rectangle consists of the text in a given range of columns on a given range of lines. Normally you specify a rectangle by putting point at one corner and putting the mark at the opposite corner. See Rectangles.
|Recursive Editing Level|
A recursive editing level is a state in which part of the execution of
a command involves asking the user to edit some text. This text may
or may not be the same as the text to which the command was applied.
The mode line indicates recursive editing levels with square brackets
Redisplay is the process of correcting the image on the screen to correspond to changes that have been made in the text being edited. See Redisplay.
See `regular expression'.
The region is the text between point (q.v.) and the mark (q.v.). Many commands operate on the text of the region. See Region.
Registers are named slots in which text or buffer positions or rectangles can be saved for later use. See Registers.
A regular expression is a pattern that can match various text strings;
for example, `
See `numeric argument'.
See `global substitution'.
A buffer's restriction is the amount of text, at the beginning or the end of the buffer, that is temporarily inaccessible. Giving a buffer a nonzero amount of restriction is called narrowing (q.v.). See Narrowing.
An Rmail file is a file containing text in a special format used by Rmail for storing mail. See Rmail.
Saving a buffer means copying its text into the file that was visited (q.v.) in that buffer. This is the way text in files actually gets changed by your Emacs editing. See Saving.
A scroll bar is a tall thin hollow box that appears at the side of a window. You can use mouse commands in the scroll bar to scroll the window. The scroll bar feature is supported only with X. See Scroll Bars.
Scrolling means shifting the text in the Emacs window so as to see a different part of the buffer. See Scrolling.
Searching means moving point to the next occurrence of a specified string or the next match for a specified regular expression. See Search.
A search path is a list of directory names, to be used for searching for
files for certain purposes. For example, the variable
The secondary selection is one particular X selection; some X applications can use it for transferring text to and from other applications. Emacs has special mouse commands for transferring text using the secondary selection. See Secondary Selection.
Selecting a buffer means making it the current (q.v.) buffer. See Selecting.
The X window system allows an application program to specify named selections whose values are text. A program can also read the selections that other programs have set up. This is the principal way of transferring text between window applications. Emacs has commands to work with the primary (q.v.) selection and the secondary (q.v.) selection.
Self-documentation is the feature of Emacs which can tell you what any command does, or give you a list of all commands related to a topic you specify. You ask for self-documentation with the help character, C-h. See Help.
A character is self-inserting if typing that character inserts that character in the buffer. Ordinary printing and whitespace characters are self-inserting in Emacs, except in certain special major modes.
Emacs has commands for moving by or killing by sentences. See Sentences.
A sexp (short for `s-expression') is the basic syntactic unit of Lisp in its textual form: either a list, or Lisp atom. Many Emacs commands operate on sexps. The term `sexp' is generalized to languages other than Lisp, to mean a syntactically recognizable expression. See Sexps.
Simultaneous editing means two users modifying the same file at once. Simultaneous editing if not detected can cause one user to lose his work. Emacs detects all cases of simultaneous editing and warns one of the users to investigate. See Interlocking.
A string is a kind of Lisp data object which contains a sequence of
characters. Many Emacs variables are intended to have strings as
values. The Lisp syntax for a string consists of the characters in the
string with a `
See `global substitution'.
The syntax table tells Emacs which characters are part of a word, which characters balance each other like parentheses, etc. See Syntax.
Super is the name of a modifier bit which a keyboard input character may
have. To make a character Super, type it while holding down the
A tags table is a file that serves as an index to the function definitions in one or more other files. See Tags.
A termscript file contains a record of all characters sent by Emacs to the terminal. It is used for tracking down bugs in Emacs redisplay. Emacs does not make a termscript file unless you tell it to. See Bugs.
Two meanings (see Text):
Top level is the normal state of Emacs, in which you are editing the text of the file you have visited. You are at top level whenever you are not in a recursive editing level (q.v.) or the minibuffer (q.v.), and not in the middle of a command. You can get back to top level by aborting (q.v.) and quitting (q.v.). See Quitting.
Transposing two units of text means putting each one into the place formerly occupied by the other. There are Emacs commands to transpose two adjacent characters, words, sexps (q.v.) or lines (see Transpose).
Truncating text lines in the display means leaving out any text on a line that does not fit within the right margin of the window displaying it. See also `continuation line'. See Truncation.
Undoing means making your previous editing go in reverse, bringing back the text that existed earlier in the editing session. See Undo.
A user option is a variable (q.v.) that exists so that you can customize Emacs by setting it to a new value. See Variables.
A variable is an object in Lisp that can store an arbitrary value. Emacs uses some variables for internal purposes, and has others (known as `user options' (q.v.)) just so that you can set their values to control the behavior of Emacs. The variables used in Emacs that you are likely to be interested in are listed in the Variables Index in this manual. See Variables, for information on variables.
Version control systems keep track of multiple versions of a source file. They provide a more powerful alternative to keeping backup files (q.v.). See Version Control.
Visiting a file means loading its contents into a buffer (q.v.) where they can be edited. See Visiting.
Whitespace is any run of consecutive formatting characters (space, tab, newline, and backspace).
Widening is removing any restriction (q.v.) on the current buffer; it is the opposite of narrowing (q.v.). See Narrowing.
Emacs divides a frame (q.v.) into one or more windows, each of which can display the contents of one buffer (q.v.) at any time. See Screen, for basic information on how Emacs uses the screen. See Windows, for commands to control the use of windows.
Synonymous with `abbrev'.
Word search is searching for a sequence of words, considering the punctuation between them as insignificant. See Word Search.
WYSIWYG stands for `What you see is what you get.' Emacs generally provides WYSIWYG editing for files of characters; in Enriched mode (see Formatted Text), it provides WYSIWYG editing for files that include text formatting information.
Yanking means reinserting text previously killed. It can be used to undo a mistaken kill, or for copying or moving text. Some other systems call this ``pasting.'' See Yanking.