GNU Emacs Manual. Node: Init Syntax

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28.7.1: Init File Syntax

The `.emacs' file contains one or more Lisp function call expressions. Each of these consists of a function name followed by arguments, all surrounded by parentheses. For example, (setq fill-column 60) calls the function setq to set the variable fill-column (see Filling) to 60.

The second argument to setq is an expression for the new value of the variable. This can be a constant, a variable, or a function call expression. In `.emacs', constants are used most of the time. They can be:


Numbers are written in decimal, with an optional initial minus sign.


Lisp string syntax is the same as C string syntax with a few extra features. Use a double-quote character to begin and end a string constant.

In a string, you can include newlines and special characters literally. But often it is cleaner to use backslash sequences for them: `\n' for newline, `\b' for backspace, `\r' for carriage return, `\t' for tab, `\f' for formfeed (control-L), `\e' for escape, `\\' for a backslash, `\"' for a double-quote, or `\ooo' for the character whose octal code is ooo. Backslash and double-quote are the only characters for which backslash sequences are mandatory.

`\C-' can be used as a prefix for a control character, as in `\C-s' for ASCII control-S, and `\M-' can be used as a prefix for a Meta character, as in `\M-a' for Meta-A or `\M-\C-a' for Control-Meta-A.


Lisp character constant syntax consists of a `?' followed by either a character or an escape sequence starting with `\'. Examples: ?x, ?\n, ?\", ?\). Note that strings and characters are not interchangeable in Lisp; some contexts require one and some contexts require the other.


t stands for `true'.


nil stands for `false'.

Other Lisp objects:

Write a single-quote (') followed by the Lisp object you want.

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