GNU Emacs Manual. Node: Scrolling

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9.1: Scrolling

If a buffer contains text that is too large to fit entirely within a window that is displaying the buffer, Emacs shows a contiguous portion of the text. The portion shown always contains point.

Scrolling means moving text up or down in the window so that different parts of the text are visible. Scrolling forward means that text moves up, and new text appears at the bottom. Scrolling backward moves text down and new text appears at the top.

Scrolling happens automatically if you move point past the bottom or top of the window. You can also explicitly request scrolling with the commands in this section.


Clear screen and redisplay, scrolling the selected window to center point vertically within it (recenter).

C-v Scroll forward (a windowful or a specified number of lines) (scroll-up).
NEXT Likewise, scroll forward.
M-v Scroll backward (scroll-down).
PRIOR Likewise, scroll backward.
arg C-l Scroll so point is on line arg (recenter).
C-M-l Scroll heuristically to bring useful information onto the screen (reposition-window).

The most basic scrolling command is C-l (recenter) with no argument. It clears the entire screen and redisplays all windows. In addition, it scrolls the selected window so that point is halfway down from the top of the window.

The scrolling commands C-v and M-v let you move all the text in the window up or down a few lines. C-v (scroll-up) with an argument shows you that many more lines at the bottom of the window, moving the text and point up together as C-l might. C-v with a negative argument shows you more lines at the top of the window. M-v (scroll-down) is like C-v, but moves in the opposite direction. The function keys NEXT and PRIOR are equivalent to C-v and M-v.

The names of scroll commands are based on the direction that the text moves in the window. Thus, the command to scroll forward is called scroll-up because it moves the text upward on the screen.

To read the buffer a windowful at a time, use C-v with no argument. It takes the last two lines at the bottom of the window and puts them at the top, followed by nearly a whole windowful of lines not previously visible. If point was in the text scrolled off the top, it moves to the new top of the window. M-v with no argument moves backward with overlap similarly. The number of lines of overlap across a C-v or M-v is controlled by the variable next-screen-context-lines; by default, it is 2.

Some users like the full-screen scroll commands to keep point at the same screen line. To enable this behavior, set the variable scroll-preserve-screen-position to a non-nil value. This mode is convenient for browsing through a file by scrolling by screenfuls; if you come back to the screen where you started, point goes back to the line where it started. However, this mode is inconvenient when you move to the next screen in order to move point to the text there.

Another way to do scrolling is with C-l with a numeric argument. C-l does not clear the screen when given an argument; it only scrolls the selected window. With a positive argument n, it repositions text to put point n lines down from the top. An argument of zero puts point on the very top line. Point does not move with respect to the text; rather, the text and point move rigidly on the screen. C-l with a negative argument puts point that many lines from the bottom of the window. For example, C-u - 1 C-l puts point on the bottom line, and C-u - 5 C-l puts it five lines from the bottom. Just C-u as argument, as in C-u C-l, scrolls point to the center of the selected window.

The C-M-l command (reposition-window) scrolls the current window heuristically in a way designed to get useful information onto the screen. For example, in a Lisp file, this command tries to get the entire current defun onto the screen if possible.

Scrolling happens automatically if point has moved out of the visible portion of the text when it is time to display. Normally, automatic scrolling centers point vertically within the window. However, if you set scroll-conservatively to a small number n, then if you move point just a little off the screen---less than n lines---then Emacs scrolls the text just far enough to bring point back on screen. By default, scroll-conservatively is 0.

The variable scroll-margin restricts how close point can come to the top or bottom of a window. Its value is a number of screen lines; if point comes within that many lines of the top or bottom of the window, Emacs recenters the window. By default, scroll-margin is 0.

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