GNU Emacs Manual. Node: Text Display

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9.6: How Text Is Displayed

ASCII printing characters (octal codes 040 through 0176) in Emacs buffers are displayed with their graphics. So are non-ASCII multibyte printing characters (octal codes above 0400).

Some ASCII control characters are displayed in special ways. The newline character (octal code 012) is displayed by starting a new line. The tab character (octal code 011) is displayed by moving to the next tab stop column (normally every 8 columns).

Other ASCII control characters are normally displayed as a caret (`^') followed by the non-control version of the character; thus, control-A is displayed as `^A'.

Non-ASCII characters 0200 through 0377 are displayed with octal escape sequences; thus, character code 0243 (octal) is displayed as `\243'. However, if you enable European display, most of these characters become non-ASCII printing characters, and are displayed using their graphics (assuming your terminal supports them). See Single-Byte European Support.

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