Copyright (c) 1985, 1994 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
See end for conditions.
You are looking at the Emacs tutorial.
Emacs commands generally involve the CONTROL key (sometimes labelled
CTRL or CTL) or the META key. On some keyboards, the META key is
labelled ALT or EDIT or something else (for example, on Sun keyboards,
the diamond key to the left of the spacebar is META). If you have no
META key, you can use ESC instead. Rather than write out META or
CONTROL each time we want you to prefix a character, we'll use the
C-<chr> means hold the CONTROL key while typing the character <chr>
Thus, C-f would be: hold the CONTROL key and type f.
M-<chr> means hold the META key down while typing <chr>. If there
is no META key, type <ESC>, release it, then type the
Important note: to end the Emacs session, type C-x C-c. (Two characters.)
The characters ">>" at the left margin indicate directions for you to
try using a command. For instance:
<<Blank lines inserted here by startup of help-with-tutorial>>
>> Now type C-v (View next screen) to move to the next screen.
(go ahead, do it by depressing the control key and v together).
From now on, you'll be expected to do this whenever you finish
reading the screen.
Note that there is an overlap when going from screen to screen; this
provides some continuity when moving through the file.
The first thing that you need to know is how to move around from
place to place in the file. You already know how to move forward a
screen, with C-v. To move backwards a screen, type M-v (depress the
META key and type v, or type <ESC>v if you don't have a META or EDIT
>> Try typing M-v and then C-v to move back and forth a few times.
The following commands are useful for viewing screenfuls:
C-v Move forward one screenful
M-v Move backward one screenful
C-l Clear screen and redisplay everything
putting the text near the cursor at the center.
(That's control-L, not control-1. control-1
has a completely different meaning, as
>> Find the cursor and remember what text is near it.
Then type a C-l.
Find the cursor again and see what text is near it now.
BASIC CURSOR CONTROL
Getting from screenful to screenful is useful, but how do you
reposition yourself within a given screen to a specific place?
There are several ways you can do this. One way (not the best, but
the most basic) is to use the commands previous, backward, forward
and next. As you can imagine these commands (which are given to
Emacs as C-p, C-b, C-f, and C-n respectively) move the cursor from
where it currently is to a new place in the given direction. Here,
in a more graphical form are the commands:
Previous line, C-p
Backward, C-b .... Current cursor position .... Forward, C-f
Next line, C-n
>> Move the cursor to the line in the middle of that diagram
and type C-l to see the whole diagram centered in the screen.
You'll probably find it easy to think of these by letter. P for
previous, N for next, B for backward and F for forward. These are
the basic cursor positioning commands and you'll be using them ALL
the time so it would be of great benefit if you learn them now.
>> Do a few C-n's to bring the cursor down to this line.
>> Move into the line with C-f's and then up with C-p's.
See what C-p does when the cursor is in the middle of the line.
Lines are separated by Newline characters. For most applications
there should normally be a Newline character at the end of the text,
as well, but it is up to you to make sure of this. A file can
validly exist without a Newline at the end.
>> Try to C-b at the beginning of a line. Do a few more C-b's.
Then do C-f's back to the end of the line and beyond.
When you go off the top or bottom of the screen, the text beyond
the edge is shifted onto the screen so that your instructions can
be carried out while keeping the cursor on the screen.
>> Try to move the cursor off the bottom of the screen with C-n and
see what happens.
If moving by characters is too slow, you can move by words. M-f
(Meta-f) moves forward a word and M-b moves back a word.
>> Type a few M-f's and M-b's. Intersperse them with C-f's and C-b's.
Notice the parallel between C-f and C-b on the one hand, and M-f and
M-b on the other hand. Very often Meta characters are used for
operations related to English text whereas Control characters operate
on the basic textual units that are independent of what you are
editing (characters, lines, etc). There is a similar parallel between
lines and sentences: C-a and C-e move to the beginning or end of a
line, and M-a and M-e move to the beginning or end of a sentence.
>> Try a couple of C-a's, and then a couple of C-e's.
Try a couple of M-a's, and then a couple of M-e's.
See how repeated C-a's do nothing, but repeated M-a's keep moving
farther. Do you think that this is right?
Two other simple cursor motion commands are M-< (Meta Less-than),
which moves to the beginning of the file, and M-> (Meta Greater-than),
which moves to the end of the file. You probably don't need to try
them, since finding this spot again will be boring. On most terminals
the "<" is above the comma and you must use the shift key to type it.
On these terminals you must use the shift key to type M-< also;
without the shift key, you would be typing M-comma.
The location of the cursor in the text is also called "point". To
paraphrase, the cursor shows on the screen where point is located in
Here is a summary of simple moving operations including the word and
sentence moving commands:
C-f Move forward a character
C-b Move backward a character
M-f Move forward a word
M-b Move backward a word
C-n Move to next line
C-p Move to previous line
C-a Move to beginning of line
C-e Move to end of line
M-a Move back to beginning of sentence
M-e Move forward to end of sentence
M-< Go to beginning of file
M-> Go to end of file
>> Try all of these commands now a few times for practice.
Since the last two will take you away from this screen,
you can come back here with M-v's and C-v's. These are
the most often used commands.
Like all other commands in Emacs, these commands can be given
arguments which cause them to be executed repeatedly. The way you
give a command a repeat count is by typing C-u and then the digits
before you type the command. If you have a META or EDIT key, you can
omit the C-u if you hold down the META or EDIT key while you type the
digits. This is easier, but we recommend the C-u method because it
works on any terminal.
For instance, C-u 8 C-f moves forward eight characters.
>> Try giving a suitable argument to C-n or C-p to come as close
as you can to this line in one jump.
The only apparent exception to this is the screen moving commands,
C-v and M-v. When given an argument, they scroll the screen up or
down by that many lines, rather than screenfuls. This proves to be
much more useful.
>> Try typing C-u 8 C-v now.
Did it scroll the screen up by 8 lines? If you would like to
scroll it down you can give an argument to M-v.
CURSOR CONTROL WITH AN X TERMINAL
If you have an X terminal, you will probably find it easier to use
the keys on the keypad to control the cursor. The left, right, up,
and down arrow keys move in the expected direction; they function
exactly like C-b, C-f, C-p, and C-n, but are easier to type and to
remember. You can also use C-left and C-right to move by words, and
C-up and C-down to move by blocks (e.g. paragraphs, if you're
editing text). If you have keys labelled HOME (or BEGIN) and END,
they will take you to the beginning and end of a line, respectively,
and C-home and C-end will move to the beginning and end of the file.
If your keyboard has PgUp and PgDn keys, you can use them to move up
and down a screenful at a time, like M-v and C-v.
All of these commands can take numeric arguments, as described above.
You can use a shortcut to enter these arguments: just hold down the
CONTROL or META key and type the number. For example, to move 12
words to the right, type C-1 C-2 C-right. Note that it is very easy
to type this because you do not have to release the CONTROL key
WHEN EMACS IS HUNG
If Emacs gets into an infinite (or simply very long) computation which
you don't want to finish, you can stop it safely by typing C-g.
You can also use C-g to discard a numeric argument or the beginning of
a command that you don't want to finish.
>> Type C-u 100 to make a numeric arg of 100, then type C-g.
Now type C-f. How many characters does it move?
If you have typed an <ESC> by mistake, you can get rid of it
with a C-g.
If you type <ESC> <ESC>, you get a new window appearing on
the screen, telling you that M-ESC is a "disabled command"
and asking whether you really want to execute it. The command
M-ESC is marked as disabled because you probably don't want to
use it until you know more about Emacs, and we expect it would
confuse you if it were allowed to go ahead and run. If you really
want to try the M-ESC command, you could type a Space in answer
to the question and M-ESC would go ahead. Normally, if you do
not want to execute M-ESC, you would type "n" to answer the question.
>> Type <ESC> <ESC>, then type n.
Emacs can have several windows, each displaying its own text.
Note that "window" as used by Emacs does not refer to separate
overlapping windows in the window system, but to separate panes
within a single X window. (Emacs can also have multiple X
windows, or "screens" in Emacs terminology. This is described
At this stage it is better not to go into the techniques of
using multiple windows. But you do need to know how to get
rid of extra windows that may appear to display help or
output from certain commands. It is simple:
C-x 1 One window (i.e., kill all other windows).
That is Control-x followed by the digit 1.
C-x 1 makes the window which the cursor is in become
the full screen, by getting rid of any other windows.
>> Move the cursor to this line and type C-u 0 C-l.
(Remember that C-l redraws the screen. If you give a
numeric argument to this command, it means "redraw the
screen and put the current line that many lines from the
top of the screen." So C-u 0 C-l means "redraw the
screen, putting the current line at the top.")
>> Type Control-h k Control-f.
See how this window shrinks, while a new one appears
to display documentation on the Control-f command.
>> Type C-x 1 and see the documentation listing window disappear.
INSERTING AND DELETING
If you want to insert text, just type it. Characters which you can
see, such as A, 7, *, etc. are taken by Emacs as text and inserted
immediately. Type <Return> (the carriage-return key) to insert a
You can delete the last character you typed by typing <Rubout>.
On X terminals, <Rubout> is normally the key labelled BACK SPACE.
>> Do this now, type a few characters and then delete them
by typing <Rubout> a few times. Don't worry about this file
being changed; you won't affect the master tutorial. This is just
a copy of it.
>> Now start typing text until you reach the right margin, and keep
typing. When a line of text gets too big for one line on the
screen, the line of text is "continued" onto a second screen line.
The backslash at the right margin indicates a line which has
>> Use <Rubout>s to delete the text until the line fits on one screen
line again. The continuation line goes away.
>> Move the cursor to the beginning of a line and type <Rubout>. This
deletes the newline before the line and merges the line onto
the previous line. The resulting line may be too long to fit, in
which case it has a continuation line.
>> Type <Return> to reinsert the Newline you deleted.
Remember that most Emacs commands can be given a repeat count;
this includes characters which insert themselves.
>> Try that now -- type C-u 8 * and see what happens.
You've now learned the most basic way of typing something in
Emacs and correcting errors. You can delete by words or lines
as well. Here is a summary of the delete operations:
<Rubout> delete the character just before the cursor
C-d delete the next character after the cursor
M-<Rubout> kill the word immediately before the cursor
M-d kill the next word after the cursor
C-k kill from the cursor position to end of line
M-k kill to the end of the current sentence
Notice that <Rubout> and C-d vs M-<Rubout> and M-d extend the parallel
started by C-f and M-f (well, <Rubout> isn't really a control
character, but let's not worry about that). C-k and M-k are like C-e
and M-e, sort of, in that lines are opposite sentences.
Now suppose you kill something, and then you decide that you want to
get it back? Well, whenever you kill something bigger than a
character, Emacs saves it for you. To yank it back, use C-y. You
can kill text in one place, move elsewhere, and then do C-y; this is
a good way to move text around. Note that the difference
between "Killing" and "Deleting" something is that "Killed" things
can be yanked back, and "Deleted" things cannot. Generally, the
commands that can destroy a lot of text save it, while the ones that
attack only one character, or nothing but blank lines and spaces, do
For instance, type C-n a couple times to postion the cursor
at some line on this screen.
>> Do this now, move the cursor and kill that line with C-k.
Note that a single C-k kills the contents of the line, and a second
C-k kills the line itself, and make all the other lines move up. If
you give C-k a repeat count, it kills that many lines AND their
The text that has just disappeared is saved so that you can
retrieve it. To retrieve the last killed text and put it where
the cursor currently is, type C-y.
>> Try it; type C-y to yank the text back.
Think of C-y as if you were yanking something back that someone
took away from you. Notice that if you do several C-k's in a row
the text that is killed is all saved together so that one C-y will
yank all of the lines.
>> Do this now, type C-k several times.
Now to retrieve that killed text:
>> Type C-y. Then move the cursor down a few lines and type C-y
again. You now see how to copy some text.
What do you do if you have some text you want to yank back, and then
you kill something else? C-y would yank the more recent kill. But
the previous text is not lost. You can get back to it using the M-y
command. After you have done C-y to get the most recent kill, typing
M-Y replaces that yanked text with the previous kill. Typing M-y
again and again brings in earlier and earlier kills. When you
have reached the text you are looking for, you can just go away and
leave it there. If you M-y enough times, you come back to the
starting point (the most recent kill).
>> Kill a line, move around, kill another line.
Then do C-y to get back the second killed line.
Then do M-y and it will be replaced by the first killed line.
Do more M-y's and see what you get. Keep doing them until
the second kill line comes back, and then a few more.
If you like, you can try giving M-y positive and negative
Any time you make a change to the text and wish you had not done so,
you can undo the change (return the text to its previous state)
with the undo command, C-x u. Normally, C-x u undoes one command's
worth of changes; if you repeat the C-x u several times in a row,
each time undoes one more command. There are two exceptions:
commands that made no change (just moved the cursor) do not count,
and self-inserting characters are often lumped together in groups
of up to 20. This is to reduce the number of C-x u's you have to type.
>> Kill this line with C-k, then type C-x u and it should reappear.
C-_ is another command for undoing; it is just the same as C-x u
but easier to type several times in a row. The problem with C-_ is
that on some keyboards it is not obvious how to type it. That is
why C-x u is provided as well. On some DEC terminals, you can type
C-_ by typing / while holding down CTRL. Illogical, but what can
you expect from DEC?
Giving a numeric argument to C-_ or C-x u is equivalent to repeating
it as many times as the argument says.
In order to make the text you edit permanent, you must put it in a
file. Otherwise, it will go away when your invocation of Emacs goes
away. You put your editing in a file by "finding" the file. What
finding means is that you see the contents of the file in your Emacs;
and, loosely speaking, what you are editing is the file itself.
However, the changes still don't become permanent until you "save" the
file. This is so you can have control to avoid leaving a half-changed
file around when you don't want to. Even then, Emacs leaves the
original file under a changed name in case your changes turn out
to be a mistake.
If you look near the bottom of the screen you will see a line that
begins and ends with dashes, and contains the string "Emacs: TUTORIAL".
Your copy of the Emacs tutorial is called "TUTORIAL". Whatever
file you find, that file's name will appear in that precise
The commands for finding and saving files are unlike the other
commands you have learned in that they consist of two characters.
They both start with the character Control-x. There is a whole series
of commands that start with Control-x; many of them have to do with
files, buffers, and related things, and all of them consist of
Control-x followed by some other character.
Another thing about the command for finding a file is that you have
to say what file name you want. We say the command "reads an argument
from the terminal" (in this case, the argument is the name of the
file). After you type the command
C-x C-f Find a file
Emacs asks you to type the file name. It echoes on the bottom
line of the screen. You are using the minibuffer now! this is
what the minibuffer is for. When you type <Return> to end the
file name, the minibuffer is no longer needed, so it disappears.
>> Type C-x C-f, then type C-g. This cancels the minibuffer,
and also cancels the C-x C-f command that was using the
minibuffer. So you do not find any file.
In a little while the file contents appear on the screen. You can
edit the contents. When you wish to make the changes permanent,
issue the command
C-x C-s Save the file
The contents of Emacs are written into the file. The first time you
do this, the original file is renamed to a new name so that it
is not lost. The new name is made by appending "~" to the end
of the original file's name.
When saving is finished, Emacs prints the name of the file written.
You should save fairly often, so that you will not lose very much
work if the system should crash.
>> Type C-x C-s, saving your copy of the tutorial.
This should print "Wrote .../TUTORIAL" at the bottom of the screen.
On VMS it will print "Wrote ...[...]TUTORIAL."
To make a new file, just find it "as if" it already existed. Then
start typing in the text. When you ask to "save" the file, Emacs
will really create the file with the text that you have inserted.
From then on, you can consider yourself to be editing an already
If you find a second file with C-x C-f, the first file remains
inside Emacs. You can switch back to it by finding it again with
C-x C-f. This way you can get quite a number of files inside Emacs.
The object inside Emacs which holds the text read from one file
is called a "buffer." Finding a file makes a new buffer inside Emacs.
To see a list of the buffers that exist in Emacs, type
C-x C-b List buffers
>> Try C-x C-b now.
See how each buffer has a name, and it may also have a file name
for the file whose contents it holds. Some buffers do not correspond
to files. For example, the buffer named "*Buffer List*" does
not have any file. It is the buffer which contains the buffer
list that was made by C-x C-b. ANY text you see in an Emacs window
has to be in some buffer.
>> Type C-x 1 to get rid of the buffer list.
If you make changes to the text of one file, then find another file,
this does not save the first file. Its changes remain inside Emacs,
in that file's buffer. The creation or editing of the second file's
buffer has no effect on the first file's buffer. This is very useful,
but it also means that you need a convenient way to save the first
file's buffer. It would be a nuisance to have to switch back to
it with C-x C-f in order to save it with C-x C-s. So we have
C-x s Save some buffers
C-x s goes through the list of all the buffers you have
and finds the ones that contain files you have changed.
For each such buffer, C-x s asks you whether to save it.
USING THE MENU
If you are on an X terminal, you will notice a menubar at the
top of the Emacs screen. You can use this menubar to access all
the most common Emacs commands, such as "find file". You will
find this easier at first, because you don't need to remember
the keystrokes necessary to access any particular command. Once
you are comfortable with Emacs, it will be easy to begin using
the keyboard commands because each menu item with a
corresponding keyboard command has the command listed next to
Note that there are many items in the menubar that have no exact
keyboard equivalents. For example, the Buffers menu lists all
of the available buffers in most-recently used order. You can
switch to any buffer by simply findings its name in the Buffers
menu and selecting it.
USING THE MOUSE
When running under X, Emacs is fully integrated with the mouse.
You can position the text cursor by clicking the left button at
the desired location, and you can select text by dragging the
left mouse button across the text you want to select. (Or
alternatively, click the left mouse button at one end of the
text, then move to the other end and use Shift-click to select
To kill some selected text, you can use C-w or choose the Cut
item from the Edit menu. Note that these are *not* equivalent:
C-w only saves the text internally within Emacs (similar to C-k
as described above), whereas Cut does this and also puts the
text into the X clipboard, where it can be accessed by other
To retrieve text from the X clipboard, use the Paste item from
the Edit menu.
The middle mouse button is commonly used to choose items that
are visible on the screen. For example, if you enter Info (the
on-line Emacs documentation) using C-h i or the Help menu, you
can follow a highlighted link by clicking the middle mouse
button on it. Similarly, if you are typing a file name in
(e.g. when prompted by "Find File") and you hit TAB to show the
possible completions, you can click the middle mouse button on
one of the completions to select it.
The right mouse button brings up a popup menu. The contents of
this menu vary depending on what mode you're in, and usually
contain a few commonly used commands, so they're easier to
>> Press the right mouse button now.
You will have to hold the button down in order to keep the
EXTENDING THE COMMAND SET
There are many, many more Emacs commands than could possibly be put
on all the control and meta characters. Emacs gets around this with
the X (eXtend) command. This comes in two flavors:
C-x Character eXtend. Followed by one character.
M-x Named command eXtend. Followed by a long name.
These are commands that are generally useful but used less than the
commands you have already learned about. You have already seen two
of them: the file commands C-x C-f to Find and C-x C-s to Save.
Another example is the command to tell Emacs that you'd like to stop
editing and get rid of Emacs. The command to do this is C-x C-c.
(Don't worry; it offers to save each changed file before it kills the
C-z is the usual way to exit Emacs, because it is always better not to
kill the Emacs if you are going to do any more editing. On systems
which allow it, C-z exits from Emacs to the shell but does not destroy
the Emacs; if you use the C shell, you can resume Emacs with the `fg'
command (or, more generally, with `%emacs', which works even if your
most recent job was some other). On systems where suspending is not
possible, C-z creates a subshell running under Emacs to give you the
chance to run other programs and return to Emacs afterward, but it
does not truly "exit" from Emacs. In this case, the shell command
`exit' is the usual way to get back to Emacs from the subshell.
You would use C-x C-c if you were about to log out. You would
also use it to exit an Emacs invoked under mail handling programs
and other random utilities, since they may not believe you have
really finished using the Emacs if it continues to exist.
There are many C-x commands. The ones you know are:
C-x C-f Find file.
C-x C-s Save file.
C-x C-b List buffers.
C-x C-c Quit Emacs.
C-x u Undo.
Named eXtended commands are commands which are used even less
frequently, or commands which are used only in certain modes. These
commands are usually called "functions". An example is the function
replace-string, which globally replaces one string with another. When
you type M-x, Emacs prompts you at the bottom of the screen with
M-x and you should type the name of the function you wish to call; in
this case, "replace-string". Just type "repl s<TAB>" and Emacs will
complete the name. End the command name with <Return>.
Then type the two "arguments"--the string to be replaced, and the string
to replace it with--each one ended with a Return.
>> Move the cursor to the blank line two lines below this one.
Then type M-x repl s<Return>changed<Return>altered<Return>.
Notice how this line has changed: you've replaced
the word c-h-a-n-g-e-d with "altered" wherever it occured
after the cursor.
If Emacs sees that you are typing commands slowly it shows them to you
at the bottom of the screen in an area called the "echo area." The echo
area contains the bottom line of the screen. The line immediately above
it is called the MODE LINE. The mode line says something like
--**--Emacs: TUTORIAL (Fundamental)----58%-------------
This is a very useful "information" line.
You already know what the filename means--it is the file you have
found. What the --NN%-- means is that NN percent of the file is
above the top of the screen. If the top of the file is on the screen,
it will say --TOP-- instead of --00%--. If the bottom of the file is
on the screen, it will say --BOT--. If you are looking at a file so
small it all fits on the screen, it says --ALL--.
The stars near the front mean that you have made changes to the text.
Right after you visit or save a file, there are no stars, just dashes.
The part of the mode line inside the parentheses is to tell you what
modes you are in. The default mode is Fundamental which is what you
are in now. It is an example of a "major mode". There are several
major modes in Emacs for editing different languages and text, such as
Lisp mode, Text mode, etc. At any time one and only one major mode is
active, and its name can always be found in the mode line just where
"Fundamental" is now. Each major mode makes a few commands behave
differently. For example, there are commands for creating comments in
a program, and since each programming language has a different idea of
what a comment should look like, each major mode has to insert
comments differently. Each major mode is the name of an extended
command, which is how you get into the mode. For example,
M-X fundamental-mode is how to get into Fundamental mode.
If you are going to be editing English text, such as this file, you
should probably use Text Mode.
>> Type M-x text-mode<Return>.
Don't worry, none of the commands you have learned changes Emacs in
any great way. But you can now observe that periods are no longer
part of words when you do M-f or M-b! Major modes are usually like
that: commands don't change into completely unrelated things, but they
work a little bit differently.
To get documentation on your current major mode, type C-h m.
>> Use C-u C-v once or more to bring this line near the top of screen.
>> Type C-h m, to see how Text mode differs from Fundamental mode.
>> Type C-x 1 to remove the documentation from the screen.
Major modes are called major because there are also minor modes.
They are called minor because they aren't alternatives to the major
modes, just minor modifications of them. Each minor mode can be
turned on or off by itself, regardless of what major mode you are in,
and regardless of the other minor modes. So you can use no minor
modes, or one minor mode, or any combination of several minor modes.
One minor mode which is very useful, especially for editing English
text, is Auto Fill mode. When this mode is on, Emacs breaks the line
in between words automatically whenever the line gets too long. You
can turn this mode on by doing M-x auto-fill-mode<Return>. When the
mode is on, you can turn it off by doing M-x auto-fill-mode<Return>.
If the mode is off, this function turns it on, and if the mode is on,
this function turns it off. This is called "toggling".
>> Type M-x auto-fill-mode<Return> now. Then insert a line of "asdf "
over again until you see it divide into two lines. You must put in
spaces between them because Auto Fill breaks lines only at spaces.
The margin is usually set at 70 characters, but you can change it
with the C-x f command. You should give the margin setting you want
as a numeric argument.
>> Type C-x f with an argument of 20. (C-u 2 0 C-x f).
Then type in some text and see Emacs fill lines of 20
characters with it. Then set the margin back to 70 using
C-x f again.
If you makes changes in the middle of a paragraph, Auto Fill mode
does not re-fill it for you.
To re-fill the paragraph, type M-q (Meta-q) with the cursor inside
>> Move the cursor into the previous paragraph and type M-q.
Emacs can do searches for strings (these are groups of contiguous
characters or words) either forward through the file or backward
through it. To search for the string means that you are trying to
locate it somewhere in the file and have Emacs show you where the
occurrences of the string exist. This type of search is somewhat
different from what you may be familiar with. It is a search that is
performed as you type in the thing to search for. The command to
initiate a search is C-s for forward search, and C-r for reverse
search. BUT WAIT! Don't do them now. When you type C-s you'll
notice that the string "I-search" appears as a prompt in the echo
area. This tells you that Emacs is in what is called an incremental
search waiting for you to type the thing that you want to search for.
<ESC> terminates a search.
>> Now type C-s to start a search. SLOWLY, one letter at a time,
type the word 'cursor', pausing after you type each
character to notice what happens to the cursor.
>> Type C-s to find the next occurrence of "cursor".
>> Now type <Rubout> four times and see how the cursor moves.
>> Type <ESC> to terminate the search.
Did you see what happened? Emacs, in an incremental search, tries to
go to the occurrence of the string that you've typed out so far. To go
to the next occurrence of 'cursor' just type C-s again. If no such
occurrence exists Emacs beeps and tells you that it is a failing
search. C-g would also terminate the search.
If you are in the middle of an incremental search and type <Rubout>,
you'll notice that the last character in the search string is erased
and the search backs up to the last place of the search. For
instance, suppose you currently have typed 'cu' and you see that your
cursor is at the first occurrence of 'cu'. If you now type <Rubout>,
the 'u' on the search line is erased and you'll be repositioned in the
text to the occurrence of 'c' where the search took you before you
typed the 'u'. This provides a useful means for backing up while you
If you are in the middle of a search and happen to type a control
character (other than a C-s or C-r, which tell Emacs to search for the
next occurrence of the string), the search is terminated.
The C-s starts a search that looks for any occurrence of the search
string AFTER the current cursor position. But what if you want to
search for something earlier in the text? To do this, type C-r for
Reverse search. Everything that applies to C-s applies to C-r except
that the direction of the search is reversed.
RECURSIVE EDITING LEVELS
Sometimes you will get into what is called a "recursive editing
level". This is indicated by square brackets in the mode line,
surrounding the parentheses around the major mode name. For
example, you might see [(Fundamental)] instead of (Fundamental).
To get out of the recursive editing level, type
>> Try that now; it should display "Back to top level"
at the bottom of the screen.
In fact, you were ALREADY at top level (not inside a recursive editing
level) if you have obeyed instructions. M-x top-level does not care;
it gets out of any number of recursive editing levels, perhaps zero,
to get back to top level.
You can't use C-g to get out of a recursive editing level because C-g
is used for discarding numeric arguments and partially typed commands
WITHIN the recursive editing level.
GETTING MORE HELP
In this tutorial we have tried to supply just enough information to
get you started using Emacs. There is so much available in Emacs that
it would be impossible to explain it all here. However, you may want
to learn more about Emacs since it has numerous desirable features
that you don't know about yet. Emacs has a great deal of internal
documentation. All of these commands can be accessed through
the character Control-h, which we call "the Help character"
because of the function it serves.
To use the HELP features, type the C-h character, and then a
character saying what kind of help you want. If you are REALLY lost,
type C-h ? and Emacs will tell you what kinds of help it can give.
If you have typed C-h and decide you don't want any help, just
type C-G to cancel it.
The most basic HELP feature is C-h c. Type C-h, a c, and a
command character or sequence, and Emacs displays a very brief
description of the command.
>> Type C-h c Control-p.
The message should be something like
C-p runs the command previous-line
This tells you the "name of the function". That is important in
writing Lisp code to extend Emacs; it also is enough to remind
you of what the command does if you have seen it before but did
Multi-character commands such as C-x C-s and (if you have no META or
EDIT key) <ESC>v are also allowed after C-h c.
To get more information on the command, use C-h k instead of C-h c.
>> Type C-h k Control-p.
This displays the documentation of the function, as well as its name,
in an Emacs window. When you are finished reading the output, type
C-x 1 to get rid of the help text. You do not have to do this right
away. You can do some editing based on the help text before you type
Here are some other useful C-h options:
C-h f Describe a function. You type in the name of the
>> Try typing C-h f previous-line<Return>.
This prints all the information Emacs has about the
function which implements the C-P command.
C-h a Command Apropos. Type in a keyword and Emacs will list
all the commands whose names contain that keyword.
These commands can all be invoked with Meta-x.
For some commands, Command Apropos will also list a one
or two character sequence which has the same effect.
>> Type C-h a file<Return>. You will see a list of all M-x commands
with "file" in their names. You will also see commands
like C-x C-f and C-x C-w, listed beside the command names
find-file and write-file.
Remember, to exit Emacs permanently use C-x C-c. To exit to a shell
temporarily, so that you can come back in, use C-z. (This does not
work under X windows, because there is no real concept of exiting
temporarily to the shell. Instead, C-z iconifies the Emacs screen.)
This tutorial is meant to be understandable to all new users, so if
you found something unclear, don't sit and blame yourself - complain!
This tutorial descends from a long line of Emacs tutorials
starting with the one written by Stuart Cracraft for the original Emacs.
It was last modified September 1994 by Ben Wing, who updated the
tutorial for X.
This version of the tutorial, like GNU Emacs, is copyrighted, and
comes with permission to distribute copies on certain conditions:
Copyright (c) 1985, 1994 Free Software Foundation
Permission is granted to anyone to make or distribute verbatim copies
of this document as received, in any medium, provided that the
copyright notice and permission notice are preserved,
and that the distributor grants the recipient permission
for further redistribution as permitted by this notice.
Permission is granted to distribute modified versions
of this document, or of portions of it,
under the above conditions, provided also that they
carry prominent notices stating who last altered them.
The conditions for copying Emacs itself are slightly different
but in the same spirit. Please read the file COPYING and then
do give copies of GNU Emacs to your friends.
Help stamp out software obstructionism ("ownership") by using,
writing, and sharing free software!