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Some Vocabulary

Emacsen5 have a steeper learning curve than your average software because they don't use the vocabulary words you'd expect them to and therefore it takes a longer time to find what you're looking for in the manual or learn the options you'd like to understand. You may very well know what you want but not know how to find it. A simple vocabulary lesson will set you a long way forward in your effort to learn to use emacs.

are what any other program would call ``windows.'' An emacs frame can be simply another view of the same document or show different documents.
When you load a document into memory, your work resides in a memory buffer, while the file remains unchanged on the disk. Then when you save your work, the buffer is written to that file.
You can divide your screen into sections called ``windows,'' each of which can view a different buffer or different parts of the same buffer.
is what other programs call ``word wrap,'' sort of. To get a paragraph of text to ``wrap'' you must essentially insert a return character at the end of every line at a certain position, say every 80th character or so to have paragraphs formatted 80 characters wide.
means to remove text. Everyone else calls it ``cut.''
means to insert previously removed text, i.e ``paste.''
Copy to Kill Ring
is the equivalent of ``copying'' text in other applications.

Figure 1 shows a summary of emacs lingo and their equivalents for other software packages.

Figure 1: Emacs Vocabulary and meaning
\begin{figure}\begin{tabular}{ll} Other Software & Emacs  \hline
Window & Fram...
...ustification & Filling \\
Cut/Paste & Kill/Yank \\

First of all, a word about notation: emacs commands all start with the control key or the alt key. The command Control-X is shown as follows: C-x and the command alt-X is shown as follows: M-x (the M stands for ``meta'' and goes back to the days before the alt-key). Some commands involve several steps, like the following, which sets the margin to 20 characters: C-u 20 C-x f. So hit control-u, type the number 20, then hit control-x, release, and strike the f key. The status bar at the bottom of the screen shows your progress. If you screw up half way, hit control-g to cancel the command (you can't edit the command half way, you have to start over). Now that you understand the notation, you'll understand C-x C-c, which means ``exit emacs.''

You'll feel more comfortable exploring emacs once you know how to undo mistakes. The command is C-x u and emacs remembers a long history of your previous commands so it can undo a lot of mistakes. Figure 2 summarizes these basic commands.

Figure 2: The Basics
Command & Key Sequence  \hline
Cancel & C-g  Quit emacs & C-x
C-c  Undo & C-x u \\

next up previous contents
Next: Emacs Commands Up: The Basics Previous: The Basics   Contents
Randall Wood 2011-03-31