Basic Emacs Commands

Starting Emacs

Emacs is flexible and widely-used text editor which is supported on the GL systems. To start the text editor, type the command emacs at the Linux command prompt.

You may also specify a file to open or create on the command line. For example, the command emacs example.cpp starts Emacs and loads the file example.cpp, if it exists; if the file does not exist, it will be created when the buffer is saved (e.g. with the Emacs command C-x C-s; see below).

Emacs Commands

Emacs commands are entered using key combinations that include the Control or Escape keys. A quick reference to major commands is provided below. The letter C represents the Control key; the command C-n means "hold the Control key and press n." The letter M stands for "Meta," which is the Escape key on most systems. For example, the command M-a means "press the Escape key, then press the letter a." Do not hold down the Escape key for Meta commands.

File Operations

  C-x C-f    Retrieve or open a file 
  C-x C-s    Save the current file and continue editing
  C-x C-c    Save the current file and exit
  C-x C-w    Write the buffer contents to a file 

Cursor Movement

  C-n        Move to the next line    
  C-p        Move to the previous line 
  C-b        Move backward one character  
  C-f        Move forward one character   
  C-u n C-f  Move forward `n' characters (n should be a number)
  C-a        Move to the begining of the line 
  C-e        Move to the end of the line   
  M-f        Move forward one word  
  M-b        Move backward one word    
  M-a        Move to the beginning of the sentence 
  M-e        Move to the end of the sentence   
  C-v        Move forward one screenful
  M-v        Move backward one screenful 
  M-<        Move to the begining of the file  
  M->        Move to the end of the file   
  M-g        Goto line (prompted for line number)


  C-d        Delete one character   
  C-k        Kill (cut) from the cursor position to end of line 
  M-k        Kill (cut) to the end of the current sentence 
  M-d        Kill (cut) the next word after the cursor 
  C-y        Yank (paste) the last killed text back


  C-g        Cancel current command
  C-l        Clear screen and redisplay everything, centering the screen 
             on the current cursor position
  C-x u      Undoes one command's worth of changes