Emacs reference card

GNU Emacs, version 19

This reference card lists some of the most common commands for the Emacs text editor under Unix. Emacs is available on most central UCS Unix systems.


Starting Emacs

To enter GNU Emacs 19, just type its name: emacs

To read in a file to edit, see "Files", below.

Leaving Emacs

  suspend Emacs (or iconify it under X)      C-z

  exit this Emacs session                    C-x C-c 


  press and hold the CTRL key                C-

  press and release ESC
    (or press and hold META)                 M-

  give an argument to command                C-u command

  give a numerical argument # to command     C-u # command


  read a file into Emacs                     C-x C-f

  save a file back to disk                   C-x C-s

  save all files                             C-x s 

  insert contents of another 
    file into this buffer                    C-x i

  replace this file with the 
    file you really want                     C-x C-v

  write buffer to a specified fill           C-x C-w 

Getting Help

  begin tutorial for first-time users        C-h t

  enter Help system                          C-h

  remove Help window                         C-x 1 

  scroll Help window                         ESC C-v 

  apropos: show commands matching a string   C-h a

  show the function a key runs               C-h c

  describe a function                        C-h f 

  get mode-specific information              C-h m 

Error Recovery

  abort partially typed or 
    executing command                        C-g

  recover a file lost by a system crash      M-x recover-file

  undo an unwanted change                    C-x u or C-_ 

  restore a buffer to its original
    contents                                 M-x revert-buffer

  redraw garbaged screen                     C-l 

Incremental Search

  search forward (can be repeated)           C-s 

  search backward (can be repeated)          C-r 

  regular expression search                  M-C-s 

  reverse regular expression search          M-C-r 

These commands are available during searching:

  select previous search string              M-p

  select next later search string            M-n

  undo effect of last character              DEL

  exit incremental search                    RET 

  abort current search                       C-g  


  entity to move over             backward     forward

  character                         C-b          C-f 

  word                              M-b          M-f 

  line                              C-p          C-n

  go to line beginning (or end)     C-a          C-e

  sentence                          M-a          M-e 

  paragraph                         M-{          M-} 

  page                              C-x [        C-x ] 

  sexp                              M-C-b        M-C-f 

  function                          M-C-a        M-C-e 

  go to buffer beginning (or end)   M-<          M-> 

  scroll to next screen/prev
    screen                          M-v          C-v 

  scroll right/left                 C-x >        C-x <  

  scroll current line to center 
    of screen                              C-l 

Killing and Deleting

  entity to kill                 backward     forward

  character (delete, not kill)      DEL         C-d

  word                              M-DEL       M-d

  line (to end of)                  M-0 C-k     C-k

  sentence                          C-x DEL     M-k

  sexp                              M--M-C-k    M-C-k

  kill region                                   C-w 

  copy region to kill ring                      M-w 

  kill through next occurrence of char          M-z char  

  yank back last thing killed                   C-y 

  replace last yank with previous kill          M-y 


  set mark here                      C-SPC or C-2 or C-@ 

  exchange point and mark            C-x C-x  

  set mark "arg" words away          M-@

  mark paragraph                     M-h 

  mark page                          C-x C-p 

  mark sexp                          M-C-SPC or M-C-@ 

  mark function                      M-C-h 

  mark entire buffer                 C-x h 

Query Replace

  interactively replace a text string  M-% 

  using regular expressions            M-x query-replace-regexp 

Valid responses in query-replace mode are:

   replace this one, go on to next        SPC or y

   replace this one, don't move           , 

   skip to next without replacing         DEL or n

   replace all remaining matches          ! 

   back up to the previous match          ^

   exit query-replace                     ESC or RET 

   enter recursive edit (M-C-c to exit)   C-r 

Multiple Windows

  delete all other windows             C-x 1 

  delete this window                   C-x 0 

  split window in two vertically       C-x 2

  split window in two horizontally     C-x 3 

  scroll other window                  M-C-v 

  switch cursor to another window      C-x o 

  shrink window shorter                M-x shrink-window

  grow window taller                   C-x ^ 

  shrink window narrower               C-x { 

  grow window wider                    C-x } 

  select buffer in other window        C-x 4 b

  display buffer in other window       C-x 4 C-o

  find file in other window            C-x 4 f

  find file read-only in other window  C-x 4 r

  run Dired in other window            C-x 4 d

  find tag in other window             C-x 4 . 


  indent current line (mode-dependent)       TAB

  indent region (mode-dependent)             M-C-\

  indent sexp (mode-dependent)               M-C-q

  indent region rigidly arg columns          C-x TAB 

  insert newline after point                 C-o 

  move rest of line vertically down          M-C-o
  delete blank lines around point            C-x C-o

  join line with previous (with arg, next)   M-^

  delete all white space around point        M-\

  put exactly one space at point             M-SPC 

  fill paragraph                             M-q 

  set fill column                            C-x f 

  set prefix each line starts with           C-x . 

Case Change

  uppercase word       M-u 

  lowercase word       M-l 

  capitalize word      M-c 

  uppercase region     C-x C-u 
  lowercase region     C-x C-l 

  capitalize region    M-x capitalize-region 

The Minibuffer

The following keys are defined in the minibuffer:
  complete as much as possible             TAB 

  complete up to one word                  SPC 

  complete and execute                     RET 

  show possible completions                ? 

  fetch previous minibuffer input          M-p

  fetch next later minibuffer input        M-n

  regexp search backward through history   M-r

  regexp search forward through history    M-s

  abort command                            C-g  

Type C-x ESC ESC to edit and repeat the last command that used the minibuffer. The following keys are then defined:

  previous minibuffer command   M-p 

  next minibuffer command       M-n 


  select another buffer   C-x b 
  list all buffers        C-x C-b 

  kill a buffer           C-x k 


  transpose characters    C-t 

  transpose words         M-t 

  transpose lines         C-x C-t 

  transpose sexps         M-C-t 

Spelling Check

  check spelling of current word          M-$ 

  check spelling of all words in region   M-x ispell-region

  check spelling of entire buffer         M-x ispell-buffer


  execute a shell command                 M-! 

  run a shell command on the region       M-|

  filter region through a shell command   C-u M-|

  start a shell in window *shell*         M-x shell 


  find a tag (a definition)                     M-. 

  find next occurrence of tag                   C-u M-.

  specify a new tags file                       M-x visit-tags-table 

  regexp search on all files in tags table      M-x tags-search

  run query-replace on all the files            M-x tags-query-replace

  continue last tags search or query-replace    M-,  


  copy rectangle to register           C-x r r

  kill rectangle                       C-x r k 

  yank rectangle                       C-x r y 

  open rectangle, shifting text right  C-x r o

  blank out rectangle                  C-x r c

  prefix each line with a string       C-x r t 


  add global abbrev                          C-x a g 

  add mode-local abbrev                      C-x a l 
  add global expansion for this abbrev       C-x a i g

  add mode-local expansion for this abbrev   C-x a i l 

  explicitly expand abbrev                   C-x a e 

  expand previous word dynamically           M-/ 

Regular Expressions

  any single character except a newline  . (dot)

  zero or more repeats                   * 

  one or more repeats                    + 

  zero or one repeat                     ? 

  any character in the set               [...]

  any character not in the set           [^...]

  beginning of line                      ^ 

  end of line                            $ 

  quote a special character              c   \c

  alternative ("or")                     \| 

  grouping                               \(...\) 
  nth group                              \n 

  beginning of buffer                    \' 

  end of buffer                          \' 

  word break                             \b 

  not beginning or end of word           \B 

  beginning of word                      \< 

  end of word                            \> 

  any word-syntax character              \w 

  any non-word-syntax character          \W

  character with syntax c                \sc

  character with syntax not c            \Sc  


  save region in register               C-x r s 

  insert register contents into buffer  C-x r i 

  save value of point in register       C-x r SPC

  jump to point saved in register       C-x r j 


  enter the Info documentation reader   C-h i 

Moving within a node:
  scroll forward         SPC 
  scroll reverse         DEL 
  beginning of node      . (dot) 

Moving between nodes :
  next node                                n 

  previous node                            p 

  move up                                  u 

  select menu item by name                 m 

  select nth menu item by number (15)     n

  follow cross reference (return with l)   f

  return to last node you saw              1 

  return to directory node                 d 

  go to any node by name                   g 


  run Info tutorial                        h 

  list Info commands                       ? 

  quit Info                                q 

  search nodes for regexp                  s 

Keyboard Macros

  start defining a keyboard macro      C-x (

  end keyboard macro definition        C-x )

  execute last-defined keyboard macro  C-x e

  append to last keyboard macro        C-u C-x (

  name last keyboard macro             M-x name-last-kbd-macro

  insert Lisp definition in buffer     M-x insert-kbd-macro 

Commands Dealing with Emacs Lisp

  eval sexp before point               C-x C-e 

  eval region                          M-x eval-region

  eval entire buffer                   M-x eval-current-buffer

  read and eval minibuffer             M-ESC

  read and eval Emacs Lisp file        M-x load-file

  load from standard system directory  M-x load-library 

Simple Customization

The intended audience here is the person who wants to make simple customizations and knows Lisp syntax.

Here are some examples of binding global keys in Emacs Lisp. Note that you cannot say

An example of setting a variable in Emacs Lisp:

Writing Commands

(defun command-name (args)


        (interactive "template")


An example:

The argument to interactive is a string specifying how to get the arguments when the function is called interactively. Type C-h f interactive for more information.

Copyright © 1987, 1993 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

Permission is granted to make and distribute copies of this card provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.

For copies of the GNU Emacs manual, write to the Free Software Foundation, Inc., 675 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge MA 02139.

University Computing Services Publications has made slight modifications to this reference card.

Last updated: January 1997
URL: http://www.indiana.edu/~ucspubs/b131/
Comments: pubster@indiana.edu
Copyright 1997, The Trustees of Indiana University