Emacs Less-known Tips

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

First, here are 4 commands every emacs user should know.

For example, 【Alt+xdescribe-key, Enter, then press 【Ctrl+f】. Emacs will then tell you the commad name corresponding to the key you just pressed.

Now try the other commands above.

search the last searched string

Type 【Ctrl+s Ctrl+s】 to search the same word searched last time.

search the string under cursor without typing it

Type 【Ctrl+s Ctrl+w】 to search the word under the cursor. You can type 【Ctrl+w】 multiple times to expand the word selection.

[see Emacs: isearch Current Word]

list lines containing a string

[see Emacs: List Highlight Delete Matching Lines, Sort Reverse]

highlight all occurrences of word

[see Emacs: Search Text in Buffer]

sort lines

Select a region first, then Alt+x sort-lines.

Alt+x reverse-region → reverse order in region by lines.

sort-fields → sort lines by a specific column, as string. (“fields” are separated by space or tabs. First field is 1, not 0.)

sort-numeric-fields → sort lines by a specific column, as number.

For example: Type 【Ctrl+u】, then 2, then Alt+x sort-numeric-fields. This will sort the line by the 2nd column, and the fields are compared as numbers.

delete trailing white spaces

Alt+x delete-trailing-whitespace does it to the whole buffer.

[see Emacs: Delete Trailing Whitespace]

make spaces and tabs visible

Alt+x whitespace-mode.

[see Emacs: Make Whitespaces Visible]

[see Emacs: Tabs, Space, Indentation Setup]

multiple clipboards

if you have a set of different texts i want to paste frequently, you can use multiple clipboards.

[see Emacs: Using Registers (Multiple Clipboards)]

If your text is frequently needed (For example, XML template or signature), you should set up a abbreviation. See: Emacs: Abbrev Mode Tutorial.

no restarting emacs when add to init file

Many ways.

[see Evaluate Emacs Lisp Code]

start a second shell

To start a second shell, Alt+x universal-argumentCtrl+u】 first, like this: 【Ctrl+u Alt+x shell】.

“refresh” a opened file to its saved state

Alt+x revert-buffer. If someone modified the file, typically emacs will auto detect it, and when you type something, emacs will automatically ask you what to do.

;; set file to auto refresh when change detected (For example, changed by other)
(global-auto-revert-mode 1)

How to open .info file as info?

Alt+x universal-argumentCtrl+u】, then Alt+x infoCtrl+h i】, then the info file name.

open file as hex-decimal (byte-code editor)

To open the file as hex, Alt+x hexl-find-file. If the file is already opened, Alt+x hexl-mode.

[see Emacs: Set File to Open in a Major Mode]

set the background color

Put this in your emacs init file:

(setq default-frame-alist
  '((background-color . "cornsilk")))

To see a list of color names emacs support, Alt+x list-colors-display.

[see Emacs: Set Default Window Size]

Emacs Quick Start

  1. Where to Download?
  2. Fun with Emacs
  3. Emacs First Day
  4. Basic Emacs Keys
  5. Basic Tips
  6. Less-known Tips
  7. Emacs on Windows

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Emacs Lisp