Emacs Keys Overview

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Emacs keys are often confusing to beginners. Here's a summary.

• 【Alt+x】 is to call a command by name.

• 【Ctrl+letter】 is for frequently used editing commands. For example: cursor movement next-line , Paste C-y, mark C-SPC, keyboard-quit C-g, isearch-forward C-s, etc.

• 【Alt+letter】 is for somewhat less frequently used operations, often complement to Ctrl. For example: move by words {M-f, M-b}, Copy M-w, comment-dwim M-;, etc.

• 【Ctrl+x …】 is for commands that are useful globally. For example: dired C-x d, switch-to-buffer C-x b, string-rectangle C-x r t, list-bookmark C-x r l, etc.

• 【Ctrl+c …】 is for major-mode specific commands. For example: in org-mode, org-time-stamp C-c . inserts date.

• 【Ctrl+h …】 or 【F1 …】 is for help or getting info. For example: describe-function C-h f, apropos-command C-h a, info C-h i.

• 【Ctrl+Alt+key】 is for lisp coding related commands. For example: backward-sexp <C-M-left>. [see Emacs: How to Edit Lisp Code]

Note 【Alt+x】 is technically 【Meta+x】, ususually written as M-x. “Meta” is a physical key on lisp machine keyboards. If you are in a text terminal, and no Meta remapping has been setup, you can type 【Meta+x】 by pressing 【Escape x】. [see Space-cadet Keyboard and Lisp Machine Keyboards]

See also: List of Emacs Default Keybinding.

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