Emacs Keys Overview

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

For emacs's basic keys, see Emacs Keys Basics

Organization of Emacs Key Shortcuts

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-bookmarks 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: A Curious Look at Emacs One Thousand Keybindings.

Emacs Keybinding

If you have a question, put $5 at patreon and message me on xah discord.
Or support me by Buy Xah Emacs Tutorial

Emacs Tutorial

Emacs Init

Emacs Keys


ELisp Examples

ELisp Write Major Mode

Emacs Keys



Key Tips

Emacs Pinky

Keybinding Design