If a buffer is read-only, then you cannot change its contents, although you may change your view of the contents by scrolling and narrowing.
Read-only buffers are used in two kinds of situations:
Here, the purpose is to inform the user that editing the buffer with the aim of saving it in the file may be futile or undesirable. The user who wants to change the buffer text despite this can do so after clearing the read-only flag with C-x C-q.
The special commands of these modes bind buffer-read-only to
let) or bind inhibit-read-only to
t around the places where they themselves change the text.
This buffer-local variable specifies whether the buffer is read-only.
The buffer is read-only if this variable is non-
characters that have the inhibit-read-only text property can
still be modified. See inhibit-read-only.
If this variable is non-
nil, then read-only buffers and,
depending on the actual value, some or all read-only characters may be
modified. Read-only characters in a buffer are those that have a
read-only text property. See Special Properties, for more information about text properties.
If inhibit-read-only is t, all
properties have no effect. If inhibit-read-only is a list, then
read-only character properties have no effect if they are members
of the list (comparison is done with
This is the mode command for Read Only minor mode, a buffer-local
minor mode. When the mode is enabled, buffer-read-only is
nil in the buffer; when disabled, buffer-read-only
nil in the buffer. The calling convention is the same as
for other minor mode commands (see Minor Mode Conventions).
This minor mode mainly serves as a wrapper for
buffer-read-only; unlike most minor modes, there is no separate
read-only-mode variable. Even when Read Only mode is disabled,
characters with non-
read-only text properties remain
read-only. To temporarily ignore all read-only states, bind
inhibit-read-only, as described above.
When enabling Read Only mode, this mode command also enables View mode
if the option view-read-only is non-
nil. See Miscellaneous Buffer Operations in The GNU Emacs Manual.
When disabling Read Only mode, it disables View mode if View mode was
This function signals a buffer-read-only error if the current buffer is read-only. If the text at position (which defaults to point) has the inhibit-read-only text property set, the error will not be raised.
See Using Interactive, for another way to signal an error if the current buffer is read-only.