Emacs Basics

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Launch Emacs

Use Graphical Menu

Emacs by default supports mouse and menu.

emacs menu 2021-07-19
Emacs menu. [see also Emacs: Command to Open Menu]

The keyboard shortcuts are shown beside the menu.

So, explore menu, and you can learn important operations and their keyboard shortcuts.

Many menu items are esoteric and are rarely used, so do not worry about items you don't understand. Typically, after using emacs for a few months, one never use the menu.

Most Important Emacs Keys

These keys get you started.

To navigate cursor, just use the arrow keys.

use Ctrl with arrow to move cursor by words.


To undo, press Ctrl+_


To redo, press Ctrl+g then do a undo Ctrl+_. Further undo will all be redo. Press Ctrl+g to reverse direction again.


To save file, press Ctrl+x Ctrl+s.

Quit Emacs

Press Ctrl+x Ctrl+c.

If the keys you press seem to do weird things, then, press Ctrl+g. This will cancel the sequence of keys you may have pressed by mistake.

Congratulations! You are now a Emacs Master!

With the above, you can edit any text file. Now, you can learn how to do search, find/replace, and new shortcuts for efficient navigation. Goto Emacs Keys.