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-SPCkeyboard-quit C-gisearch-forward C-s, etc.

Alt+letter is for somewhat less frequently used operations, often complement to Ctrl. For example: move by words {M-fM-b}, Copy M-wcomment-dwim M-;, etc.

Ctrl+x … is for commands that are useful globally. For example: dired C-x dswitch-to-buffer C-x bstring-rectangle C-x r tlist-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 fapropos-command C-h ainfo 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.

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