The cursor in the selected window shows the location where most editing commands take effect, which is called point2. Many Emacs commands move point to different places in the buffer; for example, you can place point by clicking mouse button 1 (normally the left button) at the desired location.
By default, the cursor in the selected window is drawn as a solid block and appears to be on a character, but you should think of point as between two characters; it is situated before the character under the cursor. For example, if your text looks like ‘frob’ with the cursor over the ‘b’, then point is between the ‘o’ and the ‘b’. If you insert the character ‘!’ at that position, the result is ‘fro!b’, with point between the ‘!’ and the ‘b’. Thus, the cursor remains over the ‘b’, as before.
If you are editing several files in Emacs, each in its own buffer, each buffer has its own value of point. A buffer that is not currently displayed remembers its value of point if you later display it again. Furthermore, if a buffer is displayed in multiple windows, each of those windows has its own value of point.
See Cursor Display, for options that control how Emacs displays the cursor.
Next: Mode Line, Previous: Point, Up: Screen
1.2 The Echo Area
The line at the very bottom of the frame is the echo area. It is used to display small amounts of text for various purposes.
The echo area is so-named because one of the things it is used for is echoing, which means displaying the characters of a multi-character command as you type. Single-character commands are not echoed. Multi-character commands (see Keys) are echoed if you pause for more than a second in the middle of a command. Emacs then echoes all the characters of the command so far, to prompt you for the rest. Once echoing has started, the rest of the command echoes immediately as you type it. This behavior is designed to give confident users fast response, while giving hesitant users maximum feedback.
The echo area is also used to display an error message when a command cannot do its job. Error messages may be accompanied by beeping or by flashing the screen.
Some commands display informative messages in the echo area to tell you what the command has done, or to provide you with some specific information. These informative messages, unlike error messages, are not accompanied with a beep or flash. For example, C-x = (hold down <CTRL> and type x, then let go of <CTRL> and type =) displays a message describing the character at point, its position in the buffer, and its current column in the window. Commands that take a long time often display messages ending in ‘...’ while they are working (sometimes also indicating how much progress has been made, as a percentage), and add ‘done’ when they are finished.
Informative echo area messages are saved in a special buffer named Messages
. (We have not explained buffers yet; see Buffers, for more information about them.) If you miss a message that appeared briefly on the screen, you can switch to the Messages
buffer to see it again. The Messages
buffer is limited to a certain number of lines, specified by the variable message-log-max. (We have not explained variables either; see Variables, for more information about them.) Beyond this limit, one line is deleted from the beginning whenever a new message line is added at the end.
See Display Custom, for options that control how Emacs uses the echo area.
The echo area is also used to display the minibuffer, a special window where you can input arguments to commands, such as the name of a file to be edited. When the minibuffer is in use, the text displayed in the echo area begins with a prompt string, and the active cursor appears within the minibuffer, which is temporarily considered the selected window. You can always get out of the minibuffer by typing C-g. See Minibuffer.
Next: Menu Bar, Previous: Echo Area, Up: Screen
1.3 The Mode Line
At the bottom of each window is a mode line, which describes what is going on in the current buffer. When there is only one window, the mode line appears right above the echo area; it is the next-to-last line in the frame. On a graphical display, the mode line is drawn with a 3D box appearance. Emacs also usually draws the mode line of the selected window with a different color than that of unselected windows, in order to make it stand out.
The text displayed in the mode line has the following format:
cs:ch-fr buf pos line (major minor)
On a text terminal, this text is followed by a series of dashes extending to the right edge of the window. These dashes are omitted on a graphical display.
The cs string and the colon character after it describe the character set and newline convention used for the current buffer. Normally, Emacs automatically handles these settings for you, but it is sometimes useful to have this information.
cs describes the character set of the text in the buffer (see Coding Systems). If it is a dash (‘-’), that indicates no special character set handling (with the possible exception of end-of-line conventions, described in the next paragraph). ‘=’ means no conversion whatsoever, and is usually used for files containing non-textual data. Other characters represent various coding systems—for example, ‘1’ represents ISO Latin-1.
On a text terminal, cs is preceded by two additional characters that describe the coding systems for keyboard input and terminal output. Furthermore, if you are using an input method, cs is preceded by a string that identifies the input method (see Input Methods).
The character after cs is usually a colon. If a different string is displayed, that indicates a nontrivial end-of-line convention for encoding a file. Usually, lines of text are separated by newline characters in a file, but two other conventions are sometimes used. The MS-DOS convention uses a “carriage-return” character followed by a “linefeed” character; when editing such files, the colon changes to either a backslash (‘\’) or ‘(DOS)’, depending on the operating system. Another convention, employed by older Macintosh systems, uses a “carriage-return” character instead of a newline; when editing such files, the colon changes to either a forward slash (‘/’) or ‘(Mac)’. On some systems, Emacs displays ‘(Unix)’ instead of the colon for files that use newline as the line separator.
The next element on the mode line is the string indicated by ch. This shows two dashes (‘--’) if the buffer displayed in the window has the same contents as the corresponding file on the disk; i.e., if the buffer is “unmodified”. If the buffer is modified, it shows two stars (‘**’). For a read-only buffer, it shows ‘%*’ if the buffer is modified, and ‘’ otherwise.
The character after ch is normally a dash (‘-’). However, if the default-directory for the current buffer is on a remote machine, ‘@’ is displayed instead (see File Names).
fr gives the selected frame name (see Frames). It appears only on text terminals. The initial frame's name is ‘F1’.
buf is the name of the buffer displayed in the window. Usually, this is the same as the name of a file you are editing. See Buffers.
pos tells you whether there is additional text above the top of the window, or below the bottom. If your buffer is small and all of it is visible in the window, pos is ‘All’. Otherwise, it is ‘Top’ if you are looking at the beginning of the buffer, ‘Bot’ if you are looking at the end of the buffer, or ‘nn%’, where nn is the percentage of the buffer above the top of the window. With Size Indication mode, you can display the size of the buffer as well. See Optional Mode Line.
line is the character ‘L’ followed by the line number at point. (You can display the current column number too, by turning on Column Number mode. See Optional Mode Line.)
major is the name of the major mode used in the buffer. A major mode is a principal editing mode for the buffer, such as Text mode, Lisp mode, C mode, and so forth. See Major Modes. Some major modes display additional information after the major mode name. For example, Compilation buffers and Shell buffers display the status of the subprocess.
minor is a list of some of the enabled minor modes, which are optional editing modes that provide additional features on top of the major mode. See Minor Modes.
Some features are listed together with the minor modes whenever they are turned on, even though they are not really minor modes. ‘Narrow’ means that the buffer being displayed has editing restricted to only a portion of its text (see Narrowing). ‘Def’ means that a keyboard macro is currently being defined (see Keyboard Macros).
In addition, if Emacs is inside a recursive editing level, square brackets (‘[...]’) appear around the parentheses that surround the modes. If Emacs is in one recursive editing level within another, double square brackets appear, and so on. Since recursive editing levels affect Emacs globally, such square brackets appear in the mode
Menu Bar: How to use the menu bar.