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GNU Emacs Manual

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D.1 Inserting Text

To insert printing characters into the text you are editing, just type them. This inserts the characters you type into the buffer at the cursor (that is, at point; see section B.1 Point). The cursor moves forward, and any text after the cursor moves forward too. If the text in the buffer is `FOOBAR', with the cursor before the `B', then if you type XX, you get `FOOXXBAR', with the cursor still before the `B'.

To delete text you have just inserted, use the large key labeled DEL, BACKSPACE or DELETE which is a short distance above the RET or ENTER key. This is the key you normally use, outside Emacs, for erasing the last character that you typed. Regardless of the label on that key, Emacs thinks of it as DEL, and that's what we call it in this manual.

The DEL key deletes the character before the cursor. As a consequence, the cursor and all the characters after it move backwards. If you type a printing character and then type DEL, they cancel out.

On most computers, Emacs recognizes automatically which key ought to be DEL, and sets it up that way. But in some cases, especially with text-only terminals, you will need to tell Emacs which key to use for that purpose. If the large key not far above the RET or ENTER key doesn't delete backwards, you need to do this. See section AD.9.1 If DEL Fails to Delete, for an explanation of how.

Most PC keyboards have both a BACKSPACE key a short ways above RET or ENTER, and a DELETE key elsewhere. On these keyboards, Emacs supports when possible the usual convention that the BACKSPACE key deletes backwards (it is DEL), while the DELETE key deletes "forwards," deleting the character after point, the one underneath the cursor, like C-d (see below).

To end a line and start typing a new one, type RET. This inserts a newline character in the buffer. If point is in the middle of a line, RET splits the line. Typing DEL when the cursor is at the beginning of a line deletes the preceding newline, thus joining the line with the preceding line.

Emacs can split lines automatically when they become too long, if you turn on a special minor mode called Auto Fill mode. See section T.5 Filling Text, for how to use Auto Fill mode.

If you prefer to have text characters replace (overwrite) existing text rather than shove it to the right, you can enable Overwrite mode, a minor mode. See section AD.1 Minor Modes.

Direct insertion works for printing characters and SPC, but other characters act as editing commands and do not insert themselves. If you need to insert a control character or a character whose code is above 200 octal, you must quote it by typing the character Control-q (quoted-insert) first. (This character's name is normally written C-q for short.) There are two ways to use C-q:

When multibyte characters are enabled, if you specify a code in the range 0200 through 0377 octal, C-q assumes that you intend to use some ISO 8859-n character set, and converts the specified code to the corresponding Emacs character code. See section Q.2 Enabling Multibyte Characters. You select which of the ISO 8859 character sets to use through your choice of language environment (see section Q.3 Language Environments).

To use decimal or hexadecimal instead of octal, set the variable read-quoted-char-radix to 10 or 16. If the radix is greater than 10, some letters starting with a serve as part of a character code, just like digits.

A numeric argument to C-q specifies how many copies of the quoted character should be inserted (see section D.10 Numeric Arguments).

Customization information: DEL in most modes runs the command delete-backward-char; RET runs the command newline, and self-inserting printing characters run the command self-insert, which inserts whatever character was typed to invoke it. Some major modes rebind DEL to other commands.


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