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GNU Emacs Manual

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D.8 Continuation Lines

If you add too many characters to one line without breaking it with RET, the line grows to occupy two (or more) lines on the screen. On graphical displays, Emacs indicates line wrapping with small bent arrows in the fringes to the left and right of the window. On text-only terminals, Emacs displays a `\' character at the right margin of a screen line if it is not the last in its text line. This `\' character says that the following screen line is not really a distinct line in the text, just a continuation of a line too long to fit the screen. Continuation is also called line wrapping.

When line wrapping occurs before a character that is wider than one column, some columns at the end of the previous screen line may be "empty." In this case, Emacs displays additional `\' characters in the "empty" columns, just before the `\' character that indicates continuation.

Sometimes it is nice to have Emacs insert newlines automatically when a line gets too long. Continuation on the screen does not do that. Use Auto Fill mode (see section T.5 Filling Text) if that's what you want.

As an alternative to continuation, Emacs can display long lines by truncation. This means that all the characters that do not fit in the width of the screen or window do not appear at all. They remain in the buffer, temporarily invisible. On terminals, `$' in the last column informs you that the line has been truncated on the display. On window systems, a small straight arrow in the fringe to the right of the window indicates a truncated line.

Truncation instead of continuation happens whenever horizontal scrolling is in use, and optionally in all side-by-side windows (see section O. Multiple Windows). You can enable or disable truncation for a particular buffer with the command M-x toggle-truncate-lines.

See section J.12 Customization of Display, for additional variables that affect how text is displayed.

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