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GNU Emacs Manual

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E.2 Editing in the Minibuffer

The minibuffer is an Emacs buffer (albeit a peculiar one), and the usual Emacs commands are available for editing the text of an argument you are entering.

Since RET in the minibuffer is defined to exit the minibuffer, you can't use it to insert a newline in the minibuffer. To do that, type C-o or C-q C-j. (Recall that a newline is really the character control-J.)

The minibuffer has its own window which always has space on the screen but acts as if it were not there when the minibuffer is not in use. When the minibuffer is in use, its window is just like the others; you can switch to another window with C-x o, edit text in other windows and perhaps even visit more files, before returning to the minibuffer to submit the argument. You can kill text in another window, return to the minibuffer window, and then yank the text to use it in the argument. See section O. Multiple Windows.

There are some restrictions on the use of the minibuffer window, however. You cannot switch buffers in it--the minibuffer and its window are permanently attached. Also, you cannot split or kill the minibuffer window. But you can make it taller in the normal fashion with C-x ^.

The minibuffer window expands vertically as necessary to hold the text that you put in the minibuffer, if resize-mini-windows is non-nil. If resize-mini-windows is t, the window is always resized to fit the size of the text it displays. If resize-mini-windows is the symbol grow-only, the window grows when the size of displayed text increases, but shrinks (back to the normal size) only when the minibuffer becomes inactive.

The variable max-mini-window-height controls the maximum height for resizing the minibuffer window: a floating-point number specifies a fraction of the frame's height; an integer specifies the maximum number of lines; nil means do not resize the minibuffer window automatically. The default value is 0.25.

If while in the minibuffer you issue a command that displays help text of any sort in another window, you can use the C-M-v command while in the minibuffer to scroll the help text. This lasts until you exit the minibuffer. This feature is especially useful when you display a buffer listing possible completions. See section O.3 Using Other Windows.

Emacs normally disallows most commands that use the minibuffer while the minibuffer is active. This rule is to prevent recursive minibuffers from confusing novice users. If you want to be able to use such commands in the minibuffer, set the variable enable-recursive-minibuffers to a non-nil value.


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