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GNU Emacs Manual

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G.4 Apropos

A more sophisticated sort of question to ask is, "What are the commands for working with files?" To ask this question, type C-h a file RET, which displays a list of all command names that contain `file', including copy-file, find-file, and so on. With each command name appears a brief description of how to use the command, and what keys you can currently invoke it with. For example, it would say that you can invoke find-file by typing C-x C-f. The a in C-h a stands for "Apropos"; C-h a runs the command apropos-command. This command normally checks only commands (interactive functions); if you specify a prefix argument, it checks noninteractive functions as well.

Because C-h a looks only for functions whose names contain the string you specify, you must use ingenuity in choosing the string. If you are looking for commands for killing backwards and C-h a kill-backwards RET doesn't reveal any, don't give up. Try just kill, or just backwards, or just back. Be persistent. Also note that you can use a regular expression as the argument, for more flexibility (see section K.5 Syntax of Regular Expressions).

Here is a set of arguments to give to C-h a that covers many classes of Emacs commands, since there are strong conventions for naming the standard Emacs commands. By giving you a feel for the naming conventions, this set should also serve to aid you in developing a technique for picking apropos strings.

char, line, word, sentence, paragraph, region, page, sexp, list, defun, rect, buffer, frame, window, face, file, dir, register, mode, beginning, end, forward, backward, next, previous, up, down, search, goto, kill, delete, mark, insert, yank, fill, indent, case, change, set, what, list, find, view, describe, default.

To list all user variables that match a regexp, use the command M-x apropos-variable. This command shows only user variables and customization options by default; if you specify a prefix argument, it checks all variables.

To list all Lisp symbols that contain a match for a regexp, not just the ones that are defined as commands, use the command M-x apropos instead of C-h a. This command does not check key bindings by default; specify a numeric argument if you want it to check them.

The apropos-documentation command is like apropos except that it searches documentation strings as well as symbol names for matches for the specified regular expression.

The apropos-value command is like apropos except that it searches symbols' values for matches for the specified regular expression. This command does not check function definitions or property lists by default; specify a numeric argument if you want it to check them.

If the variable apropos-do-all is non-nil, the commands above all behave as if they had been given a prefix argument.

If you want more information about a function definition, variable or symbol property listed in the Apropos buffer, you can click on it with Mouse-2 or move there and type RET.


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