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GNU Emacs Manual

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B.1 Point

Within Emacs, the terminal's cursor shows the location at which editing commands will take effect. This location is called point. Many Emacs commands move point through the text, so that you can edit at different places in it. You can also place point by clicking mouse button 1.

While the cursor appears to point at a character, you should think of point as between two characters; it points before the character that appears 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.

Sometimes people speak of "the cursor" when they mean "point," or speak of commands that move point as "cursor motion" commands.

Text-only terminals have only one cursor, and when output is in progress it must appear where the output is being displayed. This does not mean that point is moving. It is only that Emacs has no way to show you the location of point except when the terminal is idle.

If you are editing several files in Emacs, each in its own buffer, each buffer has its own point location. A buffer that is not currently displayed remembers where point is in case you display it again later.

When Emacs displays multiple windows, each window has its own point location. On text-only terminals, the cursor shows the location of point in the selected window. On graphical terminals, Emacs shows a cursor in each window; the selected window's cursor is solid, and the other cursors are hollow. Either way, the cursor or cursors tell you which window is selected. If the same buffer appears in more than one window, each window has its own position for point in that buffer, and (when possible) its own cursor.

See section J.13 Displaying the Cursor, for customization options that control display of the cursor or cursors.

The term "point" comes from the character `.', which was the command in TECO (the language in which the original Emacs was written) for accessing the value now called "point."


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