Minimal emacs

The emacs text editor is extremely powerful and has so many features, no one uses them all. But you can run any text editor in the world, knowing only six procedures. Here they are for emacs, the one we use in our Unix courses:

1. Starting the editor

Let's create a new file junk3. You can do this by typing a command in an terminal window or with the mouse from the Applications menu. The command is

   emacs junk3 &
You should see a mostly empty new window on your screen with the title emacs.... Position this window so that both it and this tutorial window are visible at the same time. (The ampersand & in this command is useful, since it frees up the parent terminal window for further commands.)

To use the window menu, select Applications->Programming->Emacs to open the emacs window. Then inside the emacs window, use the File->Open File pulldown menu and type the name of the file that you want to open, followed by the “Enter” key.

2. Inserting text

Click with the mouse in the emacs window where you want to make the insertion. Then simply start typing. Type a couple of lines of anything.

3. Navigating

To move around in the window, either point and click with the Mouse (left button), or use the arrow keys. Practise this operation. Insert some more text. Notice that insertions go directly under the cursor position.

4. Deleting text

There are two ways to delete text. The Backspace key deletes one character immediately before the cursor. The Ctrl-d key combination deletes one character immediately beneath the cursor. (Notice that Ctrl-d had an entirely different meaning in the terminal window, namely, “end-of-file”.)

5. Saving your work

To save your work, type Ctrl-x Ctrl-s or select File, Save Buffer in the pulldown menu.

6. Exiting the editor

To exit emacs, type Ctrl-x Ctrl-c or select File, Quit in the pulldown menu. If you forgot to save your work, emacs will ask you if you want to in the space at the bottom of the window. Type y at the prompt to signify that you want it saved.

Use ls and more in the terminal window to verify that your new file is as expected. After you have created the file junk3 as specified, try editing it. Do this by starting the editor with the same command emacs junk3 & that you used to create it in the first place. Now you should see your old file as it was when you left it.

Emacs pull-down menus

The emacs pull-down menus access a variety of functions. The various keyboard shortcuts are also indicated so you can learn the most common ones.

Emacs tutorial

If you want to learn more now, the emacs editor has its own tutorial that is accessed by typing Ctrl-h t. Try it.

When you are done practising, exit emacs using Ctrl-x Ctrl-c or use the pulldown menu.