Have Emacs questions? Ask emacs!

April 2022

Anyone who works with Emacs has many questions about it.

I've been using Emacs for over fifteen years. Packages I've created have over 50,000 downloads, I've presented at EmacsConf 2020, and I co-organize EmacsNYC. Over all this time learning about Emacs, I've had a lot of questions. It turns out that the best place to ask questions about Emacs…is Emacs!

Here's five ways to ask Emacs questions.

  1. The Emacs tutorial – C-h t

    Emacs's built-in tutorial is incredibly well-written. It takes the reader from zero knowledge all the way through undo and redo, autosaving, and window management. It's even interactive!

  2. Show functions and variables – C-h f, C-h v

    Press C-h f, then type the name of a function to view the documentation for that function. C-h v views a variable's documentation. If Emacs's source is installed, you can click a hyperlink to go the function's source.

    Emacs's documentation is comprehensive. Like you might expect, it explains what a function does and what its arguments are. But more than that, the documentation viewer even also tells you what keypresses that function is bound to! This works not only for built-in key bindings, but any you have added as well.

  3. Show what function is bound to a particular keypress – C-h k

    To ask Emacs what will happen when a certain key or series of keys is pressed, type C-h k, then the key you are interested in. This brings up the same detailed documentation from C-h f.

  4. Show what keys are bound in the current buffer – C-h b

    If you don't know what you can do in the current buffer, ask Emacs! C-h b lists all the functions currently bound.

    If you have a multi-key binding, you might not know what comes next. After beginning any prefix, press C-h to show bound keys after that prefix. Even an Emacs expert can find something new with C-x C-h.

  5. View documentation about active major and minor modes – C-h m

    To see documentation for the modes that are currently active, ask Emacs! C-h m displays the mode descriptions plus bound keys.

Emacs inspires many questions. What's the quickest way to answer them? Ask Emacs.

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