Emacs Cheat Sheet

Screen navigation

  • Quit
    • C-x C-c
  • Move down a screen
    • C-v
  • Move up a screen
    • M-v
  • forward one char
    • C-f
  • backwards one char
    • C-b
  • up one line
    • C-p
  • down one line
    • C-n
  • forward one word
    • M-f
  • Backwards one word
    • M-b
  • Move to the other window
    • C-x o
  • Move forward one page
    • C-v
  • Move backwards one page
    • M-v
  • Reset page around cursor with it at the center.
    • C-l
  • Move forward one word
    • M-f
  • Move backwards one word
    • M-b
  • Move to the beginning of a line.
    • C-a
  • Move to the beginning of a sentence.
    • M-a
  • Move to the end of a line.
    • C-e
  • Move to the end of a sentence.
    • M-e
  • Move to the beginning of the document
    • M-< - Move
    • Please note that you also need to press the shift key since < is above the , key.
  • Move to the end of the document
    • M-> - Move
  • Show only one window
    • C-x 1
  • Horizontally split the current window
    • C-x 2
  • Vertically split the current window
    • C-x 3

Moving around one line at a time:

                      Previous line, C-p
Backward, C-b .... Current cursor position .... Forward, C-f
                        Next line, C-n

Emulating Vim’s “gg top” Mnemonic

In Vim when you are in normal mode you can jump to the beginning of a document by pressing gg and the end by pressing G. Here are some keybindings for Emacs that are similar:

(global-set-key (kbd "C-x gg") 'beginning-of-buffer)
(global-set-key (kbd "C-x G")  'end-of-buffer)
  • Incremental Search

    • C-s
    • To find the next match just keep pressing C-s
  • M-x replace-string

    • Find and replace on every instance of a string from the cursor position to the end of the document.

File Management

  • Creating a new file
    • Find it (C-x C-f)
    • Type in the location where you want to save it.
  • Saving a file
    • C-x C-s


Registers are good for quickly storing and finding all kinds of things, but I mostly use them to open files that I use a lot. For example, I can put the following in my .emacs file:

; Org index
(set-register ?i (cons 'file "c:/td/gtd/org/index.org"))
; .emacs file
(set-register ?e (cons 'file "~/.emacs"))

…and then open the files like this:

C-x r j i

C-x r j e


To recover a file, open it and then type M-x recover-file.

Text Management


  • Auto wrap a line by adding a carriage return
    • Similar to gqip in Vim
    • M-q
  • Selecting Text
    • Simply go to the beginning, press C-Space and then navigate to the end position.
    • This is a lot like a visual select in Vim.

Copying And Pasting With The Kill Ring

<DEL> in Emacs parlance means “Backspace”, not “Delete”. For that, they use <DELETE>.

  • <DEL>
    • Delete the character just before the cursor. Using the <DEL> key does not add the text to the kill ring, so avoid it when you can.
  • C-d
    • Delete the next character after the cursor
  • M-<DEL>
    • Kill the word immediately before the cursor
  • M-d
    • Kill the next word after the cursor
  • C-k
    • Kill from the cursor position to end of line
  • M-k
    • Kill to the end of the current sentence
  • C-w
    • Kill selected text
  • C-y
    • Yanks the last text killed. With Emacs, “yank” means “yank it off of the kill ring”, not “cut” like it does in Vim. If you kill a bunch of text repeatedly, then one yank pastes all of that text back.
  • M-y
    • Allows you to “cycle through” your kill ring. If the text retured by C-y isn’t what you want, jus type this until you see the text you want.

CUA Mode

CUA Mode allows you to use C-c and C-v when you have selected text. Here’s more information:

…and here’s what I added to me .emacs file:

(cua-mode t)
(setq cua-auto-tabify-recptangles nil) ;; Don't tabify after rectangle commands
(transient-mark-mode 1) ;; No region when it is not highlighted
(setq cua-keep-region-after-copy t) ;; Standard Windows behavior

Editing Search Buffers

One of my favorite features of Emacs is how easy it is to edit the results of a search buffer. Here’s how you do that in different scenarios.


  1. First find the files using find-name-dired.
  2. Then use wdired to edit the results.


Interrogating A Variable VAles

If you want to find out the current value of a variable, just type the following:

C-h v <var name>

For example:

C-h v org-agenda-files

File Encodings

I can’t do it better than Xah :-)


Remove Version Page On Startup

; http://askubuntu.com/a/4824
(setq inhibit-startup-screen t)
(add-hook 'emacs-startup-hook
  (lambda () (delete-other-windows)) t)

Change The Default Web Browser

This is all I had to add to my .emacs file on my Windows 7 machine to start using Firefox instead of IE:

(setq browse-url-browser-function 'browse-url-firefox)

Show Line Numbers

M-x linum-mode

Toggle Word Wrap

This is similar to the :set nowrap command in Vim, except it toggles the option:

M-x toggle-truncate-lines