Emacs Starter

  • If you are a first time user comming from Windows, I will sugest you turn on pc-selection-mode, pc-binding-mode, and maybe cua.el as well. It will override the more historicaly interesting key bindings of emacs to the advange of more current ones. To do that, happen this .emacs to the end of your .emacs and drop cua.el in your home directory, right beside your .emacs. Under windows, your home directory is c:\, unless you set it manually to something else with the HOME environment variable.

Table of the keys you'll use all the time. Do "C-h k" (as in Ctrl-Help, Key binding) to get the description of each key.

key seq'ce    function name             what it does
-----------   -----------------------   -----------------------------
C-g           keyboard-quit             "stop everything, I'm confused",
                                        Hit (twice for good mesure) before you try any of the folowing.
C-x C-c       save-buffers-kill-emacs   leave the program

C-x C-f       find-file                 open
C-x C-s       save-buffer               save
C-x C-w       write-file                save as
C-x k         kill-buffer               close file
C-x b         switch-to-buffer          select another open file

C-a           begining-of-line
C-e           end-of-line

C-Space       set-mark-command          mark the start of the selection
C-w           kill-region               cut the text between the cursor and the mark to the clipboard
M-w           kill-ring-save            copy 
C-y           yank                      paste
C-x C-x       exchange-point-and-mark   flip the mark and the cursor

Other useful stuff

C-x 1        delete-other-windows        one window
C-x 2        split-window-verticaly
C-x 0        delete-window               close the view, but not the file
C-x o        other-window

(Or if you prefer to use real X windows:)

C-x 5 2      make-frame-command          (Emacs calls panels "windows" and windows "frames". Go figure.)
C-x 5 0      delete-frame                close the X-window but not the file

C-h a        apropos-command             search for a function by name and description
M-x          execute-function            run a command by name, cf. the second column of this table

C-h f        describe-function
C-h k        describe-key                tells you which function is run by a key
C-h m        describe-mode               discus the special key bindings that were set for editing the current file
C-h i        info                        the Gnu online manual. In particular, typing
                                         C-h i m e m a c s RET gives you the whole damned emacs manual.

<none yet>   global-set-key              remap keys as you wish
  • The "Meta" shift key, "M-", might be the one marked "Alt" or (if you're on a Linux box and Windoze isn't dozing on it) the one with the Windoze logo. If in doubt, you can use one press of the "Esc" key instead - Emacs knows that meta keys are all over the place and allows "Esc then x" for "M-x", for all x.
  • I also found another such table, which goes into many other features of emacs which I never or seldom ever use.