This page provides tips for learning to use Emacs and learning more about Emacs. See also EmacsNewbie.

Some people learn best by doing, not reading. To learn by doing, get yourself a text file to play around with. Make a backup copy if you’re nervous about losing it. But don’t worry – Emacs makes it hard to lose your work, and it has a great undo command: ‘C-/’ or `C-_’.

Emacs key bindings can be intimidating at first since they are quite distinct from those used in other applications and platforms. Keep the following advice in mind.

  1. Try to memorize only the most commonly used keys presented in the EmacsTutorial. You will learn other keys as you go.
  2. Use apropos and help to find commands to accomplish a task.
  3. You can run a command using ‘M-x’ and typing its name at the prompt.
  4. You can run a command again by using ‘M-x M-p’ to recall it.
  5. Use ‘C-h w’ to see if what keys a given command is bound to, if any.
  6. If you forget a key binding, try ‘C-h w M-p’ to peek at it again or use ‘C-h b’ to browse the bindings available in the current buffer.
  7. If you can’t burn a key binding into your brain with this approach, then you might not be using it enough to matter. Don’t worry about it.
  8. If you’re convinced after a fair amount of practice that a given key binding is really bad, then consider binding its command to a different key. But not before.

Some EmacsNewbies rush too quickly to add or change key bindings. This can mean avoiding to learn Emacs and spending more time configuring. Competency with ‘M-x’ and help are core Emacs skills for life. ‘M-x’ should become your command line in Emacs.

Emacs Lisp libraries and snippets that can help you learn Emacs

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