8.1 Inserting Text
To insert printing characters into the text you are editing, just type
them. This inserts the characters you type into the buffer at the
cursor (that is, at point; see Point). The cursor moves
forward, and any text after the cursor moves forward too. If the text
in the buffer is ‘FOOBAR’, with the cursor before the ‘B’,
then if you type XX, you get ‘FOOXXBAR’, with the cursor
still before the ‘B’.
To delete text you have just inserted, use the large key
labeled <DEL>, <BACKSPACE> or <DELETE> which is a short
distance above the <RET> or <ENTER> key. This is the key you
normally use, outside Emacs, for erasing the last character that you
typed. Regardless of the label on that key, Emacs thinks of it as
<DEL>, and that's what we call it in this manual.
The <DEL> key deletes the character before the cursor.
As a consequence, the cursor and all the characters after it move
backwards. If you type a printing character and then type <DEL>,
they cancel out.
On most computers, Emacs recognizes automatically which key ought to
be <DEL>, and sets it up that way. But in some cases, especially
with text-only terminals, you will need to tell Emacs which key to use
for that purpose. If the large key not far above the <RET> or
<ENTER> key doesn't delete backwards, you need to do this.
See DEL Does Not Delete, for an explanation of how.
Most PC keyboards have both a <BACKSPACE> key a short ways above
<RET> or <ENTER>, and a <DELETE> key elsewhere. On these
keyboards, Emacs supports when possible the usual convention that the
<BACKSPACE> key deletes backwards (it is <DEL>), while the
<DELETE> key deletes “forwards,” deleting the character after
point, the one underneath the cursor, like C-d (see below).
To end a line and start typing a new one, type <RET>. This
inserts a newline character in the buffer. If point is in the middle of
a line, the effect is to split the line. Typing <DEL> when the cursor is
at the beginning of a line deletes the preceding newline, thus joining
the line with the preceding line.
Emacs can split lines automatically when they become too long, if you
turn on a special minor mode called Auto Fill mode.
See Filling, for how to use Auto Fill mode.
If you prefer to have text characters replace (overwrite) existing
text rather than shove it to the right, you can enable Overwrite mode,
a minor mode. See Minor Modes.
Direct insertion works for printing characters and <SPC>, but other
characters act as editing commands and do not insert themselves. If you
need to insert a control character or a character whose code is above 200
octal, you must quote it by typing the character Control-q
quoted-insert) first. (This character's name is normally written
C-q for short.) There are two ways to use C-q:
When multibyte characters are enabled, if you specify a code in the
range 0200 through 0377 octal, C-q assumes that you intend to
use some ISO 8859-n character set, and converts the specified
code to the corresponding Emacs character code. See Enabling Multibyte. You select which of the ISO 8859 character sets to
use through your choice of language environment (see Language Environments).
To use decimal or hexadecimal instead of octal, set the variable
read-quoted-char-radix to 10 or 16. If the radix is greater than
10, some letters starting with a serve as part of a character
code, just like digits.
A numeric argument to C-q specifies how many copies of the
quoted character should be inserted (see Arguments).
Customization information: <DEL> in most modes runs the command
delete-backward-char; <RET> runs the command
self-inserting printing characters run the command
which inserts whatever character was typed to invoke it. Some major modes
rebind <DEL> to other commands.