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Next: , Previous: Keymaps, Up: Key Bindings

57.4.2 Prefix Keymaps

A prefix key such as C-x or <ESC> has its own keymap, which holds the definition for the event that immediately follows that prefix.

The definition of a prefix key is usually the keymap to use for looking up the following event. The definition can also be a Lisp symbol whose function definition is the following keymap; the effect is the same, but it provides a command name for the prefix key that can be used as a description of what the prefix key is for. Thus, the binding of C-x is the symbol Control-X-prefix, whose function definition is the keymap for C-x commands. The definitions of C-c, C-x, C-h and <ESC> as prefix keys appear in the global map, so these prefix keys are always available.

Aside from ordinary prefix keys, there is a fictitious “prefix key” which represents the menu bar; see Menu Bar, for special information about menu bar key bindings. Mouse button events that invoke pop-up menus are also prefix keys; see Menu Keymaps, for more details.

Some prefix keymaps are stored in variables with names:

  • ctl-x-map is the variable name for the map used for characters that follow C-x.
  • help-map is for characters that follow C-h.
  • esc-map is for characters that follow <ESC>. Thus, all Meta characters are actually defined by this map.
  • ctl-x-4-map is for characters that follow C-x 4.
  • mode-specific-map is for characters that follow C-c.

  Published under the terms of the GNU General Public License Design by Interspire