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Next: , Previous: Acknowledgments, Up: Top

1 The Organization of the Screen

On a text-only terminal, the Emacs display occupies the whole screen. On the X Window System, Emacs creates its own X windows to use. We use the term frame to mean an entire text-only screen or an entire X window used by Emacs. Emacs uses both kinds of frames in the same way to display your editing. Emacs normally starts out with just one frame, but you can create additional frames if you wish. See Frames.

When you start Emacs, the entire frame except for the top and bottom is devoted to the text you are editing. This area is called the window. At the top there is normally a menu bar where you can access a series of menus; then there may be a tool bar, a row of icons that perform editing commands if you click on them. Below this, the window begins. The last line is a special echo area or minibuffer window, where prompts appear and where you enter information when Emacs asks for it. See below for more information about these special lines.

You can subdivide the large text window horizontally or vertically into multiple text windows, each of which can be used for a different file (see Windows). In this manual, the word “window” always refers to the subdivisions of a frame within Emacs.

At any time, one window is the selected window. On graphical terminals, the selected window normally shows a more prominent cursor (solid and blinking) while other windows show a weaker cursor (such as a hollow box). On text terminals, which have just one cursor, that cursor appears in the selected window.

Most Emacs commands implicitly apply to the text in the selected window (though mouse commands generally operate on whatever window you click them in, whether selected or not). The other windows display text for reference only, unless/until you select them. If you use multiple frames under the X Window System, then giving the input focus to a particular frame selects a window in that frame.

Each window's last line is a mode line, which describes what is going on in that window. It appears in different color and/or a “3D” box, if the terminal supports that; its contents normally begin with ‘--:--  *scratch*’ when Emacs starts. The mode line displays status information such as what buffer is being displayed above it in the window, what major and minor modes are in use, and whether the buffer contains unsaved changes.

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