8.4 Undoing Changes
You can undo all the recent changes in the buffer text, up to a
certain point. Each buffer records changes individually, and the undo
command always applies to the current buffer. Usually each editing
command makes a separate entry in the undo records, but some commands
query-replace make many entries, and very simple commands
such as self-inserting characters are often grouped to make undoing less
- C-x u
- Undo one batch of changes—usually, one command worth (
- The same.
- C-u C-x u
- Undo one batch of changes in the region.
The command C-x u (or C-_ or C-/) is how you undo.
The first time you give this command, it undoes the last change.
Point moves back to where it was before the command that made the
Consecutive repetitions of C-_ or C-x u undo earlier and
earlier changes, back to the limit of the undo information available.
If all recorded changes have already been undone, the undo command
displays an error message and does nothing.
Any command other than an undo command breaks the sequence of undo
commands. Starting from that moment, the previous undo commands become
ordinary changes that you can undo. Thus, to redo changes you have
undone, type C-f or any other command that will harmlessly break
the sequence of undoing, then type more undo commands. On the other
hand, if you want to ignore previous undo commands, use M-x
undo-only. This is like
undo, but will not redo changes
you have just undone.
Ordinary undo applies to all changes made in the current buffer. You
can also perform selective undo, limited to the current region
To do this, specify the region you want, then run the
command with a prefix argument (the value does not matter): C-u C-x
u or C-u C-_. This undoes the most recent change in the region.
To undo further changes in the same region, repeat the
command (no prefix argument is needed). In Transient Mark mode
(see Transient Mark), any use of
undo when there is an
active region performs selective undo; you do not need a prefix
If you notice that a buffer has been modified accidentally, the
easiest way to recover is to type C-_ repeatedly until the stars
disappear from the front of the mode line. At this time, all the
modifications you made have been canceled. Whenever an undo command
makes the stars disappear from the mode line, it means that the buffer
contents are the same as they were when the file was last read in or
If you do not remember whether you changed the buffer deliberately,
type C-_ once. When you see the last change you made undone, you
will see whether it was an intentional change. If it was an accident,
leave it undone. If it was deliberate, redo the change as described
Not all buffers record undo information. Buffers whose names start with
spaces don't; these buffers are used internally by Emacs and its extensions
to hold text that users don't normally look at or edit.
You cannot undo mere cursor motion; only changes in the buffer
contents save undo information. However, some cursor motion commands
set the mark, so if you use these commands from time to time, you can
move back to the neighborhoods you have moved through by popping the
mark ring (see Mark Ring).
When the undo information for a buffer becomes too large, Emacs
discards the oldest undo information from time to time (during garbage
collection). You can specify how much undo information to keep by
setting three variables:
undo-outer-limit. Their values are expressed in units of
bytes of space.
undo-limit sets a soft limit: Emacs keeps undo
data for enough commands to reach this size, and perhaps exceed it,
but does not keep data for any earlier commands beyond that. Its
default value is 20000. The variable
undo-strong-limit sets a
stricter limit: a previous command (not the most recent one) which
pushes the size past this amount is itself forgotten. The default
undo-strong-limit is 30000.
Regardless of the values of those variables, the most recent change
is never discarded unless it gets bigger than
(normally 3,000,000). At that point, Emacs discards the undo data and
warns you about it. This is the only situation in which you cannot
undo the last command. If this happens, you can increase the value of
undo-outer-limit to make it even less likely to happen in the
future. But if you didn't expect the command to create such large
undo data, then it is probably a bug and you should report it.
See Reporting Bugs.
The reason the
undo command has three key bindings, C-x
u, C-_ and C-/, is that it is worthy of a
single-character key, but C-x u is more straightforward for
beginners to type.