Launch emacs like this:
a linux thing, not an emacs thing. This way, emacs
launches but the terminal comes back for more commands
instead of waiting for emacs to finish.
If you want to edit or create a file at the same time
you're launching emacs, put the file name in before the
& sign. For example:
If things get strange in emacs, hit ctrl-g. If that
doesn't clear thuings up, try ctr-]. In particular, if you
change your mind mid-command and want to escape out of the
command, use these.
Insert vs. Overwrite
Emacs works in either "insert" or "overwrite" mode just
like most text editors and word processors. The
"insert" key on your keyboard toggles between them. On
the bottom of the window you'll see "Ovwrt" when you're
in overwrite mode. Play with that.
Pressing ctrl and using the left or right arrows
jumps you word-by word through a line. Pressing ctrl
with the up or down arrows jumps you to chunks of text
separated by blank lines.
ctrl-a jumps you to the start of the line you're on, and
ctrl-e jumps you to the end.
Cutting and Pasting
The GUI's cut and paste works with emacs, but emacs
also has its own, separate system. ctrl-space sets a
start point, move with arrows to the end point of the
region you want to mark (it should highlight).
Then ctrl-w cuts the highlighted region into
the emacs version of the clipboard,
and ctrl y "yanks" it out at whatever point you
move the cursor to. If you want to copy the highlighted
region to the emacs version of the clipboard without
cutting it out of the text, that's esc-w.
My Favorite — ctrl-k
An alternative to marking a region is to use ctrl-k,
which kills the line from the point of your cursor to
the end of the line, adding it to the emacs version of
the clipboard. You can
do this multiple times to add multiple lines to the
buffer. Then use ctrl-y ("yank") as before.
Opening and Saving Files
ctrl-x ctrl-s saves the current buffer. ctrl-x
ctrl-w does "save as". ctrl-x ctrl-f lets you open a new buffer
(but wants you to give it a name and directory at the
same time) or an existing file.
Emacs Buffers vs. Files
Emacs distinguishes between "files" and "buffers".
A file is something that exists in a directory
somewhere. The thing that you are dealing with in emacs
is a "buffer" — a copy of the file in emacs's
memory. So when you type, you are changing the buffer,
and only by saving the buffer to the file does the file
You can have multiple buffers open in emacs at the same time.
There's a "Buffers" menu you can use to switch between
them, and you can split the window to show multiple
buffers: ctrl-x 1 gives you a single buffer in the
window, ctrl-x 2 splits the window horizontally to show
two buffers, and ctrl-x 3 splits
the window vertically to show