: Learning GNU Emacs, 3rd Edition

2.2 Deleting Text

Before you start practicing deletion commands, you might want to know the undo command, which is discussed fully later in this chapter. Typing C-_ or C-x u undoes your last edit; typing undo again undoes the edit before that one, and so on.

Emacs provides many ways to delete text. The simplest way to delete text is to press the Del key, which deletes the character immediately to the left of the cursor. See Figure 2-4 for possible locations of the Del key on your keyboard. It is sometimes referred to as the Backspace key. Del is easiest to define by what it does: it deletes the previous character. If you're typing and you decide to erase the last character you typed, what key do you reach for? That's the key Emacs refers to as Del.

Emacs provides a number of other deletion commandsperhaps too many for your taste, although you'll eventually find a reason to use most of them. For example, C-d (for delete-character) deletes the character under the cursor. The command for deleting the next word is M-d (for kill-word). Once again, note how the Meta key augments the command: C-d operates on a character, and M-d operates on a word.

Emacs has commands to delete the next or previous word, sentence, and paragraph. By their names, you can guess what they do when you're between words, sentences, or paragraphs. If you're in the middle of an entity, however, they do something a little surprising: they delete a portion of the current word, sentence, or paragraph, backward or forward depending on whether the command deletes previous or next. For example, here's how M-d acts differently depending on where the cursor is.

If the cursor is here: M-d makes this edit:
It was the worst of times It was the w_of times
It was the worst of times It was the_of times
It was the worst of times It was the wors_of times

Similarly, if you are in the middle of a word and ask Emacs to delete the previous word (M-Del, for backward-kill-word), it deletes from the cursor position back to the beginning of the current word.

If you want to delete an entire line or part of a line, use the command C-k (for kill-line). This command deletes everything from the cursor to the end of the line. Typing C-k on a blank line deletes the line itself. So, it usually takes two C-k's to delete a line: one to delete the text and one to delete the resulting blank line. If you want to delete everything from the beginning of the line up to the cursor, try the more complex incantation Meta - C-k (i.e., hold down Meta, followed by a hyphen, and then C-k).

You can also use C-k to join two lines. If you're at the end of a line, C-k deletes the newline character, effectively making two lines into one long line.

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