: Learning GNU Emacs, 3rd Edition

The Meta Key

The Meta Key

Emacs commands consist of a modifier, such as Control, which you hold down as you would the Shift key, and a series of keystrokes. For example, Control-x Control-s saves a file.

The other modifier Emacs uses is the Meta key. Few keyboards have keys labeled Meta. Because of this, in previous editions of this book, we refused to talk about the Meta key and substituted Esc in all our instructions.

In this edition, we want you to learn where the Meta key is. Typically Meta keys are to the immediate left and right of the Space bar. On Linux and Windows keyboards, the Alt key is the Meta key. On Mac keyboards, the Apple key, often called Command is the Meta key by default.

Why learn about and use the Meta key? The reason is speed. We emphasize key bindings in this book. New users may find icons and menus helpful, but in the long run, learning how to keep your hands on the keyboard allows you to gain speed and boosts your productivity. The Meta key will help you gain that speed and make it easy for you to use Emacs help, which refers to Meta.

Depending on your style, you may still prefer to use Esc instead of Meta. Just bear in mind that with Esc you press and release the key, then press the next key.

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