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Before you begin

3. Before you begin

3.1. Getting started with Emacs and Emacspeak

Before you get started with Emacs and Emacspeak, you must install both. Most distributions come with Emacs, or you can download it from the Emacs home page at http://www.gnu.org/software/emacs/emacs.html. If you have not already installed Emacspeak, you can download it from http://emacspeak.sourceforge.net/. For Emacspeak installation information, please refer to the Emacspeak Installation HOWTO available at the Emacspeak home page, http://emacspeak.sourceforge.net.

If you've never used Emacs or Emacspeak before, you'll probably want to try some of the following tutorials:

  • "A gentle introduction to Emacspeak," by Gary Lawrence Murphy, http://emacspeak-guide.sourceforge.net/tutorial.html/. Gary provides a lighthearted but thorough introduction to Emacs and Emacspeak, focusing on users who are not familiar with either application. This introduction is recommend as a starting point, even before you do the Emacs tutorial (see next item).

  • "The (Official) Emacs Tutorial," by the Free Software Foundation. I call this the "official" tutorial because it is included with Emacs. To access this tutorial, start Emacs, then type C-h t (Control h t). This tutorial discusses the basic Emacs commands, including navigation, using Emacs as a text editor, and a bit about how Emacs works "under the hood." For new users this tutorial is strongly recommended, and even those users who are familiar with Emacs might find something they didn't already know.

  • "Emacspeak Tutorial," by Nita Van Zandt, available at http://www.mv.com/ipusers/vanzandt/emacspeak-tutorial-1.0.tar.gz. This tutorial helps new Emacspeak users get up and running and includes plenty of examples and step-by-step instructions. Once you've gotten a grasp of Emacs, this tutorial is a must.

  • "The Emacs Beginner's HOWTO," by Jeremy D. Zawodny. It is available at http://www.linuxdoc.org/HOWTO/Emacs-Beginner-HOWTO.html and is also bundled into some of the newer Linux distributions. The Beginner's HOWTO discusses many of the topics discussed in the Emacs tutorial, and also includes overviews of some of the more popular Emacs packages, including VM, Gnus, BBDB, and AucTeX (some of which are discussed in this HOWTO).

Finally, you might want to peruse http://www.gnusoftware.com/WebRing/zone.cgi?list, which provides a list of Emacs resource sites.

3.2. Emacs Command Conventions

Emacs commands are denoted by holding down either the Control key or the Meta key, then pressing one or more alphanumeric keys. On today's keyboards, the Alt key provides the same functionality as the old Meta key, or alternatively you can press the Esc key followed by the alphanumeric keys (you don't have to hold down the Esc key). Because different documents sometimes use different notation to denote these sequences, this section explains the notation used in this HOWTO. For consistency, this HOWTO uses the same notation as is used in the Emacs menus.

There are a few different types of key sequences you may see. The first is commonly written in the form C-x C-s. The letter "C," followed by a hypen, literally means "hold down the Control key" (the letter "M" would denote the Meta (Alt or Esc) key), and the additional letters denote specific commands. This example, which saves the current file, should be interpreted as, "Hold down the Control key, press the letter x followed by the letter s, then release the Control key."

Another common sequence is written in the form C-x d. Again, the letter "C" followed by a hyphen denotes holding down the Control key. However, because the second letter of the sequence does not have a "C-" in front of it, you do not hold down the Control key while pressing the second letter. Thus, this command should be interpreted as, "Hold down the Control key and type x, then release the Control key and type d." Sometimes you may see commands with more than one letter after them, such as C-e d w. The same rules apply: you should hold down the Control key, press "e," release the Control key, then press "d" and "w".

Finally, you may see commands that use actual words, such as M-x emacspeak-toggle-word-echo. Fortunately, most of these longer commands have a shorthand command (in this case, C-e d w. However, should you opt to type the entire command, you would hold down the Meta or Alt key, type x, release the Meta key, then type emacspeak-toggle-word-echo.

3.3. Getting Help

There are several different types of help you can get from within Emacs. If you are unfamiliar with Emacs or Emacspeak, refer to Getting Started with Emacs and Emacspeak in Getting started for information on several tutorials that can help get you up and running. If you've completed those tutorials and are looking for more in-depth help on specific topics, consider the following sources.

3.3.1. Getting help in Emacs

The most comprehensive source for Emacs is the GNU Emacs Manual, available at http://www.delorie.com/gnu/docs/emacs/emacs_toc.html. Not only does this document contain information on using Emacs as a text editor, but it also contains information on how to use many of the Emacs applications.

In addition, there are many help options within Emacs, all of which can be accessed using C-h. Some of these options, and the types of help they provide, are listed below.

C-h i

Invokes the online hypertext help system, also called "info." Not only does info contain Emacs-specific help, it also contains the man page help(refer to man pages, Viewing the Linux online man pages, for more information). When in info, you can type h to open a primer for first-time users. Type q to quit.

C-h a

Runs "apropos" and asks for a word to search on. It then gives you a list of all commands that contain that word.

C-h C-f

When you enter a command name, info jumps to the documentation for that command.

C-h c

When you press any key or key sequence, info provides the name of the function that key invokes.

C-h k

Similar to the C-h c command but provides more detailed information about the function or action that occurs when you press a key or sequence of keys.

C-h w

Similar to the C-h c and C-h k commands, except that when you type in the name of a command, it returns the key sequence needed to invoke that command. For example, if you type C-h w, then finder-by-keyword, it will return C-h p.

C-h p

Lists all the packages available in Emacs. Packages are defined by the applications they contain, for example hypermedia, games, tools (for programming), etc.

C-h n

Opens a history of user-visible changes to Emacs.

C-h F

Displays the Emacs frequently asked questions. Should you have questions about or problems with Emacs, you are urged to review the FAQ in an effort to cut down on noise in the Emacs-related newsgroups. Note that this FAQ is only for Emacs, and not Emacspeak.