ARCHIVED: In Emacs, what are the echo area and minibuffer, and what are they used for?

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The echo area is the line at the bottom of the Emacs screen, below the mode line of the bottom window. The program uses it to echo keystrokes, report errors, and display various prompts and messages. There is always just one echo area in an Emacs screen.

When you enter commands that require arguments, the echo area displays the minibuffer. For example, when you press Esc and x, "M-x" will appear in the minibuffer and any arguments will be echoed as soon as you type them. Depending on the command, arguments in the minibuffer can be the names of Emacs commands, filenames, Lisp functions, etc.

Normally, Emacs will not echo your keystrokes unless you pause while issuing a command. If you do pause while pressing the keys to initiate a command, the keystrokes you have pressed will appear in the minibuffer.

For example, if you want to move the cursor to the end of the document in the buffer, you normally press the Esc key and then the > key. If you pressed these two keys in quick succession, Emacs would not echo your keystrokes in the minibuffer. However, if you press the Esc key and then pause for a second, you will see "ESC-" in the minibuffer. Then, when you press the > key, the command will execute.

The echo area also displays errors or messages. Errors are announced with a beep or flash and will cancel any command you are entering. Informative messages will not cause Emacs to beep or flash, and will not cancel any commands you are entering.

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Last modified on 2018-01-18 10:49:13.