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Visiting Files

C-x C-f
Visit a file (find-file).
C-x C-r
Visit a file for viewing, without allowing changes to it (find-file-read-only).
C-x C-v
Visit a different file instead of the one visited last (find-alternate-file).
C-x 4 f
Visit a file, in another window (find-file-other-window). Don't alter what is displayed in the selected window.
C-x 5 f
Visit a file, in a new frame (find-file-other-frame). Don't alter what is displayed in the selected frame.
M-x find-file-literally
Visit a file with no conversion of the contents.

Visiting a file means copying its contents into an Emacs buffer so you can edit them. Emacs makes a new buffer for each file that you visit. We say that this buffer is visiting the file that it was created to hold. Emacs constructs the buffer name from the file name by throwing away the directory, keeping just the name proper. For example, a file named `/usr/rms/emacs.tex' would get a buffer named `emacs.tex'. If there is already a buffer with that name, a unique name is constructed by appending `<2>', `<3>', or so on, using the lowest number that makes a name that is not already in use.

Each window's mode line shows the name of the buffer that is being displayed in that window, so you can always tell what buffer you are editing.

The changes you make with editing commands are made in the Emacs buffer. They do not take effect in the file that you visited, or any place permanent, until you save the buffer. Saving the buffer means that Emacs writes the current contents of the buffer into its visited file. See section Saving Files.

If a buffer contains changes that have not been saved, we say the buffer is modified. This is important because it implies that some changes will be lost if the buffer is not saved. The mode line displays two stars near the left margin to indicate that the buffer is modified.

To visit a file, use the command C-x C-f (find-file). Follow the command with the name of the file you wish to visit, terminated by a RET.

The file name is read using the minibuffer (see section The Minibuffer), with defaulting and completion in the standard manner (see section File Names). While in the minibuffer, you can abort C-x C-f by typing C-g.

Your confirmation that C-x C-f has completed successfully is the appearance of new text on the screen and a new buffer name in the mode line. If the specified file does not exist and could not be created, or cannot be read, then you get an error, with an error message displayed in the echo area.

If you visit a file that is already in Emacs, C-x C-f does not make another copy. It selects the existing buffer containing that file. However, before doing so, it checks that the file itself has not changed since you visited or saved it last. If the file has changed, a warning message is printed. See section Protection against Simultaneous Editing.

What if you want to create a new file? Just visit it. Emacs prints `(New File)' in the echo area, but in other respects behaves as if you had visited an existing empty file. If you make any changes and save them, the file is created.

If the file you specify is actually a directory, C-x C-f invokes Dired, the Emacs directory browser, so that you can "edit" the contents of the directory (see section Dired, the Directory Editor). Dired is a convenient way to delete, look at, or operate on the files in the directory. However, if the variable find-file-run-dired is nil, then it is an error to try to visit a directory.

If you visit a file that the operating system won't let you modify, Emacs makes the buffer read-only, so that you won't go ahead and make changes that you'll have trouble saving afterward. You can make the buffer writable with C-x C-q (vc-toggle-read-only). See section Miscellaneous Buffer Operations.

Occasionally you might want to visit a file as read-only in order to protect yourself from entering changes accidentally; do so by visiting the file with the command C-x C-r (find-file-read-only).

If you visit a nonexistent file unintentionally (because you typed the wrong file name), use the C-x C-v command (find-alternate-file) to visit the file you really wanted. C-x C-v is similar to C-x C-f, but it kills the current buffer (after first offering to save it if it is modified). When it reads the file name to visit, it inserts the entire default file name in the buffer, with point just after the directory part; this is convenient if you made a slight error in typing the name.

If you find a file which exists but cannot be read, C-x C-f signals an error.

C-x 4 f (find-file-other-window) is like C-x C-f except that the buffer containing the specified file is selected in another window. The window that was selected before C-x 4 f continues to show the same buffer it was already showing. If this command is used when only one window is being displayed, that window is split in two, with one window showing the same buffer as before, and the other one showing the newly requested file. See section Multiple Windows.

C-x 5 f (find-file-other-frame) is similar, but opens a new frame, or makes visible any existing frame showing the file you seek. This feature is available only when you are using a window system. See section Frames and X Windows.

If you wish to edit a file as a sequence of characters with no special encoding or conversion, use the M-x find-file-literally command. It visits a file, like C-x C-f, but does not do format conversion (see section Editing Formatted Text), character code conversion (see section Coding Systems), or automatic uncompression (see section Accessing Compressed Files). If you already have visited the same file in the usual (non-literal) manner, this command asks you whether to visit it literally instead.

Two special hook variables allow extensions to modify the operation of visiting files. Visiting a file that does not exist runs the functions in the list find-file-not-found-hooks; this variable holds a list of functions, and the functions are called one by one until one of them returns non-nil. Any visiting of a file, whether extant or not, expects find-file-hooks to contain a list of functions and calls them all, one by one. In both cases the functions receive no arguments. Of these two variables, find-file-not-found-hooks takes effect first. These variables are not normal hooks, and their names end in `-hooks' rather than `-hook' to indicate that fact. See section Hooks.

There are several ways to specify automatically the major mode for editing the file (see section How Major Modes are Chosen), and to specify local variables defined for that file (see section Local Variables in Files).

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