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Commands for Human Languages

The term text has two widespread meanings in our area of the computer field. One is data that is a sequence of characters. Any file that you edit with Emacs is text, in this sense of the word. The other meaning is more restrictive: a sequence of characters in a human language for humans to read (possibly after processing by a text formatter), as opposed to a program or commands for a program.

Human languages have syntactic/stylistic conventions that can be supported or used to advantage by editor commands: conventions involving words, sentences, paragraphs, and capital letters. This chapter describes Emacs commands for all of these things. There are also commands for filling, which means rearranging the lines of a paragraph to be approximately equal in length. The commands for moving over and killing words, sentences and paragraphs, while intended primarily for editing text, are also often useful for editing programs.

Emacs has several major modes for editing human-language text. If the file contains text pure and simple, use Text mode, which customizes Emacs in small ways for the syntactic conventions of text. Outline mode provides special commands for operating on text with an outline structure. See section Outline Mode.

For text which contains embedded commands for text formatters, Emacs has other major modes, each for a particular text formatter. Thus, for input to TeX, you would use TeX mode (see section TeX Mode). For input to nroff, use Nroff mode.

Instead of using a text formatter, you can edit formatted text in WYSIWYG style ("what you see is what you get"), with Enriched mode. Then the formatting appears on the screen in Emacs while you edit. See section Editing Formatted Text.

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