Emacs Help Functions

February 4, 2013

I used Emacs for many years without making full use of the help system. Instead, I just switched over to my browser and searched for what I needed. However, I’ve since developed a new appreciation for the Emacs help system and, to become more efficient at using it, I put together some notes. You can find them in my Advanced Emacs notes, in a new section titled “The Emacs Help System.” They cover everything from the Emacs Tutorial to more advanced commands such as apropos-command.

As an aside, during this big-picture look at the structure of the various help commands, I found one command that I use often to be missing. Since there are key bindings for what seems like all of the other describe- commands, I expected that there would be a pre-defined key binding for describe-char. In developing markdown-mode, I need to routinely inspect the properties of a character, such as the location, fontification, and syntax so using M-x describe-char becomes tedious. It turns out there is no such binding, so I wanted to pick something intuitive that wasn’t already used. After looking at the list of key bindings with prefix C-h, it turns out that the only sensible free key combination is C-h C-r (r for char):

(global-set-key (kbd "C-h C-r") 'describe-char)