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28.20 Textual Scrolling

Textual scrolling means moving the text up or down through a window. It works by changing the window's display-start location. It may also change the value of window-point to keep point on the screen (see Window Point).

The basic textual scrolling functions are scroll-up (which scrolls forward) and scroll-down (which scrolls backward). In these function names, “up” and “down” refer to the direction of motion of the buffer text relative to the window. Imagine that the text is written on a long roll of paper and that the scrolling commands move the paper up and down. Thus, if you are looking at the middle of a buffer and repeatedly call scroll-down, you will eventually see the beginning of the buffer.

Unfortunately, this sometimes causes confusion, because some people tend to think in terms of the opposite convention: they imagine the window moving over text that remains in place, so that “down” commands take you to the end of the buffer. This convention is consistent with fact that such a command is bound to a key named <PageDown> on modern keyboards.

Textual scrolling functions (aside from scroll-other-window) have unpredictable results if the current buffer is not the one displayed in the selected window. See Current Buffer.

If the window contains a row taller than the height of the window (for example in the presence of a large image), the scroll functions will adjust the window's vertical scroll position to scroll the partially visible row. Lisp callers can disable this feature by binding the variable auto-window-vscroll to nil (see Vertical Scrolling).

— Command: scroll-up &optional count

This function scrolls forward by count lines in the selected window.

If count is negative, it scrolls backward instead. If count is nil (or omitted), the distance scrolled is next-screen-context-lines lines less than the height of the window's text area.

If the selected window cannot be scrolled any further, this function signals an error. Otherwise, it returns nil.

— Command: scroll-down &optional count

This function scrolls backward by count lines in the selected window.

If count is negative, it scrolls forward instead. In other respects, it behaves the same way as scroll-up does.

— Command: scroll-up-command &optional count

This behaves like scroll-up, except that if the selected window cannot be scrolled any further and the value of the variable scroll-error-top-bottom is t, it tries to move to the end of the buffer instead. If point is already there, it signals an error.

— Command: scroll-down-command &optional count

This behaves like scroll-down, except that if the selected window cannot be scrolled any further and the value of the variable scroll-error-top-bottom is t, it tries to move to the beginning of the buffer instead. If point is already there, it signals an error.

— Command: scroll-other-window &optional count

This function scrolls the text in another window upward count lines. Negative values of count, or nil, are handled as in scroll-up.

You can specify which buffer to scroll by setting the variable other-window-scroll-buffer to a buffer. If that buffer isn't already displayed, scroll-other-window displays it in some window.

When the selected window is the minibuffer, the next window is normally the leftmost one immediately above it. You can specify a different window to scroll, when the minibuffer is selected, by setting the variable minibuffer-scroll-window. This variable has no effect when any other window is selected. When it is non-nil and the minibuffer is selected, it takes precedence over other-window-scroll-buffer. See Definition of minibuffer-scroll-window.

When the minibuffer is active, it is the next window if the selected window is the one at the bottom right corner. In this case, scroll-other-window attempts to scroll the minibuffer. If the minibuffer contains just one line, it has nowhere to scroll to, so the line reappears after the echo area momentarily displays the message ‘End of buffer’.

— Variable: other-window-scroll-buffer

If this variable is non-nil, it tells scroll-other-window which buffer's window to scroll.

— User Option: scroll-margin

This option specifies the size of the scroll margin—a minimum number of lines between point and the top or bottom of a window. Whenever point gets within this many lines of the top or bottom of the window, redisplay scrolls the text automatically (if possible) to move point out of the margin, closer to the center of the window.

— User Option: scroll-conservatively

This variable controls how scrolling is done automatically when point moves off the screen (or into the scroll margin). If the value is a positive integer n, then redisplay scrolls the text up to n lines in either direction, if that will bring point back into proper view. This behavior is called conservative scrolling. Otherwise, scrolling happens in the usual way, under the control of other variables such as scroll-up-aggressively and scroll-down-aggressively.

The default value is zero, which means that conservative scrolling never happens.

— User Option: scroll-down-aggressively

The value of this variable should be either nil or a fraction f between 0 and 1. If it is a fraction, that specifies where on the screen to put point when scrolling down. More precisely, when a window scrolls down because point is above the window start, the new start position is chosen to put point f part of the window height from the top. The larger f, the more aggressive the scrolling.

A value of nil is equivalent to .5, since its effect is to center point. This variable automatically becomes buffer-local when set in any fashion.

— User Option: scroll-up-aggressively

Likewise, for scrolling up. The value, f, specifies how far point should be placed from the bottom of the window; thus, as with scroll-up-aggressively, a larger value scrolls more aggressively.

— User Option: scroll-step

This variable is an older variant of scroll-conservatively. The difference is that if its value is n, that permits scrolling only by precisely n lines, not a smaller number. This feature does not work with scroll-margin. The default value is zero.

— User Option: scroll-preserve-screen-position

If this option is t, whenever a scrolling command moves point off-window, Emacs tries to adjust point to keep the cursor at its old vertical position in the window, rather than the window edge.

If the value is non-nil and not t, Emacs adjusts point to keep the cursor at the same vertical position, even if the scrolling command didn't move point off-window.

This option affects all scroll commands that have a non-nil scroll-command symbol property.

— User Option: next-screen-context-lines

The value of this variable is the number of lines of continuity to retain when scrolling by full screens. For example, scroll-up with an argument of nil scrolls so that this many lines at the bottom of the window appear instead at the top. The default value is 2.

— User Option: scroll-error-top-bottom

If this option is nil (the default), scroll-up-command and scroll-down-command simply signal an error when no more scrolling is possible.

If the value is t, these commands instead move point to the beginning or end of the buffer (depending on scrolling direction); only if point is already on that position do they signal an error.

— Command: recenter &optional count

This function scrolls the text in the selected window so that point is displayed at a specified vertical position within the window. It does not “move point” with respect to the text.

If count is a non-negative number, that puts the line containing point count lines down from the top of the window. If count is a negative number, then it counts upward from the bottom of the window, so that −1 stands for the last usable line in the window.

If count is nil (or a non-nil list), recenter puts the line containing point in the middle of the window. If count is nil, this function may redraw the frame, according to the value of recenter-redisplay.

When recenter is called interactively, count is the raw prefix argument. Thus, typing C-u as the prefix sets the count to a non-nil list, while typing C-u 4 sets count to 4, which positions the current line four lines from the top.

With an argument of zero, recenter positions the current line at the top of the window. The command recenter-top-bottom offers a more convenient way to achieve this.

— User Option: recenter-redisplay

If this variable is non-nil, calling recenter with a nil argument redraws the frame. The default value is tty, which means only redraw the frame if it is a tty frame.

— Command: recenter-top-bottom &optional count

This command, which is the default binding for C-l, acts like recenter, except if called with no argument. In that case, successive calls place point according to the cycling order defined by the variable recenter-positions.

— User Option: recenter-positions

This variable controls how recenter-top-bottom behaves when called with no argument. The default value is (middle top bottom), which means that successive calls of recenter-top-bottom with no argument cycle between placing point at the middle, top, and bottom of the window.