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14.20 Displaying the Cursor

On a text terminal, the cursor's appearance is controlled by the terminal, largely out of the control of Emacs. Some terminals offer two different cursors: a “visible” static cursor, and a “very visible” blinking cursor. By default, Emacs uses the very visible cursor, and switches to it when you start or resume Emacs. If the variable visible-cursor is nil when Emacs starts or resumes, it uses the normal cursor.

On a graphical display, many more properties of the text cursor can be altered. To customize its color, change the :background attribute of the face named cursor (see Face Customization). (The other attributes of this face have no effect; the text shown under the cursor is drawn using the frame's background color.) To change its shape, customize the buffer-local variable cursor-type; possible values are box (the default), hollow (a hollow box), bar (a vertical bar), (bar . n) (a vertical bar n pixels wide), hbar (a horizontal bar), (hbar . n) (a horizontal bar n pixels tall), or nil (no cursor at all).

To disable cursor blinking, change the variable blink-cursor-mode to nil (see Easy Customization), or add the line (blink-cursor-mode 0) to your init file. Alternatively, you can change how the cursor looks when it “blinks off” by customizing the list variable blink-cursor-alist. Each element in the list should have the form (on-type . off-type); this means that if the cursor is displayed as on-type when it blinks on (where on-type is one of the cursor types described above), then it is displayed as off-type when it blinks off.

Some characters, such as tab characters, are “extra wide”. When the cursor is positioned over such a character, it is normally drawn with the default character width. You can make the cursor stretch to cover wide characters, by changing the variable x-stretch-cursor to a non-nil value.

The cursor normally appears in non-selected windows as a non-blinking hollow box. (For a bar cursor, it instead appears as a thinner bar.) To turn off cursors in non-selected windows, change the variable cursor-in-non-selected-windows to nil.

To make the cursor even more visible, you can use HL Line mode, a minor mode that highlights the line containing point. Use M-x hl-line-mode to enable or disable it in the current buffer. M-x global-hl-line-mode enables or disables the same mode globally.