You can insert an ordinary graphic character (e.g., ‘a’, ‘B’, ‘3’, and ‘=’) by typing the associated key. This adds the character to the buffer at point. Insertion moves point forward, so that point remains just after the inserted text. See Point.
To end a line and start a new one, type RET (
(The RET key may be labeled Return or Enter on your
keyboard, but we refer to it as RET in this manual.) This
command inserts a newline character into the buffer, then indents
(see Indentation) according to the major mode. If point is at the end
of the line, the effect is to create a new blank line after it and
indent the new line; if point is in the middle of a line, the line is
split at that position. To turn off the auto-indentation, you can
either disable Electric Indent mode (see Indent Convenience) or
type C-j, which inserts just a newline, without any
As we explain later in this manual, you can change the way Emacs handles text insertion by turning on minor modes. For instance, the minor mode called Auto Fill mode splits lines automatically when they get too long (see Filling). The minor mode called Overwrite mode causes inserted characters to replace (overwrite) existing text, instead of shoving it to the right. See Minor Modes.
Only graphic characters can be inserted by typing the associated
key; other keys act as editing commands and do not insert themselves.
For instance, DEL runs the command
by default (some modes bind it to a different command); it does not
insert a literal ‘DEL’ character (ASCII character code
To insert a non-graphic character, or a character that your keyboard
does not support, first quote it by typing C-q
quoted-insert). There are two ways to use C-q:
The use of octal sequences is disabled in ordinary non-binary Overwrite mode, to give you a convenient way to insert a digit instead of overwriting with it.
To use decimal or hexadecimal instead of octal, set the variable
read-quoted-char-radix to 10 or 16. If the radix is 16,
the letters a to f serve as part of a character code,
just like digits. Case is ignored.
Alternatively, you can use the command C-x 8 RET
insert-char). This prompts for the Unicode name or code-point
of a character, using the minibuffer. If you enter a name, the
command provides completion (see Completion). If you enter a
code-point, it should be as a hexadecimal number (the convention for
Unicode), or a number with a specified radix, e.g.,
(octal); See Integer Basics in The Emacs Lisp Reference
Manual. The command then inserts the corresponding character into
the buffer. For example, both of the following insert the infinity
sign (Unicode code-point
C-x 8 RET infinity RET C-x 8 RET 221e RET
A numeric argument to C-q or C-x 8 RET specifies how many copies of the character to insert (see Arguments).