Get moving in Emacs as a Vim user

workflow, emacs

Learn basic chords for moving around in Emacs

February 25, 2016

I recently decided to force myself into an immersion program with both Emacs and Elixir. I reformatted the machine I was using to learn Arch Linux, reinstalling with only the necessities–Emacs, Elixir, Phoenix, Node and Git.

Instead of falling back on trusty Vim, I’m slowly accepting that I know nothing on this machine and diving in. First up is Emacs–I can’t expect to get around in Elixir if I can’t move around in the text editor!

At their cores, Emacs and Vim have one thing in common: users don’t know how to exit them when they first open them. For Vim, it ends up being :q, and, as I have now learned, for Emacs, it’s C-x C-c, or control + x, control + c. Emacs is all about key chords, or two keys pressed simultaneously.

With the idea of chords in mind, let’s get moving in Emacs. In Vim you’d use h, j, k and l to move left, down, up and right respectively. In Emacs, the idea is similar enough (the right way isn’t arrows, and if you do it wrong we will all laugh at you). Here are the key combos:

C-p # up, or PREVIOUS
C-b # BACK
C-f # FORWARD
C-n # down, or NEXT