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Finding More Information

In this walk-through, I will describe each new function as we come to it, sometimes in detail and sometimes briefly. If you are interested, you can get the full documentation of any Emacs Lisp function at any time by typing C-h f and then the name of the function (and then RET). Similarly, you can get the full documentation for a variable by typing C-h v and then the name of the variable (and then RET).

Also, if you want to see a function in its original source file, you can use the find-tags function to jump to it. Type M-. (i.e., type the META and the period key at the same time, or else type the ESC key and then type the period key), and then, at the prompt, type in the name of the function whose source code you want to see, such as mark-whole-buffer, and then type RET. Emacs will switch buffers and display the source code for the function on your screen. To switch back to this buffer, type C-x b RET.

Depending on how the initial default values of your copy of Emacs are set, you may also need to specify a `tags table', which is a file called `TAGS'. The one you will most likely want to specify is in the `emacs/src' directory; thus you would use the M-x visit-tags-table command and specify a pathname such as `/usr/local/lib/emacs/19.23/src/TAGS'. See section `Tag Tables' in The GNU Emacs Manual. Also, see section Create Your Own `TAGS' File, for how to create your own.

After you become more familiar with Emacs Lisp, you will find that you will frequently use find-tags to navigate your way around source code; and you will create your own `TAGS' tables.

Incidentally, the files that contain Lisp code are conventionally called libraries. The metaphor is derived from that of a specialized library, such as a law library or an engineering library, rather than a general library. Each library, or file, contains functions that relate to a particular topic or activity, such as `abbrev.el' for handling abbreviations and other typing shortcuts, and `help.el' for on-line help. (Sometimes several libraries provide code for a single activity, as the various `rmail...' files provide code for reading electronic mail.) In The GNU Emacs Manual, you will see sentences such as "The C-h p command lets you search the standard Emacs Lisp libraries by topic keywords."

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