Next: Prefix Keymaps Up: Key Bindings
The bindings between key sequences and command functions are recorded
in data structures called "keymaps". Emacs has many of these, each
used on particular occasions.
Recall that a "key sequence" ("key", for short) is a sequence of
"input events" that have a meaning as a unit. Input events include
characters, function keys and mouse buttons--all the inputs that you
can send to the computer with your terminal. A key sequence gets its
meaning from its "binding", which says what command it runs. The
function of keymaps is to record these bindings.
The "global" keymap is the most important keymap because it is
always in effect. The global keymap defines keys for Fundamental mode;
most of these definitions are common to all (or most) major modes. Each
major or minor mode can have its own keymap which overrides the
definitions of some keys.
For example, a self-inserting character such as `g' is
self-inserting because the global keymap binds it to the command
`self-insert-command'. The standard Emacs editing characters such as
`C-a' also get their standard meanings from the global keymap.
Commands to rebind keys, such as `M-x global-set-key', actually work by
storing the new binding in the proper place in the global map. *Note
Meta characters work differently; Emacs translates each Meta
character into a pair of characters starting with ESC. When you type
the character `M-a' in a key sequence, Emacs replaces it with `ESC a'.
A meta key comes in as a single input event, but becomes two events for
purposes of key bindings. The reason for this is historical, and we
might change it someday.
Most modern keyboards have function keys as well as character keys.
Function keys send input events just as character keys do, and keymaps
can have bindings for them.
On many terminals, typing a function key actually sends the computer
a sequence of characters; the precise details of the sequence depends on
which function key and on the model of terminal you are using. (Often
he sequence starts with `ESC ['.) If Emacs understands your terminal
type properly, it recognizes the character sequences forming function
keys wherever they occur in a key sequence (not just at the beginning).
Thus, for most purposes, you can pretend the function keys reach Emacs
directly and ignore their encoding as character sequences.
Mouse buttons also produce input events. These events come with
other data--the window and position where you pressed or released the
button, and a timestamp. But only the choice of button matters for key
bindings; the other data matters only if a command looks at it.
(Commands designed for mouse invocation usually do look at the other
A keymap records definitions for single events. Interpreting a key
sequence of multiple events involves a chain of keymaps. The first
keymap gives a definition for the first event; this definition is
another keymap, which is used to look up the second event in the
sequence, and so on.
Key sequences can mix function keys and characters. For example,
`C-x SELECT' makes sense. If you make SELECT a prefix key, then
`SELECT C-n' makes sense. You can even mix mouse events with keyboard
events, but we recommend against it, because such sequences are
inconvenient to type in.
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