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Emacs provides many alternative "major modes", each of which
customizes Emacs for editing text of a particular sort. The major modes
are mutually exclusive, and each buffer has one major mode at any time.
The mode line normally shows the name of the current major mode, in
parentheses (Note: Mode Line.).
The least specialized major mode is called "Fundamental mode". This
mode has no mode-specific redefinitions or variable settings, so that
each Emacs command behaves in its most general manner, and each option
is in its default state. For editing any specific type of text, such
as Lisp code or English text, you should switch to the appropriate
major mode, such as Lisp mode or Text mode.
Selecting a major mode changes the meanings of a few keys to become
more specifically adapted to the language being edited. The ones which
are changed frequently are TAB, DEL, and LFD. In addition, the
commands which handle comments use the mode to determine how comments
are to be delimited. Many major modes redefine the syntactical
properties of characters appearing in the buffer. Note: Syntax.
The major modes fall into three major groups. Lisp mode (which has
several variants), C mode, Fortran mode and others are for specific
programming languages. Text mode, Nroff mode, TeX mode and Outline
mode are for editing English text. The remaining major modes are not
intended for use on users' files; they are used in buffers created for
specific purposes by Emacs, such as Dired mode for buffers made by Dired
(Note: Dired.), and Mail mode for buffers made by `C-x m' (*note
Sending Mail::.), and Shell mode for buffers used for communicating
with an inferior shell process (Note: Interactive Shell.).
Most programming language major modes specify that only blank lines
separate paragraphs. This is so that the paragraph commands remain
useful. (Note: Paragraphs.) They also cause Auto Fill mode to use
the definition of TAB to indent the new lines it creates. This is
because most lines in a program are usually indented. (*Note
- Choosing Modes
- How major modes are specified or chosen.
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