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Recursive Editing Levels
A "recursive edit" is a situation in which you are using Emacs
commands to perform arbitrary editing while in the middle of another
Emacs command. For example, when you type `C-r' inside of a
`query-replace', you enter a recursive edit in which you can change the
current buffer. On exiting from the recursive edit, you go back to the
"Exiting" the recursive edit means returning to the unfinished
command, which continues execution. To exit, type `C-M-c'
You can also "abort" the recursive edit. This is like exiting, but
also quits the unfinished command immediately. Use the command `C-]'
(`abort-recursive-edit') for this. Note: Quitting.
The mode line shows you when you are in a recursive edit by
displaying square brackets around the parentheses that always surround
the major and minor mode names. Every window's mode line shows this,
in the same way, since being in a recursive edit is true of Emacs as a
whole rather than any particular window or buffer.
It is possible to be in recursive edits within recursive edits. For
example, after typing `C-r' in a `query-replace', you may type a
command that enters the debugger. This begins a recursive editing level
for the debugger, within the recursive editing level for `C-r'. Mode
lines display a pair of square brackets for each recursive editing
level currently in progress.
Exiting the inner recursive edit (such as, with the debugger `c'
command) resumes the command running in the next level up. When that
command finishes, you can then use `C-M-c' to exit another recursive
editing level, and so on. Exiting applies to the innermost level only.
Aborting also gets out of only one level of recursive edit; it returns
immediately to the command level of the previous recursive edit. If you
wish, you can then abort the next recursive editing level.
Alternatively, the command `M-x top-level' aborts all levels of
recursive edits, returning immediately to the top level command reader.
The text being edited inside the recursive edit need not be the same
text that you were editing at top level. It depends on what the
recursive edit is for. If the command that invokes the recursive edit
selects a different buffer first, that is the buffer you will edit
recursively. In any case, you can switch buffers within the recursive
edit in the normal manner (as long as the buffer-switching keys have
not been rebound). You could probably do all the rest of your editing
inside the recursive edit, visiting files and all. But this could have
surprising effects (such as stack overflow) from time to time. So
remember to exit or abort the recursive edit when you no longer need it.
In general, we try to minimize the use of recursive editing levels in
GNU Emacs. This is because they constrain you to "go back" in a
particular order-from the innermost level toward the top level. When
possible, we present different activities in separate buffers. Some
commands switch to a new major mode but provide a way to switch back.
These approaches give you more flexibility to go back to unfinished
tasks in the order you choose.
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