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An incremental search begins searching as soon as you type the first
character of the search string. As you type in the search string, Emacs
shows you where the string (as you have typed it so far) is found.
When you have typed enough characters to identify the place you want,
you can stop. Depending on what you do next, you may or may not need to
terminate the search explicitly with a RET.
Incremental search forward (`isearch-forward').
Incremental search backward (`isearch-backward').
`C-s' starts an incremental search. `C-s' reads characters from the
keyboard and positions the cursor at the first occurrence of the
characters that you have typed. If you type `C-s' and then `F', the
cursor moves right after the first `F'. Type an `O', and see the
cursor move to after the first `FO'. After another `O', the cursor is
after the first `FOO' after the place where you started the search.
Meanwhile, the search string `FOO' has been echoed in the echo area.
The echo area display ends with three dots when actual searching is
going on. When search is waiting for more input, the three dots are
removed. (On slow terminals, the three dots are not displayed.)
If you make a mistake in typing the search string, you can erase
characters with DEL. Each DEL cancels the last character of the search
string. This does not happen until Emacs is ready to read another
input character; first it must either find, or fail to find, the
character you want to erase. If you do not want to wait for this to
happen, use `C-g' as described below.
When you are satisfied with the place you have reached, you can type
RET (or C-m), which stops searching, leaving the cursor where the
search brought it. Any command not specially meaningful in searches
also stops the search and is then executed. Thus, typing `C-a' exits
the search and then moves to the beginning of the line. RET is
necessary only if the next command you want to type is a printing
character, DEL, ESC, or another control character that is special
within searches (`C-q', `C-w', `C-r', `C-s', or `C-y').
Sometimes you search for `FOO' and find it, but were actually
looking for a different occurance of it. To move to the next occurrence
of the search string, type another `C-s'. Do this as often as
necessary. If you overshoot, you can cancel some `C-s' characters with
After you exit a search, you can search for the same string again by
typing just `C-s C-s': the first `C-s' is the key that invokes
incremental search, and the second `C-s' means "search again".
If the specified string is not found at all, the echo area displays
the text `Failing I-Search'. The cursor is after the place where Emacs
found as much of your string as it could. Thus, if you search for
`FOOT', and there is no `FOOT', the cursor may be after the `FOO' in
`FOOL'. At this point there are several things you can do. If you
mistyped the search string, correct it. If you like the place you have
found, you can type RET or some other Emacs command to "accept what the
search offered". Or you can type `C-g', which removes from the search
string the characters that could not be found (the `T' in `FOOT'),
leaving those that were found (the `FOO' in `FOOT'). A second `C-g' at
that point cancels the search entirely, returning point to where it was
when the search started.
If a search is failing and you ask to repeat it by typing another
`C-s', it starts again from the beginning of the buffer. Repeating a
failing reverse search with `C-r' starts again from the end. This is
called "wrapping around". `Wrapped' appears in the search prompt once
this has happened.
The `C-g' "quit" character does special things during searches; just
what it does depends on the status of the search. If the search has
found what you specified and is waiting for input, `C-g' cancels the
entire search. The cursor moves back to where you started the search.
If `C-g' is typed when there are characters in the search string that
have not been found--because Emacs is still searching for them, or
because it has failed to find them--then the search string characters
which have not been found are discarded from the search string. The
search is now successful and waiting for more input, so a second `C-g'
cancels the entire search.
To search for a control character such as `C-s' or DEL or ESC, you
must quote it by typing `C-q' first. This function of `C-q' is
analogous to its meaning as an Emacs command: it causes the following
character to be treated the way a graphic character would normally be
treated in the same context.
To search backwards, you can use `C-r' instead of `C-s' to start the
search; `C-r' is the key that runs the command (`isearch-backward') to
search backward. You can also use `C-r' to change from searching
forward to searching backwards. Do this if a search fails because the
place you started was too far down in the file. Repeated `C-r' keeps
looking for more occurrences backwards. `C-s' starts going forward
again. You can cancel `C-r' in a search with DEL.
The characters `C-y' and `C-w' can be used in incremental search to
grab text from the buffer into the search string. This makes it
convenient to search for another occurrence of text at point. `C-w'
copies the word after point as part of the search string, advancing
point over that word. Another `C-s' to repeat the search will then
search for a string including that word. `C-y' is similar to `C-w' but
copies the rest of the current line into the search string.
The characters `M-p' and `M-n' can be used in an incremental search
to recall things which you have searched for in the past. A list of
the last 16 things you have searched for is retained, and `M-p' and
`M-n' let you cycle through that ring.
The character `M-TAB' does completion on the elements in the search
history ring. For example, if you know that you have recently searched
for the string `POTATOE', you could type `C-s P O M-TAB'. If you had
searched for other strings beginning with `PO' then you would be shown
a list of them, and would need to type more to select one.
You can change any of the special characters in incremental search
via the normal keybinding mechanism: simply add a binding to the
`isearch-mode-map'. For example, to make the character `C-b' mean
"search backwards" while in isearch-mode, do this:
(define-key isearch-mode-map "\C-b" 'isearch-repeat-backward)
These are the default bindings of isearch-mode:
Delete a character from the incremental search string
Exit incremental search (`isearch-exit').
Quote special characters for incremental search
Repeat incremental search forward (`isearch-repeat-forward').
Repeat incremental search backward (`isearch-repeat-reverse').
Pull rest of line from buffer into search string
Pull next word from buffer into search string
Cancels input back to what has been found successfully, or aborts
the isearch (`isearch-abort').
Recall the previous element in the isearch history ring
Recall the next element in the isearch history ring
Do completion on the elements in the isearch history ring
Any other character which is normally inserted into a buffer when
typed is automatically added to the search string in isearch-mode.
Slow Terminal Incremental Search
Incremental search on a slow terminal uses a modified style of
display that is designed to take less time. Instead of redisplaying
the buffer at each place the search gets to, it creates a new
single-line window and uses that to display the line the search has
found. The single-line window appears as soon as point gets outside of
the text that is already on the screen.
When the search is terminated, the single-line window is removed.
Only at this time the window in which the search was done is
redisplayed to show its new value of point.
The three dots at the end of the search string, normally used to
indicate that searching is going on, are not displayed in slow style
The slow terminal style of display is used when the terminal baud
rate is less than or equal to the value of the variable
`search-slow-speed', initially 1200.
The number of lines to use in slow terminal search display is
controlled by the variable `search-slow-window-lines'. Its normal
value is 1.
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