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Text and Auto Fill Mode

Now we come to the part that `turns on' Text mode and Auto Fill mode.

;;; Text mode and Auto Fill mode
; The next two lines put Emacs into Text mode
; and Auto Fill mode, and are for writers who
; want to start writing prose rather than code.
 
(setq default-major-mode 'text-mode)
(add-hook 'text-mode-hook 'turn-on-auto-fill)

Here is the first part of this `.emacs' file that does something besides remind a forgetful human!

The first of the two lines in parentheses tells Emacs to turn on Text mode when you find a file, unless that file should go into some other mode, such as C mode.

When Emacs reads a file, it looks at the extension to the file name, if any. (The extension is the part that comes after a `.'.) If the file ends with a `.c' or `.h' extension then Emacs turns on C mode. Also, Emacs looks at first nonblank line of the file; if the line says `-*- C -*-', Emacs turns on C mode. Emacs possesses a list of extensions and specifications that it uses automatically. In addition, Emacs looks near the last page for a per-buffer, "local variables list", if any.

See sections "How Major Modes are Chosen" and "Local Variables in Files" in The GNU Emacs Manual, for information.

Now, back to the `.emacs' file.

Here is the line again; how does it work?

(setq default-major-mode 'text-mode)

This line is a short, but complete Emacs Lisp expression.

We are already familiar with  setq . It sets the following variable,  default-major-mode , to the subsequent value, which is  text-mode . The single quote mark before  text-mode tells Emacs to deal directly with the  text-mode variable, not with whatever it might stand for. See section Setting the Value of a Variable, for a reminder of how  setq works. The main point is that there is no difference between the procedure you use to set a value in your `.emacs' file and the procedure you use anywhere else in Emacs.

Here is the second line:

(add-hook 'text-mode-hook 'turn-on-auto-fill)

In this line, the  add-hook command, adds  turn-on-auto-fill to the variable called  text-mode-hook .  turn-on-auto-fill is the name of a program, that, you guessed it!, turns on Auto Fill mode.

Every time Emacs turns on Text mode, Emacs runs the commands `hooked' onto Text mode. So every time Emacs turns on Text mode, Emacs also turns on Auto Fill mode.

In brief, the first line causes Emacs to enter Text mode when you edit a file, unless the file name extension, first non-blank line, or local variables tell Emacs otherwise.

Text mode among other actions, sets the syntax table to work conveniently for writers. In Text mode, Emacs considers an apostrophe as part of a word like a letter; but Emacs does not consider a period or a space as part of a word. Thus, M-f moves you over `it's'. On the other hand, in C mode, M-f stops just after the `t' of `it's'.

The second line causes Emacs to turn on Auto Fill mode when it turns on Text mode. In Auto Fill mode, Emacs automatically breaks a line that is too wide and brings the excessively wide part of the line down to the next line. Emacs breaks lines between words, not within them.

When Auto Fill mode is turned off, lines continue to the right as you type them. Depending on how you set the value of  truncate-lines , the words you type either disappear off the right side of the screen, or else are shown, in a rather ugly and unreadable manner, as a continuation line on the screen.

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