Emacs Basics - Frames Buffers Windows

Understanding the basic terminology will help you make the most out of Spacemacs and allow very efficient use.

Terminology Description
File A file on the file system
Buffer A container to display a file or other information
Window Contains a buffer, allowing you to organise multiple buffers in a frame
Frame Holds one or more windows. Opening another frame gives you another instance of Emacs
Status bar Information about current window and buffer, e.g. window number, buffer mode & name, location of cursor. Also referred to as the mode line.
Mini-buffer A command line for Emacs - shows commands and some results, acts as an interactive prompt for some commands

Emacs Terminology - Structure of Emacs

Working with Frames

When you open Emacs for the first time you are presented with a frame that contains a single window.

If you run Emacs again, or if you make a new frame SPC F n, then a second frame will appear containing a single window.

If you kill a frame, only that frame closes unless its the last Emacs frame running, then Emacs itself closes.

If you quit Emacs, then all frames are closed.

Working with windows

There can be one or more windows in Emacs. Windows are used to split up the Emacs frame into sections. This allows you to display multiple buffers (files, REPL, error messages, etc) at the same time.

Each window has a number enabling you to jump between windows, e.g. SPC 1 takes you to window number 1.

Some of the common windows functions include:

keybinding action
SPC w Opens Window menu
SPC w . Open Window transient state menu for multiple command
SPC w 2 2 window layout - shows current buffer in new window
SPC w 3 3 window layout - shows current buffer in new windows
SPC w m maximise the current buffer
SPC w d delete current window
SPC t g toggles golden ratio view of windows

Golden Ratio

Golden-ratio automatically lays out windows in a Fibonacci style pattern. The active window becomes the largest window and all other windows are automatically shrunk so they are out of the way, but still visible.

Spacemacs - Golden Ratio in action

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