Today Planet Emacsen brought me Irreal’s second blog post in a short time on CUA mode in Emacs. So far I’ve always ignored it because as far as I knew CUA mode is about getting the Windows keyboard shortcuts of Ctrl-c, Ctrl-x and Ctrl-v for copying and pasting to Emacs. The thing is, I date back to the DOS era when Shift-Del and Shift-Ins were used for that, so back in my Windows days I never got used to those ‘new’ keyboard shortcut. Now that I’ve been an Emacs user for more than a decade I’m so used to C-w and C-y and I see no reason for having the Windows shortcuts work in Emacs.

Back to Irreal. In his recent blog posts he writes about a subset of cua-mode: cua-selection-mode. The video by Mark Mansour that we writes about says it all (it’s short, so go and watch it!). What cua-selection-mode is all about is rectangle editting. So far I’ve been using the regular Emacs keys for rectangle selection and editing (basically C-space to select a rectangle and C-r-k to cut it, C-r-t to insert text and C-r-y to paste a rectangle). By setting

(cua-selection-mode 1)

in your ~/.emacs file you only enable the rectangle features of CUA mode.

So, for those that didn’t watch the video, what does the rectangle editing mean? It means that you can for example simply insert a list of increasing numbers in a text (this may come in handy in an org-mode table for example), or you can insert the same text in front of and/or behind a selected column of text.

Key combos to remember are:

  • C-return: Start selection
  • return: move the cursor to top-left, top-right, bottom-left and bottom-right corner of the selected rectangle
  • C-?: briefly list the available key combinations (with rectangle selection enabled)
  • M-i: if the selection is a column of numbers increase the numbers (by one)
  • M-n: Insert a number in the column (asks for start value and increment value)
  • C-1 C-w: Kill (cut) the contents of the rectangle to register 1 (you can use number 0–9 for different registers). Using C-1 C-y yanks (pastes) the rectangle at the cursor position.

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