Info is a program for reading documentation, which you are using now.
To learn how to use Info, type the command h. It brings you to a programmed instruction sequence.
This first part of the Info manual describes how to get around inside of Info. The second part of the manual describes various advanced Info commands, and how to write an Info as distinct from a Texinfo file. The third part is about how to generate Info files from Texinfo files.
Since your terminal has an unusually small number of lines on its screen, it is necessary to give you special advice at the beginning.
If you see the text
--All---- at near the bottom right corner
of the screen, it means the entire text you are looking at fits on the
screen. If you see
--Top---- instead, it means that there is
more text below that does not fit. To move forward through the text
and see another screen full, press the Space bar, <SPC>. To move
back up, press the key labeled
Backspace or <Delete>.
You are talking to the program Info, for reading documentation.
Right now you are looking at one Node of Information. A node contains text describing a specific topic at a specific level of detail. This node's topic is "how to use Info".
The top line of a node is its header. This node's header (look at
it now) says that it is the node named
Help in the file
info. It says that the
Next node after this one is the node
Help-P. An advanced Info command lets you go to any node
whose name you know.
Next, a node can have a
Previous or an
This node has a
Previous but no
Up, as you can see.
Now it is time to move on to the
Next node, named
n to move there. Type just one character;
do not type the quotes and do not type a <RET> afterward.
>> in the margin means it is really time to try a command.
This node is called
Previous node, as you see,
Help, which is the one you just came from using the n
command. Another n command now would take you to the next
>> But do not do that yet. First, try the p command, which takes
you to the
Previous node. When you get there, you can do an
n again to return here.
This all probably seems insultingly simple so far, but do not be led into skimming. Things will get more complicated soon. Also, do not try a new command until you are told it is time to. Otherwise, you may make Info skip past an important warning that was coming up.
>> Now do an n to get to the node
Help-^L and learn more.
This node's header tells you that you are now at node
that p would get you back to
Help-P. The node's title is
underlined; it says what the node is about (most nodes have titles).
This is a big node and it does not all fit on your display screen.
You can tell that there is more that is not visible because you
can see the string
--Top----- rather than
the bottom right corner of the screen.
The Space, Delete and B commands exist to allow you to "move around" in a node that does not all fit on the screen at once. Space moves forward, to show what was below the bottom of the screen. Delete moves backward, to show what was above the top of the screen (there is not anything above the top until you have typed some spaces).
>> Now try typing a Space (afterward, type a Delete to return here).
When you type the space, the two lines that were at the bottom of the screen appear at the top, followed by more lines. Delete takes the two lines from the top and moves them to the bottom, usually, but if there are not a full screen's worth of lines above them they may not make it all the way to the bottom.
If you type Space when there is no more to see, it rings the bell and otherwise does nothing. The same goes for Delete when the header of the node is visible.
If your screen is ever garbaged, you can tell Info to print it out again by typing C-l (Control-L, that is--hold down "Control" and type an <L> or l).
>> Type C-l now.
To move back to the beginning of the node you are on, you can type a lot of Deletes. You can also type simply b for beginning. >> Try that now. (We have put in enough verbiage to push this past the first screenful, but screens are so big nowadays that perhaps it isn't enough. You may need to shrink your Emacs or Info window.) Then come back, with Spaces.
If your screen is very tall, all of this node might fit at once. In that case, "b" won't do anything. Sorry; what can we do?
You have just learned a considerable number of commands. If you want to use one but have trouble remembering which, you should type a <?> which prints out a brief list of commands. When you are finished looking at the list, make it go away by pressing <SPC> repeatedly.
>> Type a <?> now. Press <SPC> to see consecutive screenfuls of >> the list until finished.
From now on, you will encounter large nodes without warning, and will be expected to know how to use Space and Delete to move around in them without being told. Since not all terminals have the same size screen, it would be impossible to warn you anyway.
>> Now type n to see the description of the m command.
Menus and the m command
With only the n and p commands for moving between nodes, nodes
are restricted to a linear sequence. Menus allow a branching
structure. A menu is a list of other nodes you can move to. It is
actually just part of the text of the node formatted specially so that
Info can interpret it. The beginning of a menu is always identified
by a line which starts with
* Menu:. A node contains a menu if and
only if it has a line in it which starts that way. The only menu you
can use at any moment is the one in the node you are in. To use a
menu in any other node, you must move to that node first.
After the start of the menu, each line that starts with a
identifies one subtopic. The line usually contains a brief name
for the subtopic (followed by a
:), the name of the node that talks
about that subtopic, and optionally some further description of the
subtopic. Lines in the menu that do not start with a
* have no
special meaning--they are only for the human reader's benefit and do
not define additional subtopics. Here is an example:
* Foo: FOO's Node This tells about FOO
The subtopic name is Foo, and the node describing it is
The rest of the line is just for the reader's Information.
[[ But this line is not a real menu item, simply because there is
no line above it which starts with
When you use a menu to go to another node (in a way that will be described soon), what you specify is the subtopic name, the first thing in the menu line. Info uses it to find the menu line, extracts the node name from it, and goes to that node. The reason that there is both a subtopic name and a node name is that the node name must be meaningful to the computer and may therefore have to be ugly looking. The subtopic name can be chosen just to be convenient for the user to specify. Often the node name is convenient for the user to specify and so both it and the subtopic name are the same. There is an abbreviation for this:
* Foo:: This tells about FOO
This means that the subtopic name and node name are the same; they are
>> Now use Spaces to find the menu in this node, then come back to the front with a b and some Spaces. As you see, a menu is actually visible in its node. If you cannot find a menu in a node by looking at it, then the node does not have a menu and the m command is not available.
The command to go to one of the subnodes is m--but do not do it yet! Before you use m, you must understand the difference between commands and arguments. So far, you have learned several commands that do not need arguments. When you type one, Info processes it and is instantly ready for another command. The m command is different: it is incomplete without the name of the subtopic. Once you have typed m, Info tries to read the subtopic name.
Now look for the line containing many dashes near the bottom of the screen. There is one more line beneath that one, but usually it is blank. If it is empty, Info is ready for a command, such as n or b or Space or m. If that line contains text ending in a colon, it mean Info is trying to read the argument to a command. At such times, commands do not work, because Info tries to use them as the argument. You must either type the argument and finish the command you started, or type Control-g to cancel the command. When you have done one of those things, the line becomes blank again.
The command to go to a subnode via a menu is m. After you type
the m, the line at the bottom of the screen says
Menu item: .
You must then type the name of the subtopic you want, and end it with
You can abbreviate the subtopic name. If the abbreviation is not unique, the first matching subtopic is chosen. Some menus put the shortest possible abbreviation for each subtopic name in capital letters, so you can see how much you need to type. It does not matter whether you use upper case or lower case when you type the subtopic. You should not put any spaces at the end, or inside of the item name, except for one space where a space appears in the item in the menu.
You can also use the completion feature to help enter the subtopic name. If you type the Tab key after entering part of a name, it will magically fill in more of the name--as much as follows uniquely from what you have entered.
If you move the cursor to one of the menu subtopic lines, then you do not need to type the argument: you just type a Return, and it stands for the subtopic of the line you are on.
Here is a menu to give you a chance to practice. This menu gives you three ways of going to one place, Help-FOO:
>> Now type just an m and see what happens:
Now you are "inside" an m command. Commands cannot be used now; the next thing you will type must be the name of a subtopic.
You can change your mind about doing the m by typing Control-g.
>> Try that now; notice the bottom line clear.
>> Then type another m.
>> Now type
BAR item name. Do not type Return yet.
While you are typing the item name, you can use the Delete key to cancel one character at a time if you make a mistake.
>> Type one to cancel the
R. You could type another
replace it. You do not have to, since
BA is a valid abbreviation.
>> Now you are ready to go. Type a <RET>.
After visiting Help-FOO, you should return here.
>> Type n to see more commands.
Here is another way to get to Help-FOO, a menu. You can ignore this if you want, or else try it (but then please come back to here).
Congratulations! This is the node
Help-FOO. Unlike the other
nodes you have seen, this one has an
Help-M, the node you
just came from via the m command. This is the usual
convention--the nodes you reach from a menu have
Up nodes that lead
back to the menu. Menus move Down in the tree, and
Up moves Up.
Previous, on the other hand, is usually used to "stay on the same
level but go backwards"
You can go back to the node
Help-M by typing the command
u for "Up". That puts you at the front of the
node--to get back to where you were reading you have to type
>> Now type u to move back up to
The course is almost over, so please stick with it to the end.
If you have been moving around to different nodes and wish to retrace your steps, the l command (l for last) will do that, one node-step at a time. As you move from node to node, Info records the nodes where you have been in a special history list. The l command revisits nodes in the history list; each successive l command moves one step back through the history.
If you have been following directions, ad l command now will get
you back to
Help-M. Another l command would undo the
u and get you back to
Help-FOO. Another l would undo
the m and get you back to
>> Try typing three l's, pausing in between to see what each l does.
Then follow directions again and you will end up back here.
Note the difference between l and p: l moves to
where you last were, whereas p always moves to the node
which the header says is the
Previous node (from this node, to
d command gets you instantly to the Directory node.
This node, which is the first one you saw when you entered Info,
has a menu which leads (directly, or indirectly through other menus),
to all the nodes that exist.
>> Try doing a
d, then do an l to return here (yes,
Sometimes, in Info documentation, you will see a cross reference.
Cross references look like this: See Cross. That is a
real, live cross reference which is named
Cross and points at
the node named
If you wish to follow a cross reference, you must use the
f must be followed by the cross reference name
(in this case,
Cross). While you enter the name, you can use the
Delete key to edit your input. If you change your mind about following
any reference, you can use Control-g to cancel the command.
Completion is available in the
f command; you can complete among
all the cross reference names in the current node by typing a Tab.
f, followed by
Cross, and a <RET>.
To get a list of all the cross references in the current node, you can
type ? after an
f continues to await a
cross reference name even after printing the list, so if you don't
actually want to follow a reference, you should type a Control-g
to cancel the
>> Type "f?" to get a list of the cross references in this node. Then
type a Control-g and see how the
f gives up.
>> Now type n to see the last node of the course.
This is the node reached by the cross reference named
While this node is specifically intended to be reached by a cross
reference, most cross references lead to nodes that "belong" someplace
else far away in the structure of Info. So you cannot expect the
footnote to have a
back to where you came from. In general, the l (el) command is
the only way to get back there.
>> Type l to return to the node where the cross reference was.
To get out of Info, back to what you were doing before, type q for Quit.
This is the end of the course on using Info. There are some other commands that are meant for experienced users; they are useful, and you can find them by looking in the directory node for documentation on Info. Finding them will be a good exercise in using Info in the usual manner.
d to go to the Info directory node; then type
mInfo and Return, to get to the node about Info and
see what other help is available.
This chapter describes various advanced Info commands, and how to write an Info as distinct from a Texinfo file. (However, in most cases, writing a Texinfo file is better, since you can use it both to generate an Info file and to make a printed manual. See Top.)
g, s, 1, - 9, and e
If you know a node's name, you can go there by typing g, the
name, and <RET>. Thus, gTop<RET> would go to the node
Top in this file (its directory node).
gExpert<RET> would come back here.
Unlike m, g does not allow the use of abbreviations.
To go to a node in another file, you can include the filename in the
node name by putting it at the front, in parentheses. Thus,
g(dir)Top<RET> would go to the Info Directory node, which is
Top in the file
The node name
* specifies the whole file. So you can look at
all of the current file by typing g*<RET> or all of any
other file with g(FILENAME)<RET>.
The s command allows you to search a whole file for a string.
It switches to the next node if and when that is necessary. You
type s followed by the string to search for, terminated by
<RET>. To search for the same string again, just s followed
by <RET> will do. The file's nodes are scanned in the order
they are in in the file, which has no necessary relationship to the
order that they may be in in the tree structure of menus and
pointers. But normally the two orders are not very different. In any
case, you can always do a b to find out what node you have
reached, if the header is not visible (this can happen, because s
puts your cursor at the occurrence of the string, not at the beginning
of the node).
If you grudge the system each character of type-in it requires, you might like to use the commands 1, 2, 3, 4, ... 9. They are short for the m command together with an argument. 1 goes through the first item in the current node's menu; 2 goes through the second item, etc.
If your display supports multiple fonts, and you are using Emacs' Info
mode to read Info files, the
* for the fifth menu item is
underlined, and so is the
* for the ninth item; these underlines
make it easy to see at a glance which number to use for an item.
On ordinary terminals, you won't have underlining. If you need to actually count items, it is better to use m instead, and specify the name.
The Info command e changes from Info mode to an ordinary
Emacs editing mode, so that you can edit the text of the current node.
Type C-c C-c to switch back to Info. The e command is allowed
only if the variable
Info-enable-edit is non-
To add a new topic to the list in the Info directory, you must:
Usually, the way to create the nodes is with Texinfo (see Top); this has the advantage that you can also make a printed manual from them. However, if you want to edit an Info file, here is how.
The new node can live in an existing documentation file, or in a new one. It must have a <^_> character before it (invisible to the user; this node has one but you cannot see it), and it ends with either a <^_>, a <^L>, or the end of file. Note: If you put in a <^L> to end a new node, be sure that there is a <^_> after it to start the next one, since <^L> cannot start a node. Also, a nicer way to make a node boundary be a page boundary as well is to put a <^L> right after the <^_>.
The <^_> starting a node must be followed by a newline or a
<^L> newline, after which comes the node's header line. The header
line must give the node's name (by which Info finds it), and state the
names of the
Up nodes (if there
are any). As you can see, this node's
Up node is the node
Top, which points at all the documentation for Info. The
Next node is
The keywords Node, Previous, Up, and Next, may appear in any order, anywhere in the header line, but the recommended order is the one in this sentence. Each keyword must be followed by a colon, spaces and tabs, and then the appropriate name. The name may be terminated with a tab, a comma, or a newline. A space does not end it; node names may contain spaces. The case of letters in the names is insignificant.
A node name has two forms. A node in the current file is named by
what appears after the
Node: in that node's first line. For
example, this node's name is
Add. A node in another file is
(filename)node-within-file, as in
(info)Add for this node. If the file name starts with "./",
then it is relative to the current directory; otherwise, it is relative
starting from the standard Info file directory of your site.
(filename)Top can be abbreviated to just
(filename). By convention, the name
Top is used for
the "highest" node in any single file--the node whose
out of the file. The Directory node is
of a document file listed in the Directory should have an
(dir) in it.
The node name * is special: it refers to the entire file. Thus, g* shows you the whole current file. The use of the node * is to make it possible to make old-fashioned, unstructured files into nodes of the tree.
Node: name, in which a node states its own name, must not
contain a filename, since Info when searching for a node does not expect
one to be there. The
may contain them. In this node, since the
Up node is in the same
file, it was not necessary to use one.
Note that the nodes in this file have a file name in the header line. The file names are ignored by Info, but they serve as comments to help identify the node for the user.
Any node in the Info hierarchy may have a menu--a list of subnodes. The m command searches the current node's menu for the topic which it reads from the terminal.
A menu begins with a line starting with
* Menu:. The rest of the
line is a comment. After the starting line, every line that begins
* lists a single topic. The name of the topic-the
argument that the user must give to the m command to select this
topic--comes right after the star and space, and is followed by a
colon, spaces and tabs, and the name of the node which discusses that
topic. The node name, like node names following
Up, may be terminated with a tab, comma, or newline; it may also
be terminated with a period.
If the node name and topic name are the same, then rather than
giving the name twice, the abbreviation
* NAME:: may be used
(and should be used, whenever possible, as it reduces the visual
clutter in the menu).
It is considerate to choose the topic names so that they differ from each other very near the beginning--this allows the user to type short abbreviations. In a long menu, it is a good idea to capitalize the beginning of each item name which is the minimum acceptable abbreviation for it (a long menu is more than 5 or so entries).
The nodes listed in a node's menu are called its "subnodes", and it
is their "superior". They should each have an
Up: pointing at
the superior. It is often useful to arrange all or most of the subnodes
in a sequence of
Previous pointers so that
someone who wants to see them all need not keep revisiting the Menu.
The Info Directory is simply the menu of the node
Top in file
.../info/dir. You can put new entries
in that menu just like any other menu. The Info Directory is not the
same as the file directory called
info. It happens that many of
Info's files live on that file directory, but they do not have to; and
files on that directory are not automatically listed in the Info
Also, although the Info node graph is claimed to be a "hierarchy",
in fact it can be any directed graph. Shared structures and
pointer cycles are perfectly possible, and can be used if they are
appropriate to the meaning to be expressed. There is no need for all
the nodes in a file to form a connected structure. In fact, this file
has two connected components. You are in one of them, which is under
Top; the other contains the node
Help which the
h command goes to. In fact, since there is no garbage
collector, nothing terrible happens if a substructure is not pointed
to, but such a substructure is rather useless since nobody can
ever find out that it exists.
A cross reference can be placed anywhere in the text, unlike a menu
item which must go at the front of a line. A cross reference looks
like a menu item except that it has
*note instead of *.
It cannot be terminated by a
so often part of node names. If you wish to enclose a cross reference
in parentheses, terminate it with a period first. Here are two
examples of cross references pointers:
*Note details: commands. (See *note 3: Full Proof.)
They are just examples. The places they "lead to" do not really exist!
You can speed up the access to nodes of a large Info file by giving it a tag table. Unlike the tag table for a program, the tag table for an Info file lives inside the file itself and is used automatically whenever Info reads in the file.
To make a tag table, go to a node in the file using Emacs Info mode and type M-x Info-tagify. Then you must use C-x C-s to save the file.
Once the Info file has a tag table, you must make certain it is up
to date. If, as a result of deletion of text, any node moves back
more than a thousand characters in the file from the position
recorded in the tag table, Info will no longer be able to find that
node. To update the tag table, use the
Info-tagify command again.
An Info file tag table appears at the end of the file and looks like this:
^_ Tag Table: File: info, Node: Cross-refs^?21419 File: info, Node: Tags^?22145 ^_ End Tag Table
Note that it contains one line per node, and this line contains the beginning of the node's header (ending just after the node name), a Delete character, and the character position in the file of the beginning of the node.
When creating an Info file, it is easy to forget the name of a node when
you are making a pointer to it from another node. If you put in the
wrong name for a node, this is not detected until someone tries to go
through the pointer using Info. Verification of the Info file is an
automatic process which checks all pointers to nodes and reports any
pointers which are invalid. Every
Up is checked, as is every menu item and every cross reference. In
Next which does not have a
back is reported. Only pointers within the file are checked, because
checking pointers to other files would be terribly slow. But those are
To check an Info file, do M-x Info-validate while looking at any node of the file with Emacs Info mode.
The following variables may modify the behaviour of Info-mode in Emacs;
you may wish to set one or several of these variables interactively, or
~/.emacs init file. See Examining.
nil, disables the
Info-edit) command. A non-
nilvalue enables it. See Edit.
nilvalue, allows Info to execute Lisp code associated with nodes. The Lisp code is executed when the node is selected.
nil(try default directory).
See Top, to learn how to write a Texinfo file.
See Creating an Info File, to learn how to create an Info file from a Texinfo file.
See Installing an Info File, to learn how to install an Info file after you have created one.