Emacs and Slime usage notes

Notes and keyboard shortcuts/commands for Emacs with Slime.

C is control. C-x C-x means hold down control and press x twice.
M is meta (alt).
E is escape.


Key binding Action
C-h View list of help commands
C-h b View list of keyboard shortcuts available for the current buffer

Files, buffers and windows

Key binding Action
C-x C-f Open (find) file
C-x k Close buffer
C-x 5 2 Open new window
C-x C-s Save file
C-x 2 Split window horizontally
C-x 3 Split window vertically
C-x 1 Remove splits
C-x o Switch windows
C-x b return Switch buffers (defaults to next buffer, up/down to scroll)
C-x C-c Quit emacs
C-g or Esc Esc Esc Exit command input

Command control

Key binding Action
C-x z Repeat last command. You can press z as many times as you’d like
C-u [N] [C] Execute command [C] multiple [N] times. E.g. C-u 8 * inserts asterix eight times


Key binding Action
C-x u Undo edit
C-x u C-x u Redo edit (Note that an undo is added to action history, so to redo you undo the undo!)
C-_ Redo edit (only works in some environments)
M-x revert-buffer Undo all changes
C-a Start of line
C-k Delete line starting at cursor
C-space Set mark
C-w Cut
M-w Copy
C-y Paste

A note about undos. They are added to the command stack so if you undo twice then the second undo undoes the last undo. See How do you ‘redo’ changes after ‘undo’ with Emacs?

Key binding Action
C-f Forward one character
C-b Backward one character
M-f Forward one word
M-b Backward one word
C-s Search forward
C-r Search backward
C-g Return to where search started (if you are still in search mode)
M-% Query replace


If any of these shortcuts/commands aren’t working, try adding (slime-setup '(slime-fancy slime-asdf)) to your .emacs file (see Introduction to SLIME.


Key binding Action
M-. Jump to definition of function under cursor
M-, Jump back
Hit spacebar after function Show function arguments
C-c C-d d when on symbol Show symbol definition
C-c C-d h when on symbol Open symbol definition from CL hyperspec in browser

Compilation and messages

Key binding  
M-x slime Start slime
M-x slime-restart-inferior-lisp Restart lisp
C-c C-c Compile current form
C-c C-k Compile current buffer
M-n Step forward through annotations post compilation
M-p Step backward through annotations post compilation
C-c M-c Clear annotations
Navigate to message and hit return In REPL, show annotation (aka mark)
C-up or C-down Move up/down through command history

Debugging (from the REPL)

Key binding Action
C-c I Start the inspector. (See inspector below for more info)
, Enter command, e.g. help
tab Command completion. (See command completion below for more info)
C-up/down Command history navigation
E-p/n Command history navigation (alternative). Think p for previous and n for next

Command completion

Slime’s command completion, started with tab from the REPL, can complete over the entire set of characters, e.g. if you type m-v- and hit tab it’ll change it to multiple-value and open a new frame showing which commands are available that start with those characters.

Note: Hitting tab alone may use emacs tab completion (for anything you’ve already typed into the buffer) rather than slime completion. If this is the case, then use C-c tab instead.


Start the inspector via C-c I from the REPL. It will prompt you for a list expression to inspect. You can navigate the inspector and drill up/down the objects to read more about them.

Key binding Action
C-h b View all available inspector shortcut commands
Up/down/left/right Move cursor
Return Inspect next object, i.e. inspect object under the cursor
n Inspect next object (alternative). Think n for next
l Inspect last object, i.e. go to previous page. Think l for last

For example, try (find-package 'common-lisp) in the inspector. Navigate to ‘978 present symbols’ and hit return to view available symbols, then hit return on ‘[Group by classification]’ and you’ll see a list of bound symbols followed by a list of all classes, constants, functions, etc.


Last modified: 09/06/2012 Tags: ,

This website is a personal resource. Nothing here is guaranteed correct or complete, so use at your own risk and try not to delete the Internet. -Stephan

Site Info

Privacy policy

Go to top