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Full text searching in Info mode with Apropos

by mickey on August 4th, 2011

Most Emacs hackers quickly memorize the myriad of help commands available to them in Emacs; among them, the humble M-x apropos command, a full text regexp search command that searches all known Lisp symbols (macros, functions, variables – you name it) and returns a list of matches. I should point out that — as the two are often confused — it has a closely-related sibling M-x apropos-command, bound to C-h a, that will only search interactive commands*.

What most people are not aware of is a little-known command named info-apropos, a full text search for Emacs’s documentation browser, info (C-h i.) Not limited to just your Emacs documentation, the info-apropos command will also search other info documentation present on your system, such as the GNU CoreUtils manuals. What sets it apart from existing info commands like C-s (isearch) is that it will give you a full list of all matches and tell you what node it was found under. Very useful.

* – Of course, there are many more domain-specific apropos commands – use C-h a to find them :-)

  1. apropos-zippy!

  2. phil permalink

    I use the following bindings for the various apropos commands:

    And, of course, if I forget what any of those letters mean, C-h at the prompt details the bindings.

  3. phil permalink

    If you’ve not played with the info reader much, then two other terribly-useful things for Finding Stuff in the info manuals are:

    1) The index. Upper- and lower-case i are bound to the index search commands. I find the former more useful, myself. Indexes are manual-specific.

    2) Interactive search. C-s will first search within the current node, but if you type it again after the first failure, it will go on and search other nodes within the current manual, taking you to whatever the next match is.

    info-apropos is different in that it searches all manuals.

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