If you've been reading straight through this book, you may have started a list of things you'd like to change about Emacs, such as
Hiding the toolbar
Changing Emacs cut and paste commands to C-x, C-c, and C-v
Turning on text mode and a fill mode so Emacs does word wrap
Changing the way some of the keys work
We're going to tell you how to give Emacs the to-do list, a list of options to turn on each time you enter Emacs. These options are defined in an initialization file called .emacs. Initialization files run automatically. Some run when you start up your computer. Others, like .emacs, run when you start up an associated software program. So .emacs runs automatically when you start Emacs and turns on whatever options the file defines. Emacs doesn't need this file to run; its only purpose is to make Emacs work the way you want it to.
The .emacs file consists of Lisp statements. If you're not a Lisp programmer, you can think of each line as an incantation that follows a certain pattern; you need to type it exactly.
Emacs now has another way to handle customization: an interactive interface called Custom that writes Lisp for you and automatically inserts it in your .emacs file. The Custom interface is discussed in Chapter 10, but we'll show you an even faster method for common options.
When you want to add a line to your .emacs file directly, take these steps:
Enter Emacs (if you're not already there).
Type C-x C-f ~/.emacs Enter.
Type the line ...