Editing in xmh
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xmh lets you edit draft messages and other messages too.
Here are some tips about editing in xmh.
The following sections describe common editing commands, using buttons
in a composition window, line wrapping, and copying and pasting text
The composition window uses a set of editing commands that are a
subset of GNU Emacs editor commands.
All of the text editing commands actually come from the Athena Text widget.
Most of the commands are control characters and meta-characters.
The next two Tables,
xmh Text Editing Commands: Modifying and
xmh Text Editing Commands: Moving,
list editing commands.
The tables are adapted from the X Toolkit Athena Text widget manual page.
There's a summary of these commands in
the xmh Reference Guide, Table 8.
Table: xmh Text Editing Commands: Modifying
- CTRL-D: after
- Remove the character immediately after or before the insertion point.
If a carriage return is removed, the next line is
appended to the end of the current line.
- META-D: after
- Remove all characters after or before the insertion point location and
the next word boundary.
A word boundary is defined as a space, a tab, or a carriage return.
- META-SHIFT-D: after
- These actions act exactly like the un-shifted actions in the previous
cell of this table, but they store the word that was
killed into the kill buffer.
- Delete the current selection and store the deleted text into
the kill buffer.
- Delete the entire line to the right of the insertion point,
and store the deleted text into the kill buffer.
- Delete everything between the current insertion point and
the next paragraph boundary, and put the deleted text into the
- CTRL-J, Linefeed
- Insert a newline into the text and add spaces to
that line to indent it to match the previous line.
- Insert a newline into the text after the insertion point.
- CTRL-M, Return
- Insert a newline into the text before the insertion point.
- Activate the insert-file pop up.
The filename is empty at startup.
- Remove all the carriage returns from the current paragraph and
reinsert them so that each line is as wide as possible, while
still fitting on the current screen.
Lines are broken at word boundaries if at all possible.
- Switch the positions of the character to the left of the
insertion point and the character to the right of the insertion point.
The insertion point will then be advanced one character.
- Recompute the location of all the text lines on the display, scroll the
text to center vertically the line containing the insertion point
on the screen, clear the entire screen, and then redisplay it.
Table: xmh Text Editing Commands: Moving
in an editable window pops up a search-and-replace window like the
one in the Figure below.
- CTRL-F, Right Arrow: forward
- CTRL-B, Left Arrow: backward
- Move the insertion point forward or backward one
character in the buffer.
If the insertion point is at the end (or beginning) of a line,
this action moves the insertion point to the next (or previous) line.
- META-F: next
- META-B: previous
- Move the insertion point to the next or previous word boundary.
A word boundary is defined as a space, a tab, or a carriage return.
- META-]: next
- META-[: previous
- Move the insertion point to the next or previous paragraph boundary.
A paragraph boundary is defined as two carriage returns in a row with
only spaces or tabs between them.
- CTRL-A: beginning
- CTRL-E: end
- Move to the beginning or end of the current line.
If the insertion point is already at the end or beginning of the
line, no action is taken.
- CTRL-V: up
- META-V: down
- Move the insertion point up or down one page in the file.
One page is defined as the current height of the text widget.
These actions always place the insertion point at the first character
of the top line.
- META-<: beginning
- META->: end
- Place the insertion point at the beginning or end of the
current text buffer.
The text widget is then scrolled the minimum
amount necessary to make the new insertion point location visible.
- CTRL-P, Up Arrow: up
- CTRL-N, Down Arrow: down
- Move the insertion point up or down one line.
If the insert point is currently n characters from the
beginning of the line then it will be n characters from the
beginning of the next or previous line.
If n is past the end of the line, the insertion point is
placed at the end of the line.
- CTRL-Z: up
- META-Z: down
- Scroll the current text field up or down by one line.
These do not move the insertion point.
Other than the scrollbars, this is the only way that the insertion
point may be moved off of the visible text area.
The widget will be scrolled so that the insertion point is back on
the screen as soon as some other action is executed.
If the text in the window can't be edited (for example, it's
displaying a message), you can search but not replace.
The search moves forward -- that is, from the top of the file toward the end.
To move backward, start with
or click the Backward button.
Figure: Search and replace pop-up window
When you compose, forward, or reply to a message, a composition window opens.
The functions of buttons at the bottom of the window may seem obvious, but
three of them could use more explanation:
To neaten the lines in a paragraph you're editing, press
The lines will fill neatly, broken at the spaces between words
closest to the right margin.
To me, this makes the lines a little too wide for people to
include them neatly in their replies.
If I'll be reformatting paragraphs, I resize my window to a
65-character width first.
The New Headers button is misleading.
It doesn't just make a new header.
It replaces everything in the message, like starting from scratch.
A confirmation box comes up to be sure that you're sure.
The Close Window button does just that.
If you've made changes, you should have saved them with the
Save Message button first -- though you'll be asked for
confirmation if you haven't saved.
(NOTE: xmh Release 4 has a bug here: if you click the Close
Window button twice, you'll get two copies of the confirmation
If you click Yes in both of them, xmh will crash.)
Closing the window leaves the draft message in your drafts
folder -- if you've saved the draft at least once before.
come back to it later
by opening the drafts folder in a main
window, selecting the draft message that you want to work on, and selecting
Use as Composition or Edit Message.
The Insert button is grayed (which means you can't use it)
unless you're replying to a message.
When you're replying, if you click the button, a copy of the message
you're replying to will be inserted at the text caret (^).
The Section ReplyInsertFilter
has more information.
There's one "gotcha" with META-Q.
If you press it in the first paragraph of a message, just under
the header, it will reformat the header, too.
The Figure below shows the mess you'll get.
Figure: META-Q reformatting mistake
An easy fix is to put a blank line before the paragraph before typing
I couldn't train myself to do that.
So, instead, I changed my
components draft file
and replaced the row of dashes with a blank line.
I start typing at the end of the draft, as always, but now there's
no row of dashes that joins the header to the paragraph.
When you're typing an original mail message or adding text to an
existing one, each line you type will wrap automatically.
That is, until you press
the words on all the lines will be adjusted to fit neatly between margins.
To start a new paragraph, simply press
(twice to make a blank line).
When you send the message, text in each paragraph is broken into
lines -- it's not necessarily broken the way it looks in your window.
You can make two settings that affect the way lines are broken.
Here's what they do:
You can set these on fields in your message header (as explained later
in this section) or in your resource manager.
For example, with the SendBreakWidth set to 2000 (that's
the default in xmh Release 6), it's a good bet that no lines
will be broken -- no matter what setting of SendWidth you
use -- because no line will be wider than SendBreakWidth.
A "high-water mark" for line width.
No line will be broken unless it's wider than SendBreakWidth.
The maximum width for lines that have been broken.
You can tell xmh to cut the line width for you by putting new values
of SendBreakWidth and/or SendWidth in the message header.
In the composition window, add the new field(s) to the header the same
way that you'd insert new lines in the body.
(Be sure not to leave any empty lines in the header, though.)
For example, to set SendBreakWidth and SendWidth at
60 characters each, make your header look something like this:
Subject: Section of xmh(1) manual page you asked for
xmh takes those special fields out of the header before
sending the message.
You can copy text from one window into another or within a window.
For instance, let's say that you have an xterm window open
and it's showing an error message.
You can mail a copy of that error to the software maintainers
by copying it into an xmh composition window.
Here are the steps to use for copying text from one window to another:
If you'd like to try a different text editor with xmh and
you have access to the X Release 5 source code, look in
the directory contrib/clients/xmh.editor.
This contains patches to the xmh code that allow, among other
things, you to choose your own editor.
Open the composition window and start to compose your message.
Move the text cursor (the caret (^)) to the place
where you want to insert the copied text.
In the window you want to copy from, select the text to copy.
There are two ways to select the text.
You can click on the first character in the text you want to copy
(with your first mouse button), release the button, move to the last
character, and click with the third button.
That should select all the text in between (it'll be shown in reverse video).
Or you can point to the first character -- then, hold down the first
button and drag the pointer across the other text you want -- release
the first button when you've selected all the text.
Again, the selected text should be in reverse video.
If you can't get it to work, be sure that your pointer is inside the
Also, you can't copy text from every window on your
screen -- some won't let you copy.
You should have a highlighted area in the window now.
Click the second mouse button in the composition window, and the
text should be copied in.
If you accidentally click the first mouse button before you copy
the text, you'll need to reselect the text and try again.
For example, the patch would let you add an entry like one of the two
below to your resource file.
The first one chooses the gnu editor; the second opens an
xterm window running vi:
Xmh.editorCommand: gnu -i -w 80x35+100+20 %s
Xmh.editorCommand: xterm -e vi %s
If you haven't patched X source code, ask your system administrator.
There's not room in this book to explain how...
If you can't patch the source code, there's another way to use an external
editor -- though it's clumsy.
The new XmhShellCommand() action can start an external editor.
The Section Use an External Editor shows how.
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Last change $Date: 1996/06/06 15:10:02 $
This file is from the third edition of the book MH & xmh: Email
for Users & Programmers, ISBN 1-56592-093-7, by Jerry Peek.
Copyright © 1991, 1992, 1995 by O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
This file is freely-available; you can redistribute it and/or modify
it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
the Free Software Foundation. For more information, see
the file copying.htm.
Suggestions are welcome:
Jerry Peek <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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Last modified: Friday April 02, 1999.