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Choosing Major Modes

You can select a major mode explicitly for the current buffer, but most of the time Emacs determines which mode to use based on the file name or some text in the file.

Use a M-x command to explicitly select a new major mode. Add -mode to the name of a major mode to get the name of a command to select that mode. For example, to enter Lisp mode, execute M-x lisp-mode.

When you visit a file, Emacs usually chooses the right major mode based on the file's name. For example, files whose names end in .c are edited in C mode. The variable auto-mode-alist controls the correspondence between file names and major mode. Its value is a list in which each element has the form:

(regexp . mode-function)

For example, one element normally found in the list has the form ("\\.c$" . c-mode). It is responsible for selecting C mode for files whose names end in `.c'. (Note that `\\' is needed in Lisp syntax to include a `\' in the string, which is needed to suppress the special meaning of `.' in regexps.) The only practical way to change this variable is with Lisp code.

You can specify which major mode should be used for editing a certain file by a special sort of text in the first non-blank line of the file. The mode name should appear in this line both preceded and followed by `-*-'. Other text may appear on the line as well. For example,

;-*-Lisp-*-

tells Emacs to use Lisp mode. Note how the semicolon is used to make Lisp treat this line as a comment. Such an explicit specification overrides any default mode based on the file name.

Another format of mode specification is:

-*-Mode: modename;-*-

which allows other things besides the major mode name to be specified. However, Emacs does not look for anything except the mode name.

The major mode can also be specified in a local variables list. See section Local Variables in Files.

When you visit a file that does not specify a major mode to use, or when you create a new buffer with C-x b, Emacs uses the major mode specified by the variable default-major-mode. Normally this value is the symbol fundamental-mode, which specifies Fundamental mode. If default-major-mode is nil, the major mode is taken from the previously selected buffer.

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