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 between windows.

Text Editing Commands

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-H, Delete, Backspace: before
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-H, META-Delete, META-Backspace: before
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-H, META-SHIFT-Delete, META-SHIFT-Backspace: before
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 kill buffer.
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

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.

Search and Replace

Pressing CTRL-S in an editable window pops up a search-and-replace window like the one in the Figure below.

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 CTRL-R or click the Backward button.

Figure: Search and replace pop-up window


Composition Window Buttons

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:

Reformatting Paragraphs

To neaten the lines in a paragraph you're editing, press META-Q. 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.

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 META-Q. 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.

Line Wrapping

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 RETURN, the words on all the lines will be adjusted to fit neatly between margins. To start a new paragraph, simply press RETURN (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:
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 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.

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:

SendWidth: 60
SendBreakWidth: 60
To: joed
Cc: angelac
Subject: Section of xmh(1) manual page you asked for
xmh takes those special fields out of the header before sending the message.

Copy and Paste

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 window border. Also, you can't copy text from every window on your screen -- some won't let you copy.

  3. 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.

Use Another Editor

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.

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 <jpeek@jpeek.com>