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15. Accumulating Text

Usually we copy or move text by killing it and yanking it, but there are other convenient methods for copying one block of text in many places, or for copying many scattered blocks of text into one place. To copy one block to many places, store it in a register (see section Registers). Here we describe the commands to accumulate scattered pieces of text into a buffer or into a file.

M-x append-to-buffer

Append region to the contents of a specified buffer.

M-x prepend-to-buffer

Prepend region to the contents of a specified buffer.

M-x copy-to-buffer

Copy region into a specified buffer, deleting that buffer's old contents.

M-x insert-buffer

Insert the contents of a specified buffer into current buffer at point.

M-x append-to-file

Append region to the contents of a specified file, at the end.

To accumulate text into a buffer, use M-x append-to-buffer. This reads a buffer name, then inserts a copy of the region into the buffer specified. If you specify a nonexistent buffer, append-to-buffer creates the buffer. The text is inserted wherever point is in that buffer. If you have been using the buffer for editing, the copied text goes into the middle of the text of the buffer, starting from wherever point happens to be at that moment.

Point in that buffer is left at the end of the copied text, so successive uses of append-to-buffer accumulate the text in the specified buffer in the same order as they were copied. Strictly speaking, append-to-buffer does not always append to the text already in the buffer—it appends only if point in that buffer is at the end. However, if append-to-buffer is the only command you use to alter a buffer, then point is always at the end.

M-x prepend-to-buffer is just like append-to-buffer except that point in the other buffer is left before the copied text, so successive prependings add text in reverse order. M-x copy-to-buffer is similar, except that any existing text in the other buffer is deleted, so the buffer is left containing just the text newly copied into it.

To retrieve the accumulated text from another buffer, use the command M-x insert-buffer; this too takes buffername as an argument. It inserts a copy of the whole text in buffer buffername into the current buffer at point, and sets the mark after the inserted text. Alternatively, you can select the other buffer for editing, then copy text from it by killing. See section Using Multiple Buffers, for background information on buffers.

Instead of accumulating text within Emacs, in a buffer, you can append text directly into a file with M-x append-to-file, which takes filename as an argument. It adds the text of the region to the end of the specified file. The file is changed immediately on disk.

You should use append-to-file only with files that are not being visited in Emacs. Using it on a file that you are editing in Emacs would change the file behind Emacs's back, which can lead to losing some of your editing.


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