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11 Manipulating Variables

GNU Info uses several internal variables whose values are looked at by various Info commands. You can change the values of these variables, and thus change the behavior of Info, if desired.

There are three ways to set the value of a variable, listed here in order of precedence:

  1. interactively, using the set-variable command described below;
  2. on the command line, using the ‘-v’ (‘--variable’) command line option (see variable-assignment);
  3. in the #var section of the .infokey file (see section Customizing Key Bindings and Variables).
M-x set-variable

Read the name of a variable, and the value for it, in the echo area and then set the variable to that value. Completion is available when reading the variable name (see section The Echo Area); completion is also available when reading the value when that makes sense.

M-x describe-variable

Read the name of a variable in the echo area and display its value and a brief description.

Here is a list of the variables that you can set in Info.


When set to On, footnotes appear and disappear automatically; else, they appear at the bottom of the node text. This variable is Off by default. When a node is selected, a window containing the footnotes which appear in that node is created, and the footnotes are displayed within the new window. The window that Info creates to contain the footnotes is called *Footnotes*. If a node is selected which contains no footnotes, and a *Footnotes* window is on the screen, the *Footnotes* window is deleted. Footnote windows created in this fashion are not automatically tiled so that they can use as little of the display as is possible.


When set to On, creating or deleting a window resizes other windows. This variable is Off by default. Normally, typing ‘C-x 2’ divides the current window into two equal parts. When automatic-tiling is set to On, all of the windows are resized automatically, keeping an equal number of lines visible in each window. Any *Completions* and *Footnotes* windows are exceptions to the automatic tiling; they retain their original size.


By default, cursor movement commands stop when top or bottom of a node is reached (see section Moving the Cursor). When this variable is set to On, cursor movement commands become scrolling and their behavior is controlled by the scroll-behavior variable (see below).


When set to On (the default), errors cause the bell to ring.


When set to On, Info garbage collects files which had to be uncompressed. The default value of this variable is Off. Whenever a node is visited in Info, the Info file containing that node is read into memory, and Info reads information about the tags and nodes contained in that file. Once the tags information is read by Info, it is never forgotten. However, the actual text of the nodes does not need to be retained unless a particular Info window needs it. For non-compressed files, node text is not remembered when it is no longer in use. But de-compressing a file can be a time-consuming operation, and so Info tries hard not to do it twice. This variable tells Info it is okay to garbage collect the text of the nodes of a file which was compressed on disk.


When set to On, Info accepts and displays ISO Latin characters; the default is Off, i.e., an ASCII character set. ISO-Latin tells Info that it is running in an environment where the European standard character set is in use, and allows you to input such characters to Info, as well as display them.


Minimum length of a search string (default 1). Attempts to initiate a search for a string (or regular expression) shorter than this value, result in an error.


Control what happens when forward scrolling is requested at the end of a node, or when backward scrolling is requested at the beginning of a node. The two variable names are synonyms. The default value for this variable is Continuous. Possible values:


Try to get the first item in this node’s menu, or failing that, the ‘Next’ node, or failing that, the ‘Next’ of the ‘Up’ node. This behavior is identical to using the ‘]’ (global-next-node) and ‘[’ (global-prev-node) commands.

Next Only

Only try to get the ‘Next’ node.

Page Only

Just stop, changing nothing. With this value, no scrolling command can change the node that is being viewed.

This variable normally affects only scrolling commands. See cursor-movement-scrolls, for information on how to widen its scope to cursor movement commands.


Control what happens when a scrolling command is issued at the end of the last node. Possible values are:


Do not scroll. Display the ‘No more nodes within this document.’ message. This is the default.


Scroll as usual. Since the last node is usually an index, this means that the very first node from the menu will be selected.


Go to the top node of this document.

This variable is in effect only if scroll-behaviour is set to Continuous.

Notice that the default behavior has changed in version 4.12. Previous versions behaved as if scroll-last-node=Scroll was set. This behavior was counter-intuitive, therefore since version 4.12 the default is to stop at the last node.


The number of lines to scroll when the cursor moves out of the window. Scrolling happens automatically if the cursor has moved out of the visible portion of the node text when it is time to display. Usually the scrolling is done so as to put the cursor on the center line of the current window. However, if the variable scroll-step has a nonzero value, Info attempts to scroll the node text by that many lines; if that is enough to bring the cursor back into the window, that is what is done. The default value of this variable is 0, thus placing the cursor (and the text it is attached to) in the center of the window. Setting this variable to 1 causes a kind of “smooth scrolling” which some people prefer.


Set the starting point of repeated searches (see repeated-search). When set to Off (the default), repeated searches start at the position immediately following (when searching in forward direction), or immediately preceding (when searching backwards) the cursor. When set to On, repeated searches omit lines visibly displayed on the screen. In other words, forward searches (}) start at the beginning of the next page, and backward searches ({) start at the end of the previous page.


When set to On (the default), the portion of the matched search string that you typed is indicated (by displaying it in the “opposite” case) in the result message (see section next-index-match).


When set to On, Info attempts to flash the screen instead of ringing the bell. This variable is Off by default. If the terminal does not allow flashing, this variable has no effect. (But you can still make Info perform quietly by setting the errors-ring-bell variable to Off; or using an external command to mute the bell, e.g., xset b 0 0 0.)

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