The Modernization of Emacs: exists already

Xah Lee xah at
Wed Jul 18 15:17:00 CEST 2007

About a month ago, i posted a message about modernization of emacs. I
enlisted several items that i think emacs should adapt.

Today I added another section to the frequestly asked questions.
The new section is pasted below. The full article can be found at


Q: The Meta key is logical and proper, it shouldn't be renamed to Alt.

A: Most computer geekers think that the so-called "Meta" key of Emacs
is a more general and logical naming, and they believe in Emacs
documentation the term "Meta key" should not be called the "Alt key"
to fit the mundane PC keyboard.

above: The Space-cadet keyboard (Source , 2007-07) .

Emacs's naming of Meta key isn't actually a general naming scheme. It
is simply the name of a special modifier key on a particular keyboard
popularly used with Emacs in the 1980s. (see Space-cadet keyboard ) On
this keyboard, it has several modifier keys, including Ctrl, Meta,
Super, Hyper. The Emacs's use of the term "Meta key" simply referred
to that key on that keyboard. Emacs actually also support the other
modifier keys Super and Hyper to this day. The Space-cadet keyboard
fell out of use along with Lisp machine . The IBM PC keyboard  (and
its decendents) becomes the most popular since the 1990s and is
practically the standard keyboard used today. The IBM PC keyboard does
not have Super and Hyper keys, so Emacs's support for them becomes
little known, but Ctrl remains Ctrl while Meta is mapped to the Alt

In Emacs's documentation, the term Meta key should be replaced with
the Alt key, to reflect current usage, since that is the keyboard 99%
of personal computer users know. The "Meta key" name is a major point
of confusion for getting people to learn Emacs. The abbreviation C-
<key> and M-<key> to represent keyboard shortcuts should similarly be
updated to the more easy-to-understand and universal Ctrl-<key> and

  xah at

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