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9. Marking Words and Phrases

In Texinfo, you can mark words and phrases in a variety of ways. The Texinfo formatters use this information to determine how to highlight the text. You can specify, for example, whether a word or phrase is a defining occurrence, a metasyntactic variable, or a symbol used in a program. Also, you can emphasize text, in several different ways.

9.1 Indicating Definitions, Commands, etc.

Texinfo has commands for indicating just what kind of object a piece of text refers to. For example, metasyntactic variables are marked by @var, and code by @code. Since the pieces of text are labelled by commands that tell what kind of object they are, it is easy to change the way the Texinfo formatters prepare such text. (Texinfo is an intentional formatting language rather than a typesetting formatting language.)

For example, in a printed manual, code is usually illustrated in a typewriter font; @code tells TeX to typeset this text in this font. But it would be easy to change the way TeX highlights code to use another font, and this change would not affect how keystroke examples are highlighted. If straight typesetting commands were used in the body of the file and you wanted to make a change, you would need to check every single occurrence to make sure that you were changing code and not something else that should not be changed.

9.1.1 Highlighting Commands are Useful

The highlighting commands can be used to extract useful information from the file, such as lists of functions or file names. It is possible, for example, to write a program in Emacs Lisp (or a keyboard macro) to insert an index entry after every paragraph that contains words or phrases marked by a specified command. You could do this to construct an index of functions if you had not already made the entries.

The commands serve a variety of purposes:

Indicate text that is a literal example of a piece of a program.
Indicate keyboard input.
Indicate the conventional name for a key on a keyboard.
Indicate text that is a literal example of a sequence of characters.
Indicate a metasyntactic variable.
Indicate an environment variable.
Indicate the name of a file.
Indicate the name of a command.
Indicate a command-line option.
Indicate the introductory or defining use of a term.
Indicate the name of a book.
Indicate an acronym.
Indicate a uniform resource locator for the World Wide Web.
@email{email-address[, displayed-text]}
Indicate an electronic mail address.

9.1.2 @code{sample-code}

Use the @code command to indicate text that is a piece of a program and which consists of entire syntactic tokens. Enclose the text in braces.

Thus, you should use @code for an expression in a program, for the name of a variable or function used in a program, or for a keyword in a programming language.

Use @code for command names in languages that resemble programming languages, such as Texinfo. For example, @code and @samp are produced by writing `@code{@@code}' and `@code{@@samp}' in the Texinfo source, respectively.

It is incorrect to alter the case of a word inside an @code command when it appears at the beginning of a sentence. Most computer languages are case sensitive. In C, for example, Printf is different from the identifier printf, and most likely is a misspelling of it. Even in languages which are not case sensitive, it is confusing to a human reader to see identifiers spelled in different ways. Pick one spelling and always use that. If you do not want to start a sentence with a command name written all in lower case, you should rearrange the sentence.

In the printed manual, @code causes TeX to typeset the argument in a typewriter face. In the Info file, it causes the Info formatting commands to use single quotation marks around the text.

For example,

The function returns @code{nil}.

produces this in the printed manual:

The function returns nil.

Here are some cases for which it is preferable not to use @code:

Since @command, @option, and @env were introduced relatively recently, it is acceptable to use @code or @samp for command names, options, and environment variables. The new commands allow you to express the markup more precisely, but there is no real harm in using the older commands, and of course the long-standing manuals do so.

9.1.3 @kbd{keyboard-characters}

Use the @kbd command for characters of input to be typed by users. For example, to refer to the characters M-a, write


and to refer to the characters M-x shell, write

@kbd{M-x shell}

The @kbd command has the same effect as @code in Info, but by default produces a different font (slanted typewriter instead of normal typewriter) in the printed manual, so users can distinguish the characters they are supposed to type from those the computer outputs.

Since the usage of @kbd varies from manual to manual, you can control the font switching with the @kbdinputstyle command. This command has no effect on Info output. Write this command at the beginning of a line with a single word as an argument, one of the following:

Always use the same font for @kbd as @code.
Use the distinguishing font for @kbd only in @example and similar environments.
(the default) Always use the distinguishing font for @kbd.

You can embed another @-command inside the braces of an @kbd command. Here, for example, is the way to describe a command that would be described more verbosely as "press an `r' and then press the RET key":

@kbd{r @key{RET}}

This produces: r RET

You also use the @kbd command if you are spelling out the letters you type; for example:

To give the @code{logout} command,
type the characters @kbd{l o g o u t @key{RET}}.

This produces:

To give the logout command, type the characters l o g o u t RET.

(Also, this example shows that you can add spaces for clarity. If you really want to mention a space character as one of the characters of input, write @key{SPC} for it.)

9.1.4 @key{key-name}

Use the @key command for the conventional name for a key on a keyboard, as in:


You can use the @key command within the argument of an @kbd command when the sequence of characters to be typed includes one or more keys that are described by name.

For example, to produce C-x ESC you would type:

@kbd{C-x @key{ESC}}

Here is a list of the recommended names for keys:

Linefeed (however, since most keyboards nowadays do not have a Linefeed key, it might be better to call this character C-j.

There are subtleties to handling words like `meta' or `ctrl' that are names of modifier keys. When mentioning a character in which the modifier key is used, such as Meta-a, use the @kbd command alone; do not use the @key command; but when you are referring to the modifier key in isolation, use the @key command. For example, write `@kbd{Meta-a}' to produce Meta-a and `@key{META}' to produce META.

9.1.5 @samp{text}

Use the @samp command to indicate text that is a literal example or `sample' of a sequence of characters in a file, string, pattern, etc. Enclose the text in braces. The argument appears within single quotation marks in both the Info file and the printed manual; in addition, it is printed in a fixed-width font.

To match @samp{foo} at the end of the line,
use the regexp @samp{foo$}.


To match `foo' at the end of the line, use the regexp `foo$'.

Any time you are referring to single characters, you should use @samp unless @kbd or @key is more appropriate. Also, you may use @samp for entire statements in C and for entire shell commands--in this case, @samp often looks better than @code. Basically, @samp is a catchall for whatever is not covered by @code, @kbd, or @key.

Only include punctuation marks within braces if they are part of the string you are specifying. Write punctuation marks outside the braces if those punctuation marks are part of the English text that surrounds the string. In the following sentence, for example, the commas and period are outside of the braces:

In English, the vowels are @samp{a}, @samp{e},
@samp{i}, @samp{o}, @samp{u}, and sometimes

This produces:

In English, the vowels are `a', `e', `i', `o', `u', and sometimes `y'.

9.1.6 @var{metasyntactic-variable}

Use the @var command to indicate metasyntactic variables. A metasyntactic variable is something that stands for another piece of text. For example, you should use a metasyntactic variable in the documentation of a function to describe the arguments that are passed to that function.

Do not use @var for the names of particular variables in programming languages. These are specific names from a program, so @code is correct for them (see section 9.1.2 @code{sample-code}). For example, the Emacs Lisp variable texinfo-tex-command is not a metasyntactic variable; it is properly formatted using @code.

Do not use @var for environment variables either; @env is correct for them (see the next section).

The effect of @var in the Info file is to change the case of the argument to all upper case. In the printed manual and HTML output, the argument is printed in slanted type.

For example,

To delete file @var{filename},
type @samp{rm @var{filename}}.


To delete file filename, type `rm filename'.

(Note that @var may appear inside @code, @samp, @file, etc.)

Write a metasyntactic variable all in lower case without spaces, and use hyphens to make it more readable. Thus, the Texinfo source for the illustration of how to begin a Texinfo manual looks like this:

\input texinfo
@@setfilename @var{info-file-name}
@@settitle @var{name-of-manual}

This produces:

\input texinfo
@setfilename info-file-name
@settitle name-of-manual

In some documentation styles, metasyntactic variables are shown with angle brackets, for example:

..., type rm <filename>

However, that is not the style that Texinfo uses. (You can, of course, modify the sources to `texinfo.tex' and the Info formatting commands to output the <...> format if you wish.)

9.1.7 @env{environment-variable}

Use the @env command to indicate environment variables, as used by many operating systems, including GNU. Do not use it for metasyntactic variables; use @var instead (see the previous section).

@env is equivalent to @code in its effects. For example:

The @env{PATH} environment variable sets the search path for commands.


The @env{PATH} environment variable sets the search path for commands.

9.1.8 @file{file-name}

Use the @file command to indicate text that is the name of a file, buffer, or directory, or is the name of a node in Info. You can also use the command for file name suffixes. Do not use @file for symbols in a programming language; use @code.

Currently, @file is equivalent to @samp in its effects. For example,

The @file{.el} files are in
the @file{/usr/local/emacs/lisp} directory.


The `.el' files are in the `/usr/local/emacs/lisp' directory.

9.1.9 @command{command-name}

Use the @command command to indicate command names, such as @command{ls} or @command{cc}.

@command is equivalent to @code in its effects. For example:

The command @command{ls} lists directory contents.


The command @command{ls} lists directory contents.

You should write the name of a program in the ordinary text font, rather than using @command, if you regard it as a new English word, such as `Emacs' or `Bison'.

When writing an entire shell command invocation, as in `ls -l', you should use either @samp or @code at your discretion.

9.1.10 @option{option-name}

Use the @option command to indicate a command-line option; for example, @option{-l} or @option{--version} or @option{--output=filename}.

@option is equivalent to @samp in its effects. For example:

The option @option{-l} produces a long listing.


The option @option{-l} produces a long listing.

In tables, putting options inside @code produces a more pleasing effect.

9.1.11 @dfn{term}

Use the @dfn command to identify the introductory or defining use of a technical term. Use the command only in passages whose purpose is to introduce a term which will be used again or which the reader ought to know. Mere passing mention of a term for the first time does not deserve @dfn. The command generates italics in the printed manual, and double quotation marks in the Info file. For example:

Getting rid of a file is called @dfn{deleting} it.


Getting rid of a file is called deleting it.

As a general rule, a sentence containing the defining occurrence of a term should be a definition of the term. The sentence does not need to say explicitly that it is a definition, but it should contain the information of a definition--it should make the meaning clear.

9.1.12 @cite{reference}

Use the @cite command for the name of a book that lacks a companion Info file. The command produces italics in the printed manual, and quotation marks in the Info file.

If a book is written in Texinfo, it is better to use a cross reference command since a reader can easily follow such a reference in Info. See section 8.4 @xref.

9.1.13 @acronym{acronym}

Use the @acronym command for abbreviations written in all capital letters, such as `@acronym{NASA}'. The abbreviation is given as the single argument in braces, as in `@acronym{NASA}'. As a matter of style, or for particular abbreviations, you may prefer to use periods, as in `@acronym{F.B.I.}'.

In TeX and HTML, the argument is printed in a slightly smaller font size. In Info or plain text output, this command changes nothing.

9.1.14 @url{uniform-resource-locator}

Use the @url command to indicate a uniform resource locator on the World Wide Web. This is analogous to @file, @var, etc., and is purely for markup purposes. It does not produce a link you can follow in HTML output (use the @uref command for that, see section 8.9 @uref{url[, text][, replacement]}). It is useful for url's which do not actually exist. For example:

For example, the url might be @url{http://example.org/path}.

which produces:

For example, the url might be http://example.org/path.

9.1.15 @email{email-address[, displayed-text]}

Use the @email command to indicate an electronic mail address. It takes one mandatory argument, the address, and one optional argument, the text to display (the default is the address itself).

In Info and TeX, the address is shown in angle brackets, preceded by the text to display if any. In HTML output, @email produces a `mailto' link that usually brings up a mail composition window. For example:

Send bug reports to @email{bug-texinfo@@gnu.org}.
Send suggestions to the @email{bug-texinfo@@gnu.org, same place}.


Send bug reports to bug-texinfo@gnu.org.
Send suggestions to the same place.

9.2 Emphasizing Text

Usually, Texinfo changes the font to mark words in the text according to what category the words belong to; an example is the @code command. Most often, this is the best way to mark words. However, sometimes you will want to emphasize text without indicating a category. Texinfo has two commands to do this. Also, Texinfo has several commands that specify the font in which TeX will typeset text. These commands have no effect on Info and only one of them, the @r command, has any regular use.

9.2.1 @emph{text} and @strong{text}

The @emph and @strong commands are for emphasis; @strong is stronger. In printed output, @emph produces italics and @strong produces bold.

For example,

@strong{Caution:} @samp{rm * .[^.]*} removes @emph{all}
files in the directory.
@end quotation


     *Caution*: `rm * .[^.]*' removes _all_
     files in the directory.

The @strong command is seldom used except to mark what is, in effect, a typographical element, such as the word `Caution' in the preceding example.

In the Info output, @emph surrounds the text with underscores (`_'), and @strong puts asterisks around the text.

Caution: Do not use @strong with the word `Note'; Info will mistake the combination for a cross reference. Use a phrase such as Please note or Caution instead.

9.2.2 @sc{text}: The Small Caps Font

Use the `@sc' command to set text in the printed and the HTML output in A SMALL CAPS FONT and set text in the Info file in upper case letters. Write the text you want to be in small caps (where possible) between braces in lower case, like this:

The @sc{acm} and @sc{ieee} are technical societies.

This produces:

The ACM and IEEE are technical societies.

TeX typesets the small caps font in a manner that prevents the letters from `jumping out at you on the page'. This makes small caps text easier to read than text in all upper case--but it's usually better to use regular mixed case anyway. The Info formatting commands set all small caps text in upper case. In HTML, the text is upper-cased and a smaller font is used to render it.

If the text between the braces of an @sc command is uppercase, TeX typesets in FULL-SIZE CAPITALS. Use full-size capitals sparingly, if ever, and since it's redundant to mark all-uppercase text with @sc, @command{makeinfo} warns about such usage.

You may also use the small caps font for a jargon word such as ATO (a NASA word meaning `abort to orbit').

There are subtleties to using the small caps font with a jargon word such as CDR, a word used in Lisp programming. In this case, you should use the small caps font when the word refers to the second and subsequent elements of a list (the CDR of the list), but you should use `@code' when the word refers to the Lisp function of the same spelling.

9.2.3 Fonts for Printing, Not Info

Texinfo provides four font commands that specify font changes in the printed manual but have no effect in the Info file. @i requests italic font (in some versions of TeX, a slanted font is used), @b requests bold face, @t requests the fixed-width, typewriter-style font used by @code, and @r requests a roman font, which is the usual font in which text is printed. All four commands apply to an argument that follows, surrounded by braces.

Only the @r command has much use: in example programs, you can use the @r command to convert code comments from the fixed-width font to a roman font. This looks better in printed output.

For example,

(+ 2 2)    ; @r{Add two plus two.}
@end lisp


(+ 2 2)    ; Add two plus two.

If possible, you should avoid using the other three font commands. If you need to use one, it probably indicates a gap in the Texinfo language.

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