From many Emacs documentation sources, it's clear that when I have a document open, I should be able to press M-< and M-> to go to the start and end of that document respectively. Alternatively, I could press Esc, then < or > for the same effect. < and > of course stand for the left and right arrows.

I have tried these keyboard shortcuts in multiple Emacs configurations (mostly emacs24 on Ubuntu 14.04) and they do not have this effect. These keystrokes cause the cursor to move between words (from the boundaries of one word to another), rather than to the beginning/end of the document. I have tried in both the terminal and GUI versions of Emacs.

Does anyone know what the correct keystrokes are for moving the cursor to the start and end of the document?

  • Well... < and > stand for "less than" and "greater than", not arrows!
    – JeanPierre
    Jan 24, 2016 at 14:43
  • That is a rather good point.
    – Pat Flegit
    Jan 24, 2016 at 14:47
  • 1
    Make sure that you are actually typing M-< or M->, i.e. Make sure you are holding the shift key as well. This has thrown me of at first with some commands.
    – elethan
    Jan 24, 2016 at 15:18
  • 2
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is based on a misconception that M-< and M-> do not (by default) move to the start and end of the buffer.
    – Drew
    Jan 24, 2016 at 15:20
  • 1
    If, starting from emacs -Q (no init file) you can reproduce what you describe, of M-< and M-> not moving to beginning and end of buffer, the consider reporting a bug: M-x report-emacs-bug. (And as @elethan indicated, be sure you are using the < and > keys, not the arrow keys.)
    – Drew
    Jan 24, 2016 at 15:22

1 Answer 1


The resource I was using mentioned the arrow keys, then shortly afterwards mentioned the M-< and M-> shortcuts; I assumed < and > referred to arrow keys. They actually refer to the literal '<' and '>' operators.

  • 1
    Most key sequence notation likewise refers to the characters that you type. Some exceptions have names, including the cursor keys. You can use C-h c or C-h k to see how Emacs refers to the following key/chord.
    – phils
    Jan 25, 2016 at 12:24

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