In my mode-line there's a cryptic set of characters like -UUU:@%*--F32

I know I could read through the documentation to figure out what they all mean, but I'd rather just hit a key and have a window pop up with a human-readable expansion of each of those mode-line characters that are showing up in my currently active buffer.

Is there a package that does this?

  • 3
    Dunno about a package that does that. But see the Elisp manual, node Mode Line Variables: variables mode-line-mule-info (UUU:@), mode-line-modified (%*), and mode-line-frame-identification (--F32).
    – Drew
    Commented Nov 10, 2018 at 17:41

2 Answers 2


Just hold your mouse pointer over the various parts, and read the tooltips. Maybe it doesn't answer all your questions about the modeline, but most of them at least.

  • I only use terminal Emacs, not GUI Emacs, so using the mouse is not an option for me. Even if it was, I'd like to find a solution that does not require the mouse.
    – izkon
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 17:46

Not perfect but better than nothing:

  • First: M-x ielm (or SPC SPC ielm in spacemacs) to get an "IELM" elisp REPL.
  • Then (non-spacemacs): Type diminished-mode-alist and hit return (not perfect because some use lisp forms rather than strings)
  • Or (spacemacs): Type spacemacs--diminished-minor-modes and hit return (this will show the unicode symbols used in the mode line)

Not directly relevant to the question, but you can also use C-h m (describe-mode) to see more information about currently active modes.

See also: minor-mode-alist, mode-line-format.

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