When I open ibuffer to manage opened buffers I see [ *, %, >, D ] markings. There is no documentation describing what they mean. enter image description here

I wonder what do they mean (Emacs 26.1) ?

  • @Drew Please write the last sentence of your comment as an answer.
    – Tobias
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 0:20
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    Tip: if you can't find documentation on something in a major mode using the normal methods, try M-x customize-group RET <mode>. Doing this for ibuffer shows you what the markers are called (and lets you change them). Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 22:32

1 Answer 1


* means the buffer has been modified, and % means it is read-only.

(Comments here corrected my initial misstatement that * means the buffer is marked for subsequent action. The character used for that is >, not `*.)

Comments here also mention, as a reminder, that the same characters * and % are used in the mode-line to indicate that a buffer has been modified and is read-only, respectively.)

(h (or as always, C-h m) in Ibuffer shows help on the major mode. But I see that it does not provide any legend for understanding such markings. Please consider filing a bug/enhancement report: M-x report-emacs-bug.)

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    When I open Emacs 26 and type M-x ibuffer and press the letter m, I see a mark in the form of a > symbol. I see a variable named ibuffer-modified-char and its default value is *; and, I see a variable named ibuffer-marked-char and its default value is >. The read-only portion is correct, which corresponds to the variable ibuffer-read-only-char with a default value of %. And, although not asked by the O.P., there is a variable ibuffer-deletion-char whose default value is D.
    – lawlist
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 1:41
  • Having * mean modified matches my experience as well. Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 3:05
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    Note also that * and % are used with these same meanings in the mode line for any buffer, such that you will see --, **, %%, or %* for unmodified, modified, read-only, or modified and read-only respectively.
    – phils
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 5:02
  • @phils how can a buffer be modified and read-only?
    – A_P
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 14:19
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    A_P: it could be modified and THEN turned to read-only.
    – Dan
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 14:28

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