When I copy non-ascii text from Windows and paste into Emacs, it shows up as an octal sequence. For example, if I paste ä into Emacs it shows up as \344.

I could type C-q 344 to get the ä back in Emacs. That's annoying, but it's tolerable if there's only one character. But if there are many characters turned into octal escape sequences, it would be convenient to run some command on a region to convert everything inside. Is there already such a command? If not, how would you write a function to do it?

[I set my default coding system to utf-8 in my .emacs file, and I use the same .emacs file on Windows and Linux. But the problem only happens when copying from a Windows application into Emacs. Copying from Emacs to another Windows application works fine.]

  • 1
    I think that what you want is revert-buffer-with-coding-system (see it's documentation). Emacs shows the characters this way because you copied them from an environment which was in different coding system (assuming ANSI with so-called high ASCII characters used to render Latin with diacritics), but your buffer must be using something like UTF-8 (for which ASCII characters with high bits set have no meaning, i.e. are invalid).
    – wvxvw
    Dec 18, 2014 at 13:53
  • 1
    Or, maybe even set-clipboard-coding-system. Try C-h a coding-system to see what other functions in this group are available.
    – wvxvw
    Dec 18, 2014 at 13:54
  • The \344 you see is the result of a configuration problem. Rather than a command to "fix" it after the fact, you should investigate why you get it in the first place. E.g. start with emacs -Q and if you see the problem there already, M-x report-emacs-bug.
    – Stefan
    Dec 18, 2014 at 14:36
  • @Stefan Sometimes, "why you get it" is obvious, but that will not help you fixing it after the fact. For example, I just had this issue as a result of insert-file-literally (and it was too late to either undo or delete/reinsert the file).
    – T. Verron
    Dec 18, 2014 at 15:11
  • @Stefan there could be so many misconfigurations outside Emacs that can cause this, to name a few: someone saved BOM into a file which was originally in some cp-12XX single byte encoding, which confused the source editor where the text was copied from, the source editor incorrectly reported the type of content in the clipboard etc. I used to see this a lot when editing some ancient ASP sources which were originally incorrectly encoded.
    – wvxvw
    Dec 18, 2014 at 15:31

2 Answers 2


It turns out the offending part of my .emacs file was (set-selection-coding-system 'utf-8). Once I removed that line, Emacs behaved as expected.


Once made this:

(defun umlaute ()
  "Fix wrongly inserted characters, commonly from pasting. "
  (interactive "*")
    (goto-char (point-min))
    (while (re-search-forward (concat "\\\344\\|"(list 228)) nil 1)
      (replace-match "ä"))
    (goto-char (point-min))
    (while (re-search-forward (concat "\\\304\\|"(list 196)) nil t 1)
      (replace-match "Ä"))
    (goto-char (point-min))
    (while (re-search-forward (concat "\\\366\\|"(list 246)) nil t 1)
      (replace-match "ö"))
    (goto-char (point-min))
    (while (re-search-forward (concat "\\\326\\|"(list 214)) nil t 1)
      (replace-match "Ö"))
    (goto-char (point-min))
    (while (re-search-forward (concat "\\\374\\|"(list 252)) nil t 1)
      (replace-match "ü"))
    (goto-char (point-min))
    (while (re-search-forward (concat "\\\334\\|"(list 220)) nil t 1)
      (replace-match "Ü"))
    (goto-char (point-min))
    (while (re-search-forward (concat "\\\337\\|"(list 223)) nil t 1)
      (replace-match "ß"))
    (goto-char (point-min))
    (while (re-search-forward "\\\201" nil t 1)
      (replace-match ""))))

from misc-utils.el at https://launchpad.net/s-x-emacs-werkstatt

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