Is there an easy way to see what modes are currently operating in a buffer? And have a list of their names?

1 Answer 1


Almost every mode puts some kind of text in the mode line, which is the line of text at the bottom of every buffer. You can also type C-h m (or M-x describe-mode)to get long-form documentation about every mode that is currently active. This includes their names as well as all of their keybindings.

  • 1
    C-h m? Ctrl + h and then m?
    – interstar
    Commented Jun 26, 2020 at 18:03
  • I can do ctrl-c ctrl-h to get into a help screen. But then I'm in a help buffer. I want to see the modes enabled in the buffer I'm currently working in. (And to get a list of their names, not just see the mode line ... I'm trying to understand what the mode line is actually telling me)
    – interstar
    Commented Jun 26, 2020 at 18:08
  • Yes, Ctrl+h and then m. This calls the command describe-mode for whatever buffer you are currently in. The result is a new buffer that lists all the enabled modes and describes each one.
    – glucas
    Commented Jun 26, 2020 at 18:14
  • That's not working for me. Ctrl+h just takes me to the top of the buffer :-(
    – interstar
    Commented Jun 26, 2020 at 18:32
  • 2
    Start from emacs -Q. Something in your init file is making Emacs use different key bindings, so you and those commenting here are not communicating. Otherwise, use M-x describe-mode to get past the communication blockage.
    – Drew
    Commented Jun 26, 2020 at 18:58

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