Most of the following advice relies heavily on the Control key, so bind your Caps Lock to Control. This is easy to do on OS X and Linux, and on Windows involves changing a registry entry.

You may choose to swap the left Control key with Caps Lock, or just to make them both Control keys — in Emacs and bash you can uppercase a word with M-u (upcase-word) and the region with C-x C-u (upcase-region).

Now you will find the navigation keys like C-f, C-b, C-n and C-p much closer to your home row position than the arrow keys. Learn to navigate in larger jumps with C-a and C-e (beggining and end of line), M-f and M-b (forward and back by one word), C-M-f and C-M-b (forward and back by one block of parentheses or braces), and M-a and M-e (beginning and end of a sentence or expression).

If you need to move to a far-away position it is often faster to get there by searching with C-s.

For fixing typos, C-t (transpose-chars) comes in handy.

Instead of reaching for the backspace key, consider rebinding C-h to backspace (as in most shells), and C-w to backward-kill-word (also as in most shells; in Emacs it is normally bound to C-backspace). C-d deletes the next character, and you don’t even need to bind it yourself.

Rebinding C-h is a bit tricky, because after making your binding you might activate some major or minor mode that binds a new sequence beginning with C-h, undoing your own binding. You can use key-translation-map to make C-h appear to Emacs as the backspace key, ignoring all other C-h bindings now or in future:

(define-key key-translation-map (kbd "C-h") (kbd "<DEL>"))

You will still be able to access the help commands with F1 f, F1 v, F1 S, etc.

As for C-w, you could define your own function that keeps the default behavior when the region is active, and does backward-kill-word when not:

(defun kill-region-or-backward-kill-word (&optional arg region) "`kill-region' if the region is active, otherwise `backward-kill-word'" (interactive (list (prefix-numeric-value current-prefix-arg) (use-region-p))) (if region (kill-region (region-beginning) (region-end)) (backward-kill-word arg))) (global-set-key (kbd "C-w") 'kill-region-or-backward-kill-word)

Some of these tips were inspired by Steve Yegge’s Effective Emacs article. Read it.