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When Is a Backslash Not a Backslash?
UNIX uses the backslash character (\) in a lot of places,
which can be confusing for beginners. Here's a guide to
When you're typing a line of input on a terminal and you want to
tell UNIX that "this next RETURN I'm going to type is not the
end of the line," you'll often type a backslash just before the
RETURN. That happened in the previous example, where you wanted
to tell prompter that the next RETURN key you pressed
would not be the end of the field. Backslashes are often typed
before a RETURN,
to continue a line.
Backslashes are also used when you're typing special
characters. For instance, some versions of UNIX use the at
sign (@) character as the "line kill" character. That
means when you type an @ on your terminal, you're
telling UNIX to forget everything you've typed so far on that
line and start over.
Sometimes -- when you're typing a mail address
like vicki@squidbait, for example, you want a
literal @ character. You don't want the @ to
erase the word "vicki." On those UNIX systems, you'd
type vicki\@squidbait to tell UNIX, "Treat this
next @ literally."
When some UNIX programs display on a terminal and a line
is too long to fit on the screen, they split the line into
pieces and show a backslash (\) at the end of each
piece of the line except the last. One example is the GNU Emacs
editor. GNU Emacs will display a very long line this way:
This is the first part of the very long line etc. etc. \
and... this is the second part blah blah blah etc. etc.\
and now this is finally the end of the line.
In that case, the backslash is not really in the file that Emacs
is showing; it's just a signal to you that the line continues.