Two-column mode lets you conveniently edit two side-by-side columns of text. It uses two side-by-side windows, each showing its own buffer.
There are three ways to enter two-column mode:
Enter two-column mode with the current buffer on the left, and on the right, a buffer whose name is based on the current buffer's name (2C-two-columns). If the right-hand buffer doesn't already exist, it starts out empty; the current buffer's contents are not changed.
This command is appropriate when the current buffer is empty or contains just one column and you want to add another column.
Split the current buffer, which contains two-column text, into two buffers, and display them side by side (2C-split). The current buffer becomes the left-hand buffer, but the text in the right-hand column is moved into the right-hand buffer. The current column specifies the split point. Splitting starts with the current line and continues to the end of the buffer.
This command is appropriate when you have a buffer that already contains two-column text, and you wish to separate the columns temporarily.
Enter two-column mode using the current buffer as the left-hand buffer, and using buffer buffer as the right-hand buffer (2C-associate-buffer).
F2 s or C-x 6 s looks for a column separator, which is a string that appears on each line between the two columns. You can specify the width of the separator with a numeric argument to F2 s; that many characters, before point, constitute the separator string. By default, the width is 1, so the column separator is the character before point.
When a line has the separator at the proper place, F2 s puts the text after the separator into the right-hand buffer, and deletes the separator. Lines that don't have the column separator at the proper place remain unsplit; they stay in the left-hand buffer, and the right-hand buffer gets an empty line to correspond. (This is the way to write a line that "spans both columns while in two-column mode": write it in the left-hand buffer, and put an empty line in the right-hand buffer.)
The command C-x 6 RET or F2 RET (2C-newline) inserts a newline in each of the two buffers at corresponding positions. This is the easiest way to add a new line to the two-column text while editing it in split buffers.
When you have edited both buffers as you wish, merge them with F2 1 or C-x 6 1 (2C-merge). This copies the text from the right-hand buffer as a second column in the other buffer. To go back to two-column editing, use F2 s.
Use F2 d or C-x 6 d to dissociate the two buffers, leaving each as it stands (2C-dissociate). If the other buffer, the one not current when you type F2 d, is empty, F2 d kills it.