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Emacs: More pro-tips

This is a follow-up to my first Emacs pro-tips.

Speed up initialization

If you don’t use Emacs daemon or if you develop Emacs, you might find yourself re-starting it a lot. In which case it may be useful to keep startup time to a minimum.

;;; Temporarily reduce garbage collection during startup. Inspect `gcs-done'.
(defun ambrevar/reset-gc-cons-threshold ()
  (setq gc-cons-threshold (car (get 'gc-cons-threshold 'standard-value))))
(setq gc-cons-threshold (* 64 1024 1024))
(add-hook 'after-init-hook #'ambrevar/reset-gc-cons-threshold)

;;; Temporarily disable the file name handler.
(setq default-file-name-handler-alist file-name-handler-alist)
(setq file-name-handler-alist nil)
(defun ambrevar/reset-file-name-handler-alist ()
  (setq file-name-handler-alist
	(append default-file-name-handler-alist
  (cl-delete-duplicates file-name-handler-alist :test 'equal))
(add-hook 'after-init-hook #'ambrevar/reset-file-name-handler-alist)

Avoid the pitfall of “loading old bytecode instead of newer source”

(setq load-prefer-newer t)

Site Lisp folder for local packages and development

We need to roll out our own function since we want the local site folder first in the load-path, while normal-top-level-add-subdirs-to-load-path appends it to the very end.

(defun ambrevar/package-refresh-load-path (path)
  "Add every non-hidden sub-folder of PATH to `load-path'."
  (when (file-directory-p path)
    (dolist (dir (directory-files path t "^[^\\.]"))
      (when (file-directory-p dir)
	(setq load-path (add-to-list 'load-path dir))
	(dolist (subdir (directory-files dir t "^[^\\.]"))
	  (when (file-directory-p subdir)
	    (setq load-path (add-to-list 'load-path subdir))))))))
(let ((site-lisp (expand-file-name "site-lisp/" "~/.local/share/emacs/")))
  (add-to-list 'load-path site-lisp)
  (ambrevar/package-refresh-load-path site-lisp))

Flyspell and whitespace-mode

(defun ambrevar/flyspell-and-whitespace-mode ()
  "Toggle `flyspell-mode' and `whitespace-mode'."
  (if (derived-mode-p 'prog-mode)
    (when flyspell-mode
  (whitespace-mode 'toggle))

(global-set-key (kbd "<f9>") #'ambrevar/flyspell-and-whitespace-mode)

Download video URL at point

The following requires the youtube-dl program.

(defun ambrevar/youtube-dl-at-point (&optional url)
  "Run 'youtube-dl' over the URL at point.
If URL is non-nil, use that instead."
  (setq url (or url (thing-at-point-url-at-point)))
  (let ((eshell-buffer-name "*youtube-dl*"))
    (when (eshell-interactive-process)
      (eshell t))
    (insert "cd ~/temp && youtube-dl " url)

See also youtube-dl-emacs.

List current minor modes

(defun ambrevar/current-minor-modes ()
  "Return the list of minor modes enabled in the current buffer."
  (delq nil
	(mapcar (lambda (mode)
		  (if (and (boundp mode) (symbol-value mode))

Window management

Since I use EXWM as a window manager, I can dedicate the super key to window management.

Some simple, yet efficient rules:

  • s-TAB: Switch to last buffer.
  • s-<arrows> (or s-<hjkl> with Evil): select window in the chosen direction.
  • S-s-<arrows> (or S-s-<hjkl> with Evil): swap current window with window in the chosen direction.
  • s-\: Toggle between horizontal and vertical splitting.
  • s-o: Toggle-hide all other windows.

With Helm, I use C-c o (or my custom binding S-RET) to find a file or a buffer in a new split window.

I need some extra functions to implement the above workflow:

(defun ambrevar/swap-windows (&optional w1 w2)
  "If 2 windows are up, swap them.
Else if W1 is a window, swap it with current window.
If W2 is a window too, swap both."
  (unless (or (= 2 (count-windows))
	      (windowp w1)
	      (windowp w2))
    (error "Ambiguous window selection"))
  (let* ((w1 (or w1 (car (window-list))))
	 (w2 (or w2
		 (if (eq w1 (car (window-list)))
		     (nth 1 (window-list))
		   (car (window-list)))))
	 (b1 (window-buffer w1))
	 (b2 (window-buffer w2))
	 (s1 (window-start w1))
	 (s2 (window-start w2)))
      ;; Some buffers like EXWM buffers can only be in one live buffer at once.
      ;; Switch to a dummy buffer in w2 so that we don't display any buffer twice.
      (set-window-buffer w2 (current-buffer))
      (set-window-buffer w1 b2)
      (set-window-buffer w2 b1))
    (set-window-start w1 s2)
    (set-window-start w2 s1))
  (select-window w1))
(global-set-key (kbd "C-x \\") 'swap-windows)

(defun ambrevar/swap-windows-left ()
  "Swap current window with the window to the left."
  (ambrevar/swap-windows (window-in-direction 'left)))
(defun ambrevar/swap-windows-below ()
  "Swap current window with the window below."
  (ambrevar/swap-windows (window-in-direction 'below)))
(defun ambrevar/swap-windows-above ()
  "Swap current window with the window above."
  (ambrevar/swap-windows (window-in-direction 'above)))
(defun ambrevar/swap-windows-right ()
  "Swap current window with the window to the right."
  (ambrevar/swap-windows (window-in-direction 'right)))

(defun ambrevar/switch-to-last-buffer ()
  "Switch to last open buffer in current window."
  (switch-to-buffer (other-buffer (current-buffer) 1)))

(defun ambrevar/toggle-single-window ()
  "Un-maximize current window.
If multiple windows are active, save window configuration and
delete other windows.  If only one window is active and a window
configuration was previously save, restore that configuration."
  (if (= (count-windows) 1)
      (when single-window--last-configuration
	(set-window-configuration single-window--last-configuration))
    (setq single-window--last-configuration (current-window-configuration))

(defun ambrevar/toggle-window-split ()
  "Switch between vertical and horizontal split.
It only works for frames with exactly two windows."
  (if (= (count-windows) 2)
      (let* ((this-win-buffer (window-buffer))
	     (next-win-buffer (window-buffer (next-window)))
	     (this-win-edges (window-edges (selected-window)))
	     (next-win-edges (window-edges (next-window)))
	     (this-win-2nd (not (and (<= (car this-win-edges)
					 (car next-win-edges))
				     (<= (cadr this-win-edges)
					 (cadr next-win-edges)))))
	      (if (= (car this-win-edges)
		     (car (window-edges (next-window))))
	(let ((first-win (selected-window)))
	  (funcall splitter)
	  (if this-win-2nd (other-window 1))
	  (set-window-buffer (selected-window) this-win-buffer)
	  (set-window-buffer (next-window) next-win-buffer)
	  (select-window first-win)
	  (if this-win-2nd (other-window 1))))))

Use FreeDesktop.org’s trash

Whenever Emacs “delete” a file (from dired, Helm Find-Files or Elisp primitives), tell Emacs to move it to the trash instead:

(setq delete-by-moving-to-trash t)

Lisp parentheses editing

A recurring complaint with Lisp is the need for balancing parentheses.

That is to say, on a blackboard… Since such a task should pose no difficulty to a computer and Emacs can obviously help here!

First, let’s enable parenthesis highlighting. I like to remove the delay so that Emacs highlights the matching parenthesis instantly:

;;; Show matching parenthesis
(show-paren-mode 1)
;;; By default, there’s a small delay before showing a matching parenthesis. Set
;;; it to 0 to deactivate.
(setq show-paren-delay 0)
(setq show-paren-when-point-inside-paren t)

(with-eval-after-load 'paren
  (set-face-background 'show-paren-match "#555555")
  (set-face-foreground 'show-paren-match "#def")
  (set-face-attribute 'show-paren-match nil :weight 'extra-bold))

Next, we can install the rainbow-delimiters third-party package which colors parentheses according to their depth. This is no more than the moral equivalent of indenting in C or other members of the Algol family.

Goodbye Paredit, hello Lispy

Consider using Lispy which brings Lisp syntactic editing to a whole new level: beside parenthesis balancing (which makes the previous section superfluous altogether), it offers advanced expression navigation, code transforms, style prettification and more.

Have a looks at the demos for some concrete examples.

If you think about it, Lispy is the obvious evolution of editor support for Lisp editing: it truly exploits the fact that the language syntax is an abstract syntax tree. It would be a shame not to make use of this property.

Image manipulation and thumbnail gallery

A maybe not-so-well-known command is image-dired: when run in a directory of pictures, it displays a gallery of thumbnails with previews. SPC displays the next picture in another window while C-RET opens the picture in the image-dired-external-viewer. It’s possible to rotate files, tag them in dired or add comments.

The image+ third-party package adds extra picture capabilities to Emacs, like stiky transforms and file modifications.

Don’t use terminal-Emacs

Making music in Emacs

Emacs chart library

Odd nconc behaviour



Date: 2018-08-12 (Last update: 2018-09-26)

Made with Emacs 27.0.50 (Org mode 9.1.9)

Creative Commons License