Archive for January, 2011


Friday, January 28th, 2011

I can never understand when I meet programmers who don’t use emacs. As a programmer, you spend inordinate amounts of time in your editor. You call yourself a programmer. You like to automate things. You get frustrated when you can’t take matters into your own hands. You like hacking on things. Right? And so…….. why wouldn’t you be deeply attracted to an editor that is fully programmable? Sure, (emacs) lisp may not be to everyone’s liking, but being able to program your editor is hugely powerful, especially when the programming language comes with an extremely strong library of tools just for editing text inside the editor.

Jamu Kakar, another emacs fan was just over at my place. He didn’t know about narrowing the buffer – to only show one section of it so that you can edit it to your heart’s content (e.g., global search & replace) and then widen it again when you’re done. We were looking at some Python code and I did a search. The class we were looking at was long, and I didn’t know if my search had finished in code that was still part of the same class. I said to Jamu “Emacs Python mode should have a function that narrows the buffer to the current class”.

After he was gone, I was thinking about that, and realized it would be easy to write. It’s all of 8 lines.

(defun py-narrow-to-class nil
    (py-beginning-of-def-or-class t)
        ((start (point)))
      (py-end-of-def-or-class t)
      (narrow-to-region (point) start))))

Not too shabby, and it took less than 5 minutes to write it. In words: here’s a function called py-narrow-to-class that takes no arguments and that I want to call interactively (via M-x py-narrow-to-class). It’s going to go to the start of the current Python class, set a local variable called start to remember that location, then move to the end of the class, and narrow the buffer. That’s wrapped in a (save-excursion) so that when all that moving around and narrowing is done, the cursor will be in the exact spot it was when I started. If I want, I can now assign this function to a single keystroke when I’m in Python mode.

If you don’t think that’s pretty neat, you’re probably not a programmer. Can you do that in your editor?