Icicles - Programming with Fancy Candidates

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Programming with Fancy Candidates

This section is for EmacsLisp programmers.

Icicles lets you program with several kinds of candidates that are not supported by vanilla Emacs. For lack of a better word, I call them all fancy candidates. Multi-completions are fancy candidates. So are ordinary string candidates that have text properties such as ‘face’. And there are other kinds of fancy candidates.

Because they are not supported by vanilla Emacs, and because Icicles uses Emacs functions such as ‘all-completions’ to perform the primitive completion operations, fancy candidates require some extra processing.

All fancy candidates must first be converted to a form that such primitives can understand. During completion, fancy candidates must sometimes be displayed specially, for example using particular faces. And after completion, the completion result must sometimes be converted back again to retrieve some or all of the original candidate information.

This conversion (encoding and decoding) can be costly, especially when there are many candidates. For this reason, it is turned off, by default, so it that does not represent overhead during completion of non-fancy candidates.

In order to use ‘completing-read’ with fancy candidates, you must do one of the following in your code:

1. Propertize at least the first character of the ‘completing-read’ PROMPT argument string with a non-‘nil’ text property ‘icicle-fancy-candidates’. This turns on processing of fancy candidates for the duration of the ‘completing-read’ call.

2. Bind variable ‘icicle-fancy-candidates-p’ to non-‘nil’.

3. Bind variable ‘icicle-whole-candidate-as-text-prop-p’ to non-‘nil’.

You use method 1 or 2 to handle multi-completion candidates or candidates that have text properties or are otherwise to be displayed specially. I recommend that you generally use text property ‘icicle-fancy-candidates’, not variable ‘icicle-fancy-candidates-p’. The variable is provided so that you can widen the scope of this feature beyond a given call to ‘completing-read’. You will need to do that only rarely.

A use case for variable ‘icicle-fancy-candidates-p’ would be, for instance, if your code calls other code that calls ‘completing-read’, so you have no direct access to the ‘completing-read’ PROMPT argument in order to propertize it. If you nevertheless want to use some fancy candidates, then you can bind ‘icicle-fancy-candidates-p’ with the scope you want.

You use method 3, ‘icicle-whole-candidate-as-text-prop-p’, when you need to save and later retrieve all of the information contained in an alist COLLECTION entry. Completion returns only a string. If the COLLECTION alist has only one entry with a given string as its car, then you can simply use ‘assoc’ to retrieve the whole entry.

But if you use an alist that allows entries with different cdrs for the same car, then you need some way to encode an entire alist entry in a display string. When you have this need, set variable ‘icicle-candidates-alist’ to the alist, and bind ‘icicle-whole-candidate-as-text-prop-p’ to non-‘nil’.

This has the effect of encoding, as a text property on the candidate display string, the entire corresponding original alist entry. You can then use ‘icicle-get-alist-candidate’ to recover that information.


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DrewsElispLibraries referenced here: Lisp:icicles.el

CategoryCommands CategoryCompletion CategoryProgrammerUtils CategoryCode