Icicles - Multi-Commands

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What Is a Multi-Command?

A multi-command is a command that lets you make multiple input choices in a single command execution: a multiple-choice command. You can choose multiple items from a set of choices, using buffer ‘*Completions*’ as a multiple-choice “menu”. (It’s not necessary to display ‘*Completions*’, however.) Instead of asking you “Which file do you want to delete?”, a multi-command asks you, in effect, “Which file(s) do you want to delete?”.

Nothing especially new here. Any Emacs command could be defined to use an input loop, asking for file names until you do something to signal that you’re done inputting. It could provide for file-name completion by calling ‘read-file-name’ to read your input.

For such multi-command functionality you need Icicles.

You can tell whether a command is a multi-command when you execute it: if it is a multi-command, then the prompt is prefixed by `+’. For example, multi-command ‘icicle-file’ uses this prompt:

+ File or directory:

Normal, non multi-command ‘find-file’ uses this prompt, which has no `+’:

Find file:

Just remember that `+’ means that you can choose any number of inputs.

How Does a Multi-Command Work?

When an Icicles multi-command prompts you for input, you can make a single choice and press ‘RET’ to confirm it, as usual, or you can choose any number of completion candidates, using ‘C-RET’ (‘C-return’) or ‘C-mouse-2’ for each.

(The documentation refers to the key that acts on a completion candidate as ‘C-RET’. Actually, it is this only by default. You can customize it, using option `icicle-candidate-action-keys’.)

You can thus act on multiple candidates, or even multiple times on the same candidate, during the same execution of the command.

But you do not have to – you can use any multi-command just as if it were a normal, single-choice command.

For example, command ‘icicle-delete-file’ lets you delete a single file or a set of files that match your minibuffer input – all in the same command execution. If you type no input, then all files in the current directory match, and you can delete any number of them individually. If you type `~$’ and hit ‘S-TAB’ (‘icicle-apropos-complete’), then all files that end in `~’ match, and you can delete any number of them. Similarly, command ‘icicle-buffer-other-window’ lets you display any number of buffers, and so on.

You make multiple choices this way by cycling through the candidate completions, as usual, and hitting ‘C-RET’ whenever you want to choose (act on) the current cycle candidate. Or just press and hold Control while clicking each chosen candidate with ‘mouse-2’.

Similarly, you can use ‘C-down’, ‘C-up’, ‘C-next’, ‘C-prior’, ‘C-end’, or ‘C-home’ to act on successive candidates, forward or backward. You can thus just hold down the Control key while cycling, to act on each candidate in turn, if you want.

Instead of, or in addition to, cycling, you can use completion to get to a particular candidate you want. No matter how a candidate is made current, you can choose the current candidate (perform the action on it) using ‘C-RET’ or ‘C-mouse-2’.

For lax (permissive) completion, you can use ‘C-RET’ to act on any input text – you need not choose one of the available candidates. This means, for example, that you can create any number of new file buffers with a single ‘C-x C-f’ invocation, as well as open any number of existing files.

As always, hitting ‘RET’ (or ‘S-RET’) ends the command. For most multi-commands, hitting ‘RET’ performs the same action as ‘C-RET’, but it is possible to have a command that acts differently for ‘RET’ and ‘C-RET’. That is the case, for instance, when help is displayed via ‘C-RET’.

You can use ‘C-RET’ or ‘C-mouse-2’ repeatedly to act multiple times on the same candidate. A shortcut is to use ‘C-u’ with ‘C-RET’ or ‘C-mouse-2’. That will work if the candidate action function is designed to be ‘C-u’ sensitive. This is the case for the Icicles multi-commands that read the name of a command or keyboard macro and execute the command or macro: ‘icicle-execute-extended-command’ (‘M-x’), ‘icicle-kmacro’ (‘S-f4’), and ‘icicle-execute-named-keyboard-macro’ (‘C-x M-e’).

So for example, if you use ‘C-u 10 C-RET’ on command ‘forward-char’ during ‘M-x’ command completion, the cursor advances 10 characters. Another example: ‘C-x M-e C-u 200 C-RET’ on a keyboard-macro candidate ‘foo’ executes ‘foo’ 200 times. You can use all of the numeric prefix argument shortcuts, such as ‘M--’, ‘M-7’, and ‘C-6’, with the exception of ‘C--’, which has a different meaning (‘icicle-candidate-set-difference’) in the Icicles minibuffer.

Note that you can supply a prefix argument for both the multi-command and any of its individual actions. The command is free to interpret these differently. For example, a prefix argument for ‘icicle-kmacro’ provides a default repeat factor, which can then be overridden for any individual action by providing a different prefix argument.

As another example, a prefix argument used with any completion candidate for command ‘icicle-find-file-no-search’ visits the file in read-only mode. But a prefix argument for the command itself reverses this effect: read-only becomes the default so that a prefix argument for a given candidate means that the visited file buffer is writable.

If user option `icicle-use-candidates-only-once-flag’ is non-‘nil’, then, when you act on a candidate, it is removed from the list of available candidates, for clarity. Commands where this behavior is appropriate bind this option to a non-‘nil’ value. This is a user option, but you normally will not Customize it.

You can use ‘C-g’ to exit a multi-command at any time, without making a final choice using ‘RET’. If the actions performed by a multi-command are easily reversible, ‘C-g’ will often restore things to the way they were before performing the actions.

Does this ‘C-RET’ stuff sound familiar? Using a multi-command is similar to accessing help on a candidate (see Icicles - Help on Candidates). A multi-command is any command that has a special action defined for use with ‘C-RET’ (command ‘icicle-candidate-action’) on the current cycle candidate. If no such special action is defined, then help on the candidate is displayed – displaying help is just the default action for ‘C-RET’, used when no other action is defined. You can always access candidate help using the ‘C-M-’ prefix: ‘C-M-help’, ‘C-M-f1’, ‘C-M-RET’, ‘C-M-mouse-2’, ‘C-M-down’, ‘C-M-up’, ‘C-M-next’, ‘C-M-prior’, ‘C-M-end’, and ‘C-M-home’.

You can also cycle among elements of a set, performing actions, if you use my libraries doremi.el, doremi-cmd.el, and doremi-frm.el. Like Icicles, DoReMi lets you see the effect of a choice immediately, whenever you make changes. Each library has its own advantages and special uses. Advantages of Icicles include:

See Also:

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DrewsElispLibraries referenced here: Lisp:doremi.el, Lisp:doremi-cmd.el, Lisp:doremi-frm.el, Lisp:icicles.el

CategoryMenus CategoryCommands CategoryBufferSwitching CategoryCompletion CategoryDocumentation CategoryHelp CategoryProgrammerUtils CategoryCode