Inspired by MeatBall:HumaneInterface. I call it qsearch; the “q” stands for “quasimode”. A quasimode is a mode that is active only while you keep pressing a modifier. (We are not talking about Emacs minor- and major-modes but about interface modes such as vi’s insert mode). One such quasimode is pressing the Shift modifier and some other keys – this produces capital letters.

When using isearch (C-s), you are put in such a mode (ie. not a quasimode): entering the mode happens via C-s, searching happens as you type printable characters, leaving the mode happens via any other key.

qsearch allows you to search for text without having to press C-s, and without using a mode (ie. a quasimode). All you need are two modifier keys: Type a string while pressing Super to search forward, type any string while pressing Hyper to search backwards. Thus, search for “alex” by typing s-a s-l s-e s-x. You can also skip to the beginning of the word by typing H-<space>, to the end of the sentence using s-. or to the end of the line using s-<return> or to the end of the paragraph using s-<return> s-<return>.

This saves you the C-s keystroke used for isearch, and it saves you thinking about how to leave isearch mode. Another nice effect is that you can search for line-ends. In isearch, pressing RET will turn your isearch into a normal search. (And plain search is another mode, of course!)

Furthermore, qsearch leaves point at the beginning of the text found. This is good for habit formation, because the position is predictable. Unlike isearch – there, you stop typing as soon as your string is found, and point is somewhere in the middle of the string you were thinking about. So you need to think about where to place point next. This is bad for habit formation.

At the same time, qsearch is quite crude – no overlays, no repeating of searches, no support for environments without Super and Hyper keys.


Note that you might need to setup Super and Hyper using xmodmap. Example code for your .xmodmaprc or .Xmodmap file in order to use the “Windows” key on most PC keyboards; the left key (Hyper) searches backwards, the right key (Super) searches forward.

    keycode 115 = Hyper_L
    keycode 116 = Super_R
    clear mod3
    clear mod4
    clear mod5
    add mod3 = Hyper_L
    add mod4 = Super_R

The rest is simple: Put qsearch.el in your LoadPath, and add (require ‘qsearch) to your ~/.emacs file.

Bugs, Feature Wishes, Discussion

I removed support for regexp searches. Use other methods for that (such as C-M-s). This was confusing, for example, because searching for the end of the sentence (”.”) was non-trivial.

No support for Windows, console… (Ideas? I’ve tinkered with loadkeys but found no solution; there are not enough actions to differentiate between all the keys.)

In order to repeat your current search, use C-s-s (forward), and C-H-r (backwards), ie. just keep your current modifier pressed and press C-s or C-r, as if to repeat an isearch.

Take a loot at qsearch-translations; that’s the place to add more bindings to search for escape sequences, form feed characters, etc.

MichaelJohnDownes: When you say ‘search for “alex” by typing s-a s-l s-e s-x’ it sounds like a significantly more difficult operation for the hands. I think this outweighs all the theoretical advantages of having a quasimode. Unless you have doubled keys (left-Super, right-Super, left-Hyper, right-Hyper) like the Shift keys, many combinations will be rather difficult to press, won’t they? (e.g. Super-= or Hyper-1).

AlexSchroeder: Well, I just use a key reachable with my thumbs as Super, and keep it pressed while the remaining fingers type “alex”… So when you have Super and Hyper on a good key, things are easy to type.

MichaelJohnDownes: The idea of always leaving point at the beginning of the found string is interesting. I suspect isearch could be made to work similarly, with a little extra effort.

AlexSchroeder: Yes, this has been done in the mean time. See IncrementalSearch.


Actually, after having this installed for a while, I noticed that I practically never use it. – AlexSchroeder.

Useless thought it may be, you can’t deny it has a cool name.

Heh. How about QuasimodoSearch! – AlexSchroeder

CategoryKeys CategorySearchAndReplace