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GNU Emacs Lisp Reference Manual

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38.6 Selective Display

Selective display refers to a pair of related features for hiding certain lines on the screen.

The first variant, explicit selective display, is designed for use in a Lisp program: it controls which lines are hidden by altering the text. The invisible text feature (see section 38.5 Invisible Text) has partially replaced this feature.

In the second variant, the choice of lines to hide is made automatically based on indentation. This variant is designed to be a user-level feature.

The way you control explicit selective display is by replacing a newline (control-j) with a carriage return (control-m). The text that was formerly a line following that newline is now invisible. Strictly speaking, it is temporarily no longer a line at all, since only newlines can separate lines; it is now part of the previous line.

Selective display does not directly affect editing commands. For example, C-f (forward-char) moves point unhesitatingly into invisible text. However, the replacement of newline characters with carriage return characters affects some editing commands. For example, next-line skips invisible lines, since it searches only for newlines. Modes that use selective display can also define commands that take account of the newlines, or that make parts of the text visible or invisible.

When you write a selectively displayed buffer into a file, all the control-m's are output as newlines. This means that when you next read in the file, it looks OK, with nothing invisible. The selective display effect is seen only within Emacs.

Variable: selective-display
This buffer-local variable enables selective display. This means that lines, or portions of lines, may be made invisible.

When some portion of a buffer is invisible, the vertical movement commands operate as if that portion did not exist, allowing a single next-line command to skip any number of invisible lines. However, character movement commands (such as forward-char) do not skip the invisible portion, and it is possible (if tricky) to insert or delete text in an invisible portion.

In the examples below, we show the display appearance of the buffer foo, which changes with the value of selective-display. The contents of the buffer do not change.

 
(setq selective-display nil)
     => nil

---------- Buffer: foo ----------
1 on this column
 2on this column
  3n this column
  3n this column
 2on this column
1 on this column
---------- Buffer: foo ----------

(setq selective-display 2)
     => 2

---------- Buffer: foo ----------
1 on this column
 2on this column
 2on this column
1 on this column
---------- Buffer: foo ----------

Variable: selective-display-ellipses
If this buffer-local variable is non-nil, then Emacs displays `...' at the end of a line that is followed by invisible text. This example is a continuation of the previous one.

 
(setq selective-display-ellipses t)
     => t

---------- Buffer: foo ----------
1 on this column
 2on this column ...
 2on this column
1 on this column
---------- Buffer: foo ----------

You can use a display table to substitute other text for the ellipsis (`...'). See section 38.17 Display Tables.


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