Elisp Posts

Ripgrep is fantastic | Emacs is fantastic | BOOM you get the fantastic rg.el

/Tony Aldon/
comment on reddit
emacs revision: 504779f744cc

Hey Emacsers,

Do you know rg.el?

rg.el is an Emacs UI for the cli ripgrep.

What does that mean?


Let's say we want to learn how to write Elisp macros because it seems to fit with the problem we are facing. We've already read the info node about macros (M-x eval-expression RET (info "(elisp)Macros")) that contains many examples but we want more examples.

We know that macros are defined with the macro defmacro, so why don't we search for calls of defmacro in Emacs source code to get usage examples of it?

In the directory where we've cloned Emacs source code we can run the following command line (in a terminal) that searches directories for the regexp \(defmacro that are of type elisp, while respecting gitignore using ripgrep (the binary rg):

rg '\(defmacro' -t elisp

This prints the following in the standard output:

304:(defmacro cus-test-load-1 (&rest body)

1260:(defmacro align--set-marker (marker-var pos &optional type)

231:(defmacro defcustom (symbol standard doc &rest args)
389:(defmacro defface (face spec doc &rest args)
492:(defmacro defgroup (symbol members doc &rest args)
1139:(defmacro deftheme (theme &optional doc)


Now, you do whatever you want with those matches in the terminal. You can browse the ouptut looking for some information, chose a match, the open the corresponding file and go to the appropriate line.

Everything in the terminal...

OR, you can use rg.el and use its command rg like this:

  1. M-x rg,

  2. write the regexp: \(defmacro,

  3. select the directory where Emacs source code is,

  4. choose elisp as type file,

and you get the following buffer named *rg* (in the mode rg-mode) with exactly the same matches as before with the command line:

-*- mode: rg; default-directory: "/tmp/emacs/" -*-
rg started at Fri Apr 15 16:56:04

/usr/bin/rg [...]

File: admin/cus-test.el
 304  (defmacro cus-test-load-1 (&rest body)

File: lisp/align.el
1260  (defmacro align--set-marker (marker-var pos &optional type)

File: lisp/custom.el
 231  (defmacro defcustom (symbol standard doc &rest args)
 389  (defmacro defface (face spec doc &rest args)
 492  (defmacro defgroup (symbol members doc &rest args)
1139  (defmacro deftheme (theme &optional doc)


The difference is that now you can press (the bindings are defined in rg-mode-map):

  1. n (bound next-error-no-select) to move to the next line with a match, show that file in other buffer and highlight the match,

  2. p (bound previous-error-no-select) move to the previous line with a match, show that file in other buffer and highlight the match.


Assuming that we've look at some macro definitions, and we've seen that the file lisp/subr.el defines many of the macros that we have already used in our own code like push, pop and when. Maybe to reduce the numbers of macro to look at (1505 calls to defmacro - commit 504779f744ccc33c2177dafa34e21d83f6c640a0) we can consider only those defined in the file lisp/subr.el.

This can be done by modifying a little bit the previous command line like this:

rg '\(defmacro' lisp/subr.el

But, now that we are using rg.el (INSIDE EMACS) we no longer want to use directly the terminal for that task.

So, we go back to the buffer *rg* and we press f (bound to rg-rerun-change-files) and we write subr.el (the last part of the file name), then we press RET to rerun rg with the same regexp as before (\(defmacro), but this time, only matches in the file lisp/subr.el are presented in the buffer *rg*:

-*- mode: rg; default-directory: "/tmp/emacs/" -*-
rg started at Fri Apr 15 17:29:43

/usr/bin/rg [...]

File: lisp/subr.el
  32  (defmacro declare-function (_fn _file &rest _args)
  74  (defmacro noreturn (form)
  81  (defmacro 1value (form)
  88  (defmacro def-edebug-spec (symbol spec)
 110  (defmacro lambda (&rest cdr)
 136  (defmacro prog2 (form1 form2 &rest body)
 143  (defmacro setq-default (&rest args)
 163  (defmacro setq-local (&rest pairs)
 193  (defmacro defvar-local (var val &optional docstring)
 210  (defmacro push (newelt place)
 225  (defmacro pop (place)
 243  (defmacro when (cond &rest body)


Now we've reduce our study of writing macros to 52 "classic" macros. Still as before, we can use n and p to look at those macro definition from *rg* buffer, the definition poping up in another buffer. For me, this is insane. I love it.

But 52 is still an important number. We want to look at some macro definitions to be able to write our own macro. We need it. Let's almost right now.


Let's reduce that number. We observe that the file lisp/subr.el defines also the macro with-current-buffer and with-temp-buffer (used everywhere).

So, we decide to only look at the macro prefixed by with- defined in the file lisp/subr.el.

We can do it in the terminal running this command:

rg '\(defmacro with' lisp/subr.el

but we prefer doing it with rg.el. So we go back to the buffer *rg*, and now we press r (bound to rg-rerun-change-regexp). This offers in the minibuffer to modify the current regexp \(defmacro. We modify it to be \(defmacro with, we hit return, and we get the following 20 matches:

-*- mode: rg; default-directory: "/tmp/emacs/" -*-
rg started at Fri Apr 15 17:49:57

/usr/bin/rg [...]

File: lisp/subr.el
2092  (defmacro with-wrapper-hook (hook args &rest body)
3448  (defmacro with-undo-amalgamate (&rest body)
4188  (defmacro with-current-buffer (buffer-or-name &rest body)
4228  (defmacro with-selected-window (window &rest body)
4253  (defmacro with-selected-frame (frame &rest body)
4331  (defmacro with-output-to-temp-buffer (bufname &rest body)
4387  (defmacro with-temp-file (file &rest body)
4407  (defmacro with-temp-message (message &rest body)
4430  (defmacro with-temp-buffer (&rest body)
4445  (defmacro with-silent-modifications (&rest body)
4469  (defmacro with-output-to-string (&rest body)
4481  (defmacro with-local-quit (&rest body)
4549  (defmacro with-demoted-errors (format &rest body)
4712  (defmacro with-case-table (table &rest body)
4726  (defmacro with-file-modes (modes &rest body)
4738  (defmacro with-existing-directory (&rest body)
5297  (defmacro with-eval-after-load (file &rest body)
5417  (defmacro with-syntax-table (table &rest body)
6384  (defmacro with-mutex (mutex &rest body)
6570  (defmacro with-delayed-message (args &rest body)

We can now look at those definition trying to understand how macros are defined and how we can find ideas to solve our problem (either by writing our macro our deciding that a simple function might be enough...)

While we are looking at those macro prefixed by with-, we remember that we've seen another macro in another file that was matched in the previous search and so visible in the "previous" contents of *rg* buffer, and we want to look for it.

Do we have to redo everything (M-x rg, ....)?

Absolutely not!

Still in the buffer *rg* we can just visit backward and forward the previous searches using C-c < (bound to rg-forward-history) and C-c > (bound to rg-back-history).

Another mega cool feature of ripgrep is the flag --context (-C in short) that allows to include a number of lines before and after each matches.

For instance, if we want to add 2 lines before and after the matches of the regexp \(defmacro with in the file lisp/subr.el, in the terminal we can run the following command:

rg --context 2 '\(defmacro with' lisp/subr.el

We can also do this with rg.el. Let's go back to the buffer *rg* (with the search that matches \(defmacro with in the file lisp/subr.el). Now we do the following:

  1. we press m (bound to rg-menu) that pops up a menu,

  2. we press -C,

  3. then in the minibuffer we see --context=, we write 2 and press RET,

  4. then we press g (bound to rg-recompile),

and this "reruns" the search adding the context around matches like this:

File: lisp/subr.el
2092  (defmacro with-wrapper-hook (hook args &rest body)
2093-  "Run BODY, using wrapper functions from HOOK with additional ARGS.
2094-HOOK is an abnormal hook.  Each hook function in HOOK \"wraps\"
3446-    (cancel-change-group ,handle))))))
3448  (defmacro with-undo-amalgamate (&rest body)
3449-  "Like `progn' but perform BODY with amalgamated undo barriers.
4186-  `(internal--track-mouse (lambda () ,@body)))
4188  (defmacro with-current-buffer (buffer-or-name &rest body)
4189-  "Execute the forms in BODY with BUFFER-OR-NAME temporarily current.
4190-BUFFER-OR-NAME must be a buffer or the name of an existing buffer.
4226-  (get-buffer-create (generate-new-buffer-name name) inhibit-buffer-hooks))
4228  (defmacro with-selected-window (window &rest body)
4229-  "Execute the forms in BODY with WINDOW as the selected window.
4230-The value returned is the value of the last form in BODY.


When I think that life is amazing and then I look at all the work that has already been done everywhere, I think wowwww, this is really amazing.

I want to thank you all for all the great programs that lives with us thanks to your imagination and your work.

ripgrep is fantastic. Emacs is fantastic. BOOM you get the fantastic rg.el.

What can we add to this paradise?

We can add org-mode to the party.

Yes, if you try to open the following org link (in a org-mode buffer), Emacs will ask you to confirm if you want to execute this elisp form, and by answering yes the result of an rg search will pops up in *rg* buffer like we did previously (assuming Emacs source code is clone under the directory /tmp/emacs/):

[[elisp:(rg-run "\\(defmacro with" "subr.el" "/tmp/emacs/" nil nil '("--context=2"))]]