Emacs Advent Calendar 19: Keyboard Macros

Sat 2015-12-19

There are some tasks that are tedious to do by hand or impractical to do with substitution and regular expressions, but do not yet demand full blown programming in Emacs Lisp to solve. The reason for that are Emacs' keyboard macros.

To start recording a keyboard macro, press F3 and do what you want to do one time. To finish recording the macro press F4. Repeating the last stored keyboard macro is accomplished with another press of F4. When numerically prefixed, the macro is run multiple times. To apply a macro to each line in a region successively, run C-x C-k r.

To append commands to a macro, press C-u F3. This will first execute the macro and append all succeeding keystrokes until the next press of F4.

Each keyboard macro has a counter for how often it has been called. To insert the value of the counter into the buffer, press F3 during macro definition. To set the value in the counter outside macro invocation, execute C-x C-k C-c. To insert the value outside a macro, invoke C-x C-k C-i.

Macros can be given a name for the current Emacs session with C-x C-k n. Running C-x C-k b will let you bind the macro to a key sequence. The sequences C-x C-k N with N in [0-9A-Z] are reserved for that purpose.

Full documentation on keyboard macros can be found in all sections of chapter 17 (Keyboard Macros) in the Emacs Reference Manual.

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This text by Ludger Sandig is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.