I was reading through the projectile source file and they do the following:

(defvar projectile-command-map
  (let ((map (make-sparse-keymap)))
    ; define-keys
  "Keymap for Projectile commands after `projectile-keymap-prefix'.")
(fset 'projectile-command-map projectile-command-map)

Why do they do this? Is it for backwards compatibility?

  • 1
    I'm very much aware of how keymaps work, yet I couldn't tell you why they do this. You might like to ask them.
    – Stefan
    May 15, 2017 at 4:09

1 Answer 1


fset sets a symbol's function definition.

Here, projectile-command-map is used as a prefix command. A prefix command is a symbol whose function definition is a keymap.

The definition of a prefix key is usually the keymap to use for looking up the following event. The definition can also be a Lisp symbol whose function definition is the following keymap; the effect is the same, but it provides a command name for the prefix key that can be used as a description of what the prefix key is for.

This can also be done with define-prefix-command.

What's a bit confusing here is that the same symbol, projectile-command-map, is being used for two purposes:

  • As a keymap
  • As a prefix command

Another example may be clearer:

(fset 'help-command help-map)

Here, help-command is clearly a prefix command, while help-map is a keymap.

  • See also C-h f defalias (similar to fset). See (elisp)Prefix Keys for info about prefix commands.
    – Drew
    May 12, 2017 at 22:44
  • What's a bit confusing here is that the same symbol is being used for two purposes: prefix keymap and prefix command. It'd be clearer if they were two different symbols, as with help-command and help-map. May 12, 2017 at 22:59
  • Maybe so, but that's the most common way to do it (a cliche) - use the same symbol. (grep for fset in the Lisp sources, then M-x flush offset and search for map.)
    – Drew
    May 12, 2017 at 23:47
  • 1
    It's common and I'd say the recommended way in order to avoid defining extra symbols, but it's confusing to those who don't have a good understanding of how keymaps work. I just made the comment to be more explicit for OP. May 13, 2017 at 0:35
  • Yes, I understand why you made the comment, and I agree it can be confusing. I don't think the reason is to avoid extra symbols. The reason is to have the same symbol enjoy both behaviors. It's a programming cliche, but the relation between the two (whether the same name or not) is documented as such. It is a command, so it can be bound to a key. But it is also a variable, so it can act as a keymap. This is Lisp-2. ;-)
    – Drew
    May 13, 2017 at 4:31

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