Suppose we have a collection of descriptions like this:

("procedural" "functional" "high-level" "low-level" "statically-scoped" "dynamically-scoped")

Suppose that we have a database of programming languages and would like to enable the user to enter queries like this:

(or (and procedural high-level) dynamically-scoped)

with completion aid for the words from the collection. I have looked at (ido-)completing-read, but it seems to match the whole input string instead of individual words. With what tool can I achieve the desired behavior?

  • Have you tried letting the user work in a temporary buffer to construct the query expression, completing individual names in that buffer using completion-at-point?
    – Drew
    Aug 1 '17 at 20:19
  • @Drew Why do you say "a temporary buffer"? Can't completion work in the mini-buffer? Please see my post where I report trying this out: emacs.stackexchange.com/q/34593/16048 Aug 1 '17 at 21:52
  • Yes, it can. I just thought it might be less confusing for a user and easier for you, since you don't have to bother with the minibuffer keymaps.
    – Drew
    Aug 1 '17 at 23:42
  • @Drew I tried to pass the company mode's keymap to read-from-buffer in the post that I cited in my comment above and it still did not work... Aug 2 '17 at 6:13
  • You may want to look at the source of regexp-builder as the way you describe the interaction is similar to what it does. You may also find sphinxsearch.com to be of interest since it has a query language similar to what you describe and can produce results later useful for completion (it can sort the search results intelligently based on query parameters).
    – wvxvw
    Aug 2 '17 at 6:43

Here is a complete solution based on this discussion:

(require 'company)
(require 'cl-lib)

(defconst sample-completions
  '("procedural" "functional" "high-level" "low-level" "statically-scoped" "dynamically-scoped"))

;; This function is based on http://sixty-north.com/blog/writing-the-simplest-emacs-company-mode-backend
(defun company-sample-backend (command &optional arg &rest ignored)
  (interactive (list 'interactive))
  (let ((my-completions (copy-sequence sample-completions)))
    (cl-case command
      (interactive (company-begin-backend 'company-sample-backend))
      (prefix (and t ;(eq major-mode 'fundamental-mode)
    (lambda (c) (string-prefix-p arg c))

(define-key company-mode-map (kbd "TAB") 'company-sample-backend)

(setq resize-mini-windows t)

(defun my-minibuffer-mode ()
  (company-mode 1))

We can now perform the input without altering the normal function of the mini-buffer as follows:

(let ((company-backends (copy-sequence company-backends))
      (minibuffer-setup-hook (copy-sequence minibuffer-setup-hook)))
  (add-to-list 'company-backends 'company-sample-backend)
  (add-hook 'minibuffer-setup-hook 'my-minibuffer-mode)
  (read-from-minibuffer "Prompt: "))

Acknowledgement: thank you very much to everyone for their comments.

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