Q: How, please, can I incorporate a visual seconds counter that will disappear when an option is selected, or when the clock runs out.

Example -- *Messages* buffer

  • You have 10 seconds to make your selction.

  • You have 9 seconds to make your selection.

  • . . .

  • Time's up!

I have a variable that is called init-variable. When non-nil, Emacs loads with a full configuration of various user customizations. When nil, Emacs loads with the equivalent of Emacs -Q -- i.e., no user customizations are loaded. The function read-char-exclusive has a nice feature for a seconds counter, and I've incorporated that feature into the code snippet below. Option number 1 sets the init-variable to nil; option number 2 or no action result in the default setting of non-nil.

(defvar init-variable t)

(let* (
    (emacs-q (read-char-exclusive nil nil 10)))
    ((eq emacs-q ?1)
      (setq init-variable nil)
      (message "Emacs -Q"))
    ((eq emacs-q ?2)
      (message "Regular Loading."))
    (t (message "This is the default.")) ))

1 Answer 1


From its docstring, I'm guessing that you can't incorporate the countdown message functionality into read-char-exclusive. However, you can wrap it up in your own timer:

(let ((choice nil)
      (count  3))
  (while (>= count 0)
    (message (format "Seconds left to make your choice: %d" count))
    (setq count (if (setq choice (read-char-exclusive nil nil 1))
                  (1- count))))
  (cond ((eq choice ?1)
         (message "You entered 1"))
        ((eq choice ?2)
         (message "You entered 2"))
         (message "The default"))))

Actually, this might be sufficiently useful to wrap it up in a function. Here's a quick sketch that works for a few functions that take the same arguments in the same order (read-char, read-char-exclusive, read-event, and perhaps others) -- extend as you like to do things with read-string and others that take a different argument list:

(defun countdown-read (fnx &optional prompt inherit-input-method seconds)
  "Reads a character or event and provides a countdown of SECONDS
to provide input.  Return nil if no input arrives in time.

FNX is a function that supports the rest of the
arguments (currently, `read-char', `read-char-exclusive',
`read-event', and maybe others).
If the optional argument PROMPT is non-nil, display that as a
If the optional argument INHERIT-INPUT-METHOD is non-nil and some
input method is turned on in the current buffer, that input
method is used for reading a character.
If the optional argument SECONDS is non-nil, it should be a
number specifying the maximum number of seconds to wait for
input (default: 5)."
  (let (choice (seconds (or seconds 5)))
    (while (>= seconds 0)
      (message (format (concat (or prompt "") " (%d): ") seconds))
      (setq seconds (if (setq choice
                              (funcall fnx nil inherit-input-method 1))
                      (1- seconds))))

Using it would look like:

(countdown-read #'read-char-exclusive "Please enter a character" nil 3)
  • Yes, that new function will indeed be very useful! Thank you for extending your answer to include it -- greatly appreciated.
    – lawlist
    Nov 16, 2014 at 17:24

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