I am new to emacs lisp and emacs itself, coming from vim. I have seen such a nice feature in the idea:


This is a mutable buffer with read-only text hints: type of a variable and a argument name in the print function. I'd like to implement such functionality in the emacs editor. Is it possible?

  • Welcome. Which language is this for? Dec 23, 2017 at 11:15
  • @AndrewSwann Hi! this is for the rust language.
    – VP.
    Dec 23, 2017 at 11:35

1 Answer 1


I'm not sure what you're asking, but I think you're asking how you might make certain parts of a buffer read-only.

You can do that by putting text-property read-only on the text you want to be read-only. See the Elisp manual, node Special Properties. See also node Changing Properties.

The very simple way of inserting new read-only text is demonstrated in the next example. You can try this example in the *scratch* buffer.

 (insert (propertize "some text" 'read-only t))

After you inserted the read-only text it is important to know how to remove read-only text. You can ignore the read-only status of buffer text by setting the special variable inhibit-read-only to a non-nil value.

Mark the read only text some text in our example and type the following stuff:

M-: (let ((inhibit-read-only t)) (delete-region (region-beginning) (region-end)))

Note that the key sequence M-: runs the command eval-expression and the expression is input in the mini-buffer.

It is also possible to set the read-only text property for an already existing buffer-substring. That is demonstrated in the following example which produces the same read-only text as the former example.

  (let ((pos1 (point)))
    (insert "some text")
    (put-text-property pos1 (point) 'read-only t)))
  • I am not sure I understand how to use it: how to add a text into some place of a buffer and mark it with read-only special property? I have found the documentation but only for these properties but not about a function which sets it.
    – VP.
    Dec 24, 2017 at 18:59
  • Thank you for spending your time. When I check it and it works, I will accept your answer.
    – VP.
    Dec 25, 2017 at 6:08
  • Could you also tell me please, how can I make its background color different from other text and how can I make so that cursor is unable to be on the text but only before or after it?
    – VP.
    Oct 3, 2018 at 11:41
  • That's 3 questions. But the answer is to look at the Elisp manual, node Changing Properties. You can get there inside Emacs using C-h i, choosing Elisp manual, then i text property TAB (or in this case just g changing p TAB. See node Special Properties for a description of properties read-only and face.
    – Drew
    Oct 3, 2018 at 14:51
  • The code in my answer shows how to insert some text at position pos1 and make that text read-only. Define a function that uses that code, if you want. Put it on some hook, if you want. Make it a command, if you want. All of those things are possible (and different questions).
    – Drew
    Oct 3, 2018 at 14:54

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