I usually have a bulk of items separated by either spaces or new lines and I want to have them all full a table with a set number of columns.

Basically if I want the table to always have 3 columns, then this text:

test1 test2     test3 test4
   test5  test6 test7

will become:

|test7|     |     |

How to achieve that?


Here is your text

test1 test2     test3 test4
   test5  test6 test7

Use C-M-% (query-replace-regexp) to group the text by three, i.e.,

;; Type C-q C-j to get <newline>
C-M-% [ <newline>]+ → \,(if (zerop (% (1+ \#) 3)) "\n" "|")

then you'll get


Use C-x r t (string-rectangle) to prepend | to each line, then you'll get


Switch to org-mode and press TAB, then you'll get

| test1 | test2 | test3 |
| test4 | test5 | test6 |
| test7 |       |       |

If you want an Emacs command to do the above, you can refer to the code below:

(defun my-org-table-convert-region (b e)
  (interactive "*r")
  (let ((s (delete-and-extract-region b e))
        (old-point (point))
        (counter 0))
      (rx (1+ (in "\s\t\n")))
      (lambda (_)
        (if (zerop (% (cl-incf counter) 3))
          " "))
      (string-trim s)))
    (org-table-convert-region old-point (point) " +")))
  • Beautiful! but just to make it easier, I switched "|" to " " and afterwards applied org-table-create-or-convert-from-region. Is there a way to lump all what I described in my comment here in a function that I can call on a marked region? – SFbay007 Jan 16 '19 at 17:24
  • 1
    @SFbay007 Not sure if I understand you correctly (my English is not very good), I've just added a function to automate the process. – xuchunyang Jan 16 '19 at 17:50
  • That was exactly what I asked for. Thank you very much! – SFbay007 Jan 16 '19 at 18:05
  • I found a small bug that I cant explain. When there are many variables (over 20) I noticed that the [first row, third column] is always empty! – SFbay007 Jan 16 '19 at 18:37
  • 1
    @SFbay007 Now I understand the bug, I've update the code, I use string-trim (from subr-x.el) to remove whitespace at the beginning. – xuchunyang Jan 17 '19 at 5:28

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