Suppose I have a short string in C++ and I accidentally delete the double quote that ends it. What Emacs does is highlight the rest of the code as a single very long string, which messes up all the formatting until I put the double quote back in. It also feels a little slow when it's refontifying the whole buffer.

I skimmed through cc-mode.el, but I couldn't find the setting for it or the place where string fontification happens.

Is there a way to tell c++-mode (or font-lock maybe?) that my strings never contain newlines and it should never look beyond the first newline if it finds an unterminated string literal?

  • Do you use any syntax checkers? i.e like flycheck or flymake? They will show you the line with error, so it will be easy to correct. – Ian Mar 5 '19 at 11:37
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    @Ian Even if I know where the double quote is missing, it still makes the entire buffer after it look like a single long string. That is what I'm trying to avoid. – Kirill Mar 5 '19 at 12:02
  • Are you sure that you want to change this? The system is working as designed, giving you feedback that your code isn't correct. – Tripp Lilley May 4 '19 at 15:28
  • @TrippLilley Yes: unfontifying and then refontifying the entire buffer after the string looks ugly and there is a noticeable UI lag too. Flycheck and lsp will always tell me about syntax errors anyway. Xcode, for example, highlights strings with a missing final quote only up to the next newline, and it looks much better to me that way. – Kirill May 4 '19 at 15:34
  • I'm assuming this involves changing syntax tables as this mode might not do font locking itself. – user12563 May 7 '19 at 16:24

The function c-literal-limits, defined in progmodes/cc-engine.el determines how strings and comments are identified in all c-mode variants. It uses these two definitions to do so:

;; String syntax chars, suitable for skip-syntax-(forward|backward).
(defconst c-string-syntax (if (memq 'gen-string-delim c-emacs-features)

;; Regexp matching string limit syntax.
(defconst c-string-limit-regexp (if (memq 'gen-string-delim c-emacs-features)

Unfortunately, since this is not a configurable variable, you cannot just reassign it, and have c-mode do what you want it to do. You would have to basically implement "advice" (see: defadvice) for the c-literal-limits function that uses your constants instead. These constants would add an EOL (i.e., "\\s$") to terminate the string expression.

This, of course, is not how the C/C++ language works, though, so I highly recommend not doing this, but the choice is yours, and as you can see, it's not an easy path.

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    It wasn't until C++0x that C++ had multi-line string literals. C doesn't have them at all AFAIK. – Sam May 8 '19 at 2:52
  • You are right. I guess a better thing would be for Emacs to flag them as an error in non-C++ files. – cyberbisson May 8 '19 at 17:00
  • Multi-line string literals in C++ have a special syntax introduced in C++11, they wouldn't necessarily appear like regular strings to emacs (e.g., R""(string-contents)"". – Kirill May 11 '19 at 16:42
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    This works, but I don't want to "accept" this answer because it just seems so convoluted to have to advice/edit cc-engine.el just to get this feature. If I understood correctly, this only works for c-mode, which surprised me because I'd thought that identifying string literals was something done by emacs itself and then exposed through functions like syntax-ppss. – Kirill May 15 '19 at 16:52
  • @Kirill "This works, but I don't want to "accept" this answer because it just seems so convoluted to have to advice/edit cc-engine.el just to get this feature" I hear ya. The syntax engine in c-mode is not always flexible because it supports a lot of features, unfortunately... – cyberbisson May 15 '19 at 17:31

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