I would like to have a command that makes selected text invisible, and another to make selected text visible. Currently I have

(buffer-invisibility-spec '(a . t))

(global-set-key (kbd "C-c i") (add-text-properties (region-beginning) (region-end) '(invisible a)))
(global-set-key (kbd "C-c v") (add-text-properties (region-beginning) (region-end) '(invisible nil)))

which works if I run the first line in a buffer, but (buffer-invisibility-spec '(a . t)) throws a void-function error when placed in the init file, (I believe) because there is no buffer yet. I couldn't find any global version of invisibility spec, how would I go about having this load in for every buffer?

  • You are trying to bind keys to non-commands. The binding needs to be a function that has an interactive spec, i.e., a command.
    – Drew
    Sep 29 '19 at 1:27

buffer-invisibility-spec is a buffer local variable. If you want globally set the key you must add a to the default value of buffer-invisible-spec.

global-set-key is a function therefore the argument (add-text-properties ...) is evaluated before global-set-key. The return value of add-text-properties is undefined in the doc. So you bind your keys to some undefined value which is probably not a function.

You need to define commands that you can bind to keys with global-set-key.

You also need to be more careful when setting the invisible text property. It may be that you destroy already existing settings.

There follows a version that takes care of the above comments:

(eval-when-compile (require 'cl-lib))

(defun my-change-invisible-a (b e &optional add)
  "Make region from B to E invisible if ADD is t.
Otherwise remove invisible spec ni region from B to E."
  (interactive "r")
   with iv-prop
   for int being the intervals property 'invisible from b to e
   when (or (null (listp (setq iv-prop (get-text-property (car int) 'invisible))))
        (last iv-prop 0))
   do (setq iv-prop (list iv-prop))
   (setq iv-prop (remove 'a iv-prop))
   (put-text-property (car int) (cdr int)
              (if add
              (cons 'a iv-prop)

(defun my-remove-invisible-a (b e)
  "Remove invisible spec a from region running from B to E."
  (interactive "r")
  (my-change-invisible-a b e nil))

(defun my-add-invisible-a (b e)
  "Add invisible spec a to region from B to E."
  (interactive "r")
  (unless (listp buffer-invisibility-spec)
     (setq buffer-invisibility-spec (list buffer-invisibility-spec)))
  (cl-pushnew '(a . t) buffer-invisibility-spec :test #'equal)
  (my-change-invisible-a b e t))

(global-set-key (kbd "C-c i") #'my-add-invisible-a)
(global-set-key (kbd "C-c v") #'my-remove-invisible-a)

Furthermore, note that it might be that the major mode of the buffer adds invisible to the font-lock-extra-managed-props. In that case one needs to use font-lock to add the invisible specs.

An alternative is using overlays with non-nil invisible specification.

  • Ok my, that cl-loop thing!
    – JeanPierre
    Aug 6 '19 at 11:22
  • @JeanPierre IMHO the cl-loop over intervalls with property and region is the most simple tool in that case. The (last iv-prop 0) is protection against dotted lists. The (remove 'a iv-prop) is a sledgehammer against multiple 'a in iv-prop. The strategy for adding a is removing all and adding once. That unifies that treatment of removing and adding. Transforming the invisible props to lists is also a sledgehammer in the case of removing a. But, I assume here that all other packages handle the invisible text property correctly, i.e., they handle lists as property values well.
    – Tobias
    Aug 6 '19 at 11:37
  • Copy-pasting this into .emacs gives a void-function error on cl-pushnew Aug 7 '19 at 15:40
  • @LieAlgebraCow I have added (eval-when-compile (require 'cl-lib)) that should avoid the problem.
    – Tobias
    Aug 7 '19 at 16:29
  • That works, thanks! Also good to have it make sure not to accidentally break other things, since I would not have handled that on my own. Aug 7 '19 at 16:34

One easy solution is to use libraries zones.el and isearch-prop.el.

  • zones.el is about defining and using sets of zones of contiguous text. In this case, you use only one zone, defined by the region.

  • isearch-prop.el is about isearching text-property or overlay-property contexts. Visibility is just one kind of property.

(You can do the same thing using just isearch-prop.el, but zones makes it even simpler.)

(require 'zones)
(require 'isearch-prop)

(defun hide-region (beg end)
  "Hide the text in the region (make it invisible)."
  (interactive "r")
  (isearchp-make-zones-invisible `((,beg ,end)) nil t))

(defun show-region (beg end)
  "Show the invisible text in the region."
  (interactive "r")
  (isearchp-make-zones-visible `((,beg ,end)) nil t))

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