I would like to write a script where I can select some text as the region, extract the selected region as a string, modify it, and pass it to another program.

I am playing around with ielm and see that I can call (yank) to pull the region string into a register. How would I go about getting the region string into a variable though?

  • 1
    How about? (buffer-substring (region-beginning) (region-end)) or (buffer-substring-no-properties (region-beginning) (region-end)). To get it into a variable you can use (setq my-variable (buffer-substring.....) or let-bind the value to a temporary variable during the relevant function ... You'll need to set up a test for whether the region is active before using region-beginning and region-end or else an error will be thrown .... See the doc-strings for region-active-p and use-region-p.
    – lawlist
    Aug 31, 2019 at 0:28
  • @Drew bare with me - I don't have all the emacs terminology down but basically I have a region active and I would like the text in that region to be in a variable as a string. Aug 31, 2019 at 1:41
  • I see what you're saying @Drew, I meant "parameters" as in parameters that will be passed into the other programs - as far as elisp is concerned a string. I'll edit Sep 2, 2019 at 19:52
  • It is @Drew. Post an answer and I'll accept Sep 3, 2019 at 14:17

1 Answer 1


This code should do what you want:

(setq your-variable  (buffer-substring (region-beginning) (region-end)))

If you want a command, try this:

(defun my-set-var-to-selection (variable beg end)
  "Set VARIABLE to a string with the selected text.
You are prompted for VARIABLE."
   (if (use-region-p)
       (list (intern (completing-read "Variable: " obarray 'boundp t))
     (error "No selection (no active region)")))
  (set variable (buffer-substring beg end)))

If you don't want to require VARIABLE to already be a variable (you want to allow any name as a variable) then remove the arguments 'boundp and t from the completing-read call.

If you want to use the region text even when the region is not active (no selection) then use just this as the interactive spec:

  (list (intern (completing-read "Variable: " obarray 'boundp t))

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