I have a package with the variable my-package--my-var that needs to be buffer-local when my-package-buffer-only is t but global if my-package-buffer-only is nil. This is what I have so far:

(defcustom my-package-buffer-only nil
  :type 'boolean
  :set (lambda (sym val)
         (when val
           (make-variable-buffer-local 'my-package--my-var))
         (set-default sym val)))

(defvar my-package--my-var nil)

The problem is that I can't find a way to make the variable global again if my-package-buffer-only is set to nil.

2 Answers 2


Note, I have a strange feeling about your wish making a local variable var global:

  1. You can always access the global value of var with (default-value 'var).
  2. You can set the global value of a local variable with (setq-default var val).
  3. Maybe, you should have a global version var and a local version var-local of your variable. AFAIK that is how most modes deal with variables that can have a global (default) value and a local value.

Nevertheless, the following lisp snippet defines two functions related to your wish. The predicate lispTZA-variable-made-buffer-local-p tells you whether make-variable-buffer-local was applied to a variable and lispTZA-make-variable-global gives a symbol a fresh start as global variable.

(defun lispTZA-variable-made-buffer-local-p (var)
  "Return t if VAR is local_if_set.
This is the case if `make-variable-buffer-local' was applied to VAR."
        (local-variable-if-set-p var)))

(defun lispTZA-make-variable-global (var)
  "Give VAR a fresh start forgetting about localness."
  (let ((name (symbol-name var))
    (val (default-value var))
    (plist (symbol-plist var))
    (fun (symbol-function var))
    (special (special-variable-p var))) ;; Hm, should always be t. Maybe worth an assert?
    (unintern name obarray)
    (setq var (intern name)) ;; Here we have a fresh start.
    (when special
      (eval `(defvar ,var)))
    (set var val)
    (setf (symbol-plist var) plist)
    (fset var fun)))

Thanks to the answer from Tobias I realized that I can do what I want by using a function instead of a variable. my-package--my-var returns/sets the local value if my-package-buffer-only is set and the global value otherwise.

(defcustom my-package-buffer-only nil
  :type 'boolean)

(defvar-local my-package--my-var-v nil)

(defun my-package--my-var (&optional val)
  "Return `my-package--my-var-v' or set it if VAL is non-nil.
Use the local value if `my-package-buffer-only' is set and the global value
  (if val
      (if my-package-buffer-only
          (setq my-package--my-var-v val)
        (setq-default my-package--my-var-v val))
    (if my-package-buffer-only
      (default-value 'my-package--my-var-v))))
  • Please, do not forget to mark your answer as solution by clicking the check mark left-hand of your answer if it solves your question. That removes this question from the list of open questions.
    – Tobias
    Mar 8, 2020 at 23:34
  • @Tobias I have to wait 48 hours to mark my own answer as solution.
    – tastytea
    Mar 9, 2020 at 5:51

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