I list the current windows with

#+begin_src emacs-lisp :tangle yes

| #<window 14 on 28.Windows.org> | #<window 3 on .emacs.d> |

Then I tried to operate one of them with

(split-window '#<window 14 on 28.Windows.org>)

but get the error:

Symbol’s value as variable is void: on

Tried alternatively

(split-window #<window 14 on 28.Windows.org>)
(split-window <window 14 on 28.Windows.org>)

Report the same error,

How could I reference a window by a designated name?

  • Please consider removing all of the extraneous Org stuff from the question. You don't need to show Org syntax to show Lisp code. Thx. – Drew Mar 17 '20 at 18:35
  • ... and in this case, it obfuscates the fact that (window-list) returns a list - on which you can apply functions like nth in order to select and operate on a particular element, e.g.: (split-window (nth 0 (window-list))) will happily split the first window in the list. – NickD Mar 17 '20 at 19:38
  • @NickD ty, amazing solution. – AbstProcDo Mar 18 '20 at 0:51

What Org emits here is a printed representation of an otherwise opaque window object. While you can serialize a window to a string, you cannot go back from the string to the window. You can recognize such data types by their printed representation looking like #<...>, see https://www.gnu.org/software/emacs/manual/html_node/elisp/Printed-Representation.html for further details.

This doesn't mean that you can't do meaningful things with windows though. For example the following works just fine:

#+begin_src emacs-lisp :tangle yes
(split-window (selected-window))

: #<window 38>
  • 3
    Is Org relevant here? If not, how about removing it? – Drew Mar 17 '20 at 18:36
  • To expand a bit on what @wasamasa said, it may not be obvious that you can store that opaque object in a variable: (setq foo (selected-window)) (split-window foo) – Phil Hudson Mar 18 '20 at 11:08

If you use Icicles then you can use command icicle-select-window to switch to windows by name, using completion.

icicle-select-window is an interactive compiled Lisp function in icicles-cmd1.el.


Select window by its name.

With no prefix arg, candidate windows are those of the selected frame.

With a prefix arg:

  • Non-negative means windows of all visible frames are candidates.
  • Negative means windows of all frames are candidates (i.e., including iconified and invisible frames).

A window name is the name of its displayed buffer, but suffixed as needed by [NUMBER], to make the name unique. For example, if you have two windows showing buffer Help, one of the windows will be called *Help*[2] for use with this command.


Build on the icicle answer you can do that without including this big library with that function:

(defun MY/select-window-by-name (name)
  "Selects the window with buffer NAME"
   (car (seq-filter
     (lambda (window)
       (equal name (buffer-name (window-buffer window))))
     (window-list-1 nil 0 t)))))

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