I would like to do the following: activate some mode so that whenener I type the $ character in my buffer, it immediately gets replaced by <m>.

Even better: when I type $ it puts <m></m> and places the cursor between the matching tag pair.

I have no problem with the solution being quick and dirty, but I would need to be able to turn it on and off.

Context: I've started using PreTeXt, which is basically "laTeX meets xml", to write a math text. It works very well, but having to type <m> all the time is damaging my productivity (I'm already enjoying c-C ] to close the tags.)

  • 1
    You can use abbrev for this emacswiki.org/emacs/AbbrevMode there is a hook you can run after abbrev which might be able to move the cursor. To check surrounding context or move the cursor you might need to use a post-command-hook. You could also look into yasnippets which is a template system which can position the cursor.
    – ideasman42
    Aug 19, 2020 at 22:29
  • @ideasman42: Please consider posting your comment, or similar, as an answer.
    – Drew
    Aug 20, 2020 at 0:08
  • @ideasman thanks for the reply. I've been using emacs for 15 years, so all the terms and words you wrote look familiar to me (e.g. hooks) but I don't know what they mean. EDIT: okay maybe I should carefully read the link youto abbrevmode you provided :-)
    – NWMT
    Aug 20, 2020 at 0:14

1 Answer 1


This can be done using abbrev mode:

;; Hook to go back N chars after completion.
(defun my-abbrev-back-4-no-self-insert ()
    (forward-char -4)
(put 'my-abbrev-back-4-no-self-insert 'no-self-insert t)

    (list "$" "<m></m>" 'my-abbrev-back-4-no-self-insert 0)
    ;; More typical examples of abbrev mode usage.
    (list "btw" "by the way" nil 3)
    (list "pov" "point of view" nil 1)))

;; Enable abbrev mode.
(add-hook 'after-change-major-mode-hook
  (lambda ()
    (when (or (derived-mode-p 'prog-mode)
              (derived-mode-p 'text-mode))
      (abbrev-mode 1))))

The above code block can be copy-pasted into your emacs init file.

For more advanced templating you may want to look into: yasnippets.

  • 1
    @ideasman2 WHOA SO AWESOME!!!!!!! Thank you!
    – NWMT
    Aug 20, 2020 at 15:23
  • I omitted the enable abbrev mode part at the bottom as I don't want my text editor to do this all thie time. I'm fine with invoking M-x abbrev-mode as I need it. I'm guessing there's a way to make this work automatically when working on certain types of flles.
    – NWMT
    Aug 20, 2020 at 15:26
  • 1
    You can adjust (or (derived-mode-p 'prog-mode) (derived-mode-p 'text-mode)) to check for a more spesific mode.
    – ideasman42
    Aug 21, 2020 at 1:35

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