Currently, whitespace.el shows me newline characters by changing the display table to show a $ at the end of lines.

I don't actually find this useful, so I disable it while I enjoy the many other benefits of whitespace-mode.

When I'm composing emails in message-mode I want to show the newline characters that have the 'hard text property, because it affects how the flowed text shows up.

Can I hack this distinction into the display table logic of whitespace-mode? My backup plan relies on longlines-show-hard-newlines but I'd prefer to extend whitespace.el if possible.

  • I would have thought just adding newline and newline-mark to whitespace-style when entering message-mode would do it, but upon checking it seems whitespace-style is not buffer local.
    – aerique
    Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 7:17
  • I am able to toggle the whitespace-style in message-mode. I personally use whitespace-newline-mode for this, but of course there are other ways to do it. I find this toggle uses one face for every newline - it hacks the display table to show a fontified "$\n" whenever the text has a "\n". The question is whether I can modify this display table logic to distinguish on other criteria, like text properties. Does that makes sense? Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 12:59

1 Answer 1


Here is a very ugly solution. First, define a function to find hard newlines such that it can be used by font-lock-mode:

(defun whitespace-find-hard-newlines (end)
  (search-forward "\n" end t)
  (while (and (not (memq 'hard (text-properties-at (match-beginning 0))))
       (search-forward "\n" end t)))
  (memq 'hard (text-properties-at (match-beginning 0))))

Here is what I used in my *scratch* buffer to test it. The switch to fundamental-mode made sure everything got initialized properly.

  (font-lock-add-keywords nil
    '((whitespace-find-hard-newlines 0 '(background-color . "#eee") t))))

Why is it ugly? Because adding a background color to the "newline" will create a light grey line to the right edge of the window. It looks ugly. You can't use the foreground color because there is nothing there to highlight. The $ sign that you're seeing comes from a display table and that only works on characters. On the character level, however, the hard and soft newlines don't differ.

  • Thanks! I'm still learning the ins-and-outs of font lock keywords. I'll play with this later and probably accept it - I'm fine with ugly solutions. Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 16:12
  • This makes sense and works as advertised! I'll keep playing with it, but in the meantime, this is perfect for me. Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 0:10
  • I tried this, but it makes my Emacs 25 get stuck in an infinite loop in font-lock-fontify-keywords-region. (whitespace-find-hard-newlines itself terminates as it's supposed to.) I'll try to debug this and figure out why it happens, but any insights are welcome.
    – legoscia
    Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 14:54

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