I'm trying to add additional contextual help information to describe-function, describe-variable etc, and I notice that describe-symbol has the option to take a buffer as a parameter.

When I try (describe-symbol 'variable (get-buffer-create "buffer name")) the usual help buffers are used.

describe-symbol is an autoloaded interactive compiled Lisp function in ‘help-fns.el’.

It is bound to C-h o, o, o.

(describe-symbol SYMBOL &optional BUFFER FRAME)

Probably introduced at or before Emacs version 25.1.

Display the full documentation of SYMBOL. Will show the info of SYMBOL as a function, variable, and/or face. Optional arguments BUFFER and FRAME specify for which buffer and frame to show the information about SYMBOL; they default to the current buffer and the selected frame, respectively.

Is that a bug in the describe-symbol implementation?

I'm on Emacs 27.

1 Answer 1


You've misread the docs. Those arguments have no bearing on which help buffer is used.

"for which buffer and frame" rather than "in which buffer and frame".

Think buffer-local variables.

  • 1
    What is the significance of the for which buffer and frame distinction? Are there some special buffers that the info is displayed in?
    – vfclists
    Jul 28, 2022 at 15:02
  • for which buffer and frame means about which buffer and frame. As @phils said in his answer, BUFFER here is about describing the use of the SYMBOL in the given BUFFER.
    – Drew
    Jul 28, 2022 at 15:15

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