Is it possible to extract the results returned by xref-find-apropos to a variable within elisp code? In particular, I want to get all files names where the found symbol occurs.

So what I want is something like

(let ((results (xref-find-apropos "Symbol")))
  (print (filenames results)))

Or maybe there is a way to achieve this in a different way? I need to access a list of files in my workspace where the given symbol occurs.

I am using ccls as my backend for xref.


2 Answers 2


By inspecting the xref-find-apropos -> xref--find-xrefs -> xref--create-fetcher functions, we find that xref-backend-apropos is the working horse. Calling that function with the appropriate arguments, we find that it returns a list of structures. Finally, we find that we can achieve what you ask for, using:

(defun my-xref-get-files (pattern)
  (let* ((results (xref-backend-apropos (xref-find-backend) pattern))
         (locations (mapcar #'xref-item-location results)))
    (mapcar #'xref-elisp-location-file locations)))

(setq results (my-xref-get-files "Symbol"))
  • Somehow this works in a buffer with elisp code, but when I try to run this from a buffer with C++ code, I am getting an error: Debugger entered--Lisp error: (wrong-type-argument xref-elisp-location #<xref-file-location xref-file-location-1579c70b6870>) signal(wrong-type-argument (xref-elisp-location #<xref-file-location xref-file-location-1579c70b6870>)) Sorry if my question wasn't very clear, I am trying to find locations of symbols from C++ code. I posted a solution that works for me below. Nov 19, 2022 at 3:49
  • Looks like the call to xref-backend-apropos returns xref-item, which can be further analyzed to access xref-file-location. We simply need to replace xref-elisp-location with xref-file-location. I upvoted your answer too, thank you. Nov 19, 2022 at 3:57

We can ask for references from the LSP backend directly:

(lsp-request "workspace/symbol" `(:query ,symbol))

This returns a hashmap I can further parse and find locations by looking at 'uri' keys.

  • Ah okay nice. I now notice that I did not fully read your question, while the first sentence says 'results returned by xref-find-apropos to a variable within elisp code'. Therefore, I thought that you wanted to search for emacs-lisp symbols. Anyway, you have found a nice solution! Nov 19, 2022 at 7:31

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