You can browse C++ class hierarchies from within Emacs by using Ebrowse.
This file documents Ebrowse, a C++ class browser for GNU Emacs.
Copyright © 2000–2019 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with the Front-Cover Texts being “A GNU Manual,” and with the Back-Cover Texts as in (a) below. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled “GNU Free Documentation License”.
(a) The FSF's Back-Cover Text is: “You have the freedom to copy and modify this GNU manual.”
|Overview||What is it and how does it work?|
|Generating browser files||How to process C++ source files|
|Loading a Tree||How to start browsing|
|Tree Buffers||Traversing class hierarchies|
|Member Buffers||Looking at member information|
|Tags-like Functions||Finding members from source files|
|GNU Free Documentation License||The license for this documentation.|
|Concept Index||An entry for each concept defined|
When working in software projects using C++, I frequently missed software support for two things:
- When you get a new class library, or you have to work on source code you haven't written yourself (or written sufficiently long ago), you need a tool to let you navigate class hierarchies and investigate features of the software. Without such a tool you often end up greping through dozens or even hundreds of files.
- Once you are productive, it would be nice to have a tool that knows your sources and can help you while you are editing source code. Imagine to be able to jump to the definition of an identifier while you are editing, or something that can complete long identifier names because it knows what identifiers are defined in your program....
The design of Ebrowse reflects these two needs.
How does it work?
A fast parser written in C is used to process C++ source files. The parser generates a data base containing information about classes, members, global functions, defines, types etc. found in the sources.
The second part of Ebrowse is a Lisp program. This program reads the data base generated by the parser. It displays its contents in various forms and allows you to perform operations on it, or do something with the help of the knowledge contained in the data base.
Tree buffers are used to view class hierarchies in tree form. They allow you to quickly find classes, find or view class declarations, perform operations like query replace on sets of your source files, and finally tree buffers are used to produce the second buffer form—member buffers. See Tree Buffers.
- Instance member variables;
- Instance member functions;
- Static member variables;
- Static member functions;
- Friends/Defines. The list of defines is contained in the friends list of the pseudo-class ‘*Globals*’;
- Types (
typedefs defined with class scope).
You can switch member buffers from one list to another, or to another class. You can include inherited members in the display, you can set filters that remove categories of members from the display, and most importantly you can find or view member declarations and definitions with a keystroke. See Member Buffers.
These two buffer types and the commands they provide support the navigational use of the browser. The second form resembles Emacs's Tags package for C and other procedural languages. Ebrowse's commands of this type are not confined to special buffers; they are most often used while you are editing your source code.
To list just a subset of what you can use the Tags part of Ebrowse for:
- Jump to the definition or declaration of an identifier in your source code, with an electric position stack that lets you easily navigate back and forth.
- Complete identifiers in your source with a completion list containing identifiers from your source code only.
- Perform search and query replace operations over some or all of your source files.
- Show all identifiers matching a regular expression—and jump to one of them, if you like.
2 Processing Source Files
The operation of ebrowse can be tailored with command line options. Under normal circumstances it suffices to let the parser use its default settings. If you want to do that, call it with a command line like:
ebrowse *.h *.cc
or, if your shell doesn't allow all the file names to be specified on the command line,
where file contains the names of the files to be parsed, one per line.
2.1 Specifying Input Files
- Each file name on the command line tells ebrowse to parse that file.
- This command line switch specifies that file contains a list of file names to parse. Each line in file must contain one file name. More than one option of this kind is allowed. You might, for instance, want to use one file for header files, and another for source files.
- ‘standard input’
- When ebrowse finds no file names on the command line, and no ‘--file’ option is specified, it reads file names from standard input. This is sometimes convenient when ebrowse is used as part of a command pipe.
- This option lets you specify search paths for your input files. paths is a list of directories, separated by either a colon or a semicolon, depending on the operating system.
2.2 Changing the Output File Name
- This option instructs ebrowse to generate a Lisp data base with
name file. By default, the data base is named BROWSE, and
is written in the directory in which ebrowse is invoked.
If you regularly use data base names different from the default, you might want to add this to your init file:
(add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '(NAME . ebrowse-tree-mode))
where NAME is the Lisp data base name you are using.
- By default, each run of ebrowse erases the old contents of the output file when writing to it. You can instruct ebrowse to append its output to an existing file produced by ebrowse with this command line option.
2.3 Structs and Unions
- This switch suppresses all classes in the data base declared as
unionin the output.
This is mainly useful when you are converting an existing C program to C++, and do not want to see the old C structs in a class tree.
2.4 Regular Expressions
You can instruct ebrowse to omit these regular expressions by calling it with the command line switch ‘--no-regexps’.
When you do this, the Lisp part of Ebrowse tries to guess, from member or class names, suitable regular expressions to locate that class or member in source files. This works fine in most cases, but the automatic generation of regular expressions can be too weak if unusual coding styles are used.
- This option turns off regular expression recording.
- The number n following this option specifies the minimum length of
the regular expressions recorded to match class and member declarations
and definitions. The default value is set at compilation time of
The smaller the minimum length, the higher the probability that Ebrowse will find a wrong match. The larger the value, the larger the output file and therefore the memory consumption once the file is read from Emacs.
- The number following this option specifies the maximum length of the
regular expressions used to match class and member declarations and
definitions. The default value is set at compilation time of
The larger the maximum length, the higher the probability that the browser will find a correct match, but the larger the value the larger the output file and therefore the memory consumption once the data is read. As a second effect, the larger the regular expression, the higher the probability that it will no longer match after editing the file.
2.5 Verbose Mode
- When this option is specified on the command line, ebrowse prints a period for each file parsed, and it displays a ‘+’ for each class written to the output file.
- This option makes ebrowse print out the names of the files and the names of the classes seen.
3 Starting to Browse
An example of a tree buffer display is shown below.
| Collection | IndexedCollection | Array | FixedArray | Set | Dictionary
When you run Emacs on a display which supports colors and the mouse, you will notice that certain areas in the tree buffer are highlighted when you move the mouse over them. This highlight marks mouse-sensitive regions in the buffer. Please notice the help strings in the echo area when the mouse moves over a sensitive region.
A click with mouse-3 on a mouse-sensitive region opens a context menu. In addition to this, each buffer also has a buffer-specific menu that is opened with a click with mouse-3 somewhere in the buffer where no highlight is displayed.
4 Tree Buffers
Class trees are displayed in tree buffers which install their own major mode. Most Emacs keys work in tree buffers in the usual way, e.g., you can move around in the buffer with the usual C-f, C-v etc., or you can search with C-s.
Tree-specific commands are bound to simple keystrokes, similar to
Gnus. You can take a look at the key bindings by entering
? which calls
M-x describe-mode in both tree and member
4.1 Viewing and Finding Class Declarations
- This command views the class declaration if the database
contains information about it. If you don't parse the entire source
you are working on, some classes will only be known to exist but the
location of their declarations and definitions will not be known.
- Works like <SPC>, except that it finds the class declaration rather than viewing it, so that it is ready for editing.
The same functionality is available from the menu opened with mouse-3 on the class name.
4.2 Displaying Members
Ebrowse distinguishes six different kinds of members, each of which is displayed as a separate member list: instance variables, instance functions, static variables, static functions, friend functions, and types.
Each of these lists can be displayed in a member buffer with a command starting with L when the cursor is on a class name. By default, there is only one member buffer named *Members* that is reused each time you display a member list—this has proven to be more practical than to clutter up the buffer list with dozens of member buffers.
If you want to display more than one member list at a time you can freeze its member buffer. Freezing a member buffer prevents it from being overwritten the next time you display a member list. You can toggle this buffer status at any time.
Every member list display command in the tree buffer can be used with a prefix argument (C-u). Without a prefix argument, the command will pop to a member buffer displaying the member list. With prefix argument, the member buffer will additionally be frozen.
- L v
- This command displays the list of instance member variables.
- L V
- Display the list of static variables.
- L d
- Display the list of friend functions. This list is used for defines if you are viewing the class ‘*Globals*’ which is a place holder for global symbols.
- L f
- Display the list of member functions.
- L F
- Display the list of static member functions.
- L t
- Display a list of types.
These lists are also available from the class' context menu invoked with mouse-3 on the class name.
4.3 Finding a Class
- This command reads a class name from the minibuffer with completion and
positions the cursor on the class in the class tree.
If the branch of the class tree containing the class searched for is currently collapsed, the class itself and all its base classes are recursively made visible. (See also Expanding and Collapsing.)
This function is also available from the tree buffer's context menu.
- Repeat the last search done with /. Each tree buffer has its own local copy of the regular expression last searched in it.
4.4 Burying a Tree Buffer
- Is a synonym for M-x bury-buffer.
4.5 Displaying File Names
- T f
- This command toggles the display of file names in a tree buffer. If
file name display is switched on, the names of the files containing the
class declaration are shown to the right of the class names. If the
file is not known, the string ‘unknown’ is displayed.
This command is also provided in the tree buffer's context menu.
- Display file names for the current line, or for the number of lines given by a prefix argument.
Here is an example of a tree buffer with file names displayed.
| Collection (unknown) | IndexedCollection (indexedcltn.h) | Array (array.h) | FixedArray (fixedarray.h) | Set (set.h) | Dictionary (dict.h)
4.6 Expanding and Collapsing a Tree
You can expand and collapse parts of a tree to reduce the complexity of large class hierarchies. Expanding or collapsing branches of a tree has no impact on the functionality of other commands, like /. (See also Go to Class.)
Collapsed branches are indicated with an ellipsis following the class name like in the example below.
| Collection | IndexedCollection... | Set | Dictionary
- This command collapses the branch of the tree starting at the class the
cursor is on.
- This command expands the branch of the tree starting at the class the
cursor is on. Both commands for collapsing and expanding branches are
also available from the class' object menu.
- This command expands all collapsed branches in the tree.
4.7 Changing the Tree Indentation
- T w
- This command reads a new indentation width from the minibuffer and redisplays the tree buffer with the new indentation It is also available from the tree buffer's context menu.
4.8 Removing Classes from the Tree
- This command removes the class the cursor is on and all its derived classes from the tree. The user is asked for confirmation before the deletion is actually performed.
4.9 Saving a Tree
- C-x C-s
- This command writes a class tree to the file from which it was read.
This is useful after classes have been deleted from a tree.
- C-x C-w
- Writes the tree to a file whose name is read from the minibuffer.
- Display statistics for the tree, like number of classes in it, number of member functions, etc. This command can also be found in the buffer's context menu.
4.11 Marking Classes
Classes can be marked for operations similar to the standard Emacs commands M-x tags-search and M-x tags-query-replace (see also See Tags-like Functions.)
- M t
- Toggle the mark of the line point is in or for as many lines as given by a prefix command. This command can also be found in the class' context menu.
- M a
- Unmark all classes. With prefix argument C-u, mark all classes in the tree. Since this command operates on the whole buffer, it can also be found in the buffer's object menu.
Marked classes are displayed with an
> in column one of the tree
display, like in the following example
|> Collection | IndexedCollection... |> Set | Dictionary
5 Member Buffers
- Instance variables (normal member variables);
- Instance functions (normal member functions);
- Static variables;
- Static member functions;
- Friend functions;
- Types (
typedefs defined with class scope. Nested classes will be shown in the class tree like normal classes.
Like tree buffers, member buffers install their own major mode. Also like in tree buffers, menus are provided for certain areas in the buffer: members, classes, and the buffer itself.
5.1 Switching Member Lists
- L n
- This command switches the member buffer display to the next member list.
- L p
- This command switches the member buffer display to the previous member
- L f
- Switch to the list of member functions.
- L F
- Switch to the list of static member functions.
- L v
- Switch to the list of member variables.
- L V
- Switch to the list of static member variables.
- L d
- Switch to the list of friends or defines.
- L t
- Switch to the list of types.
Both commands cycle through the member list.
Most of the commands are also available from the member buffer's context menu.
5.2 Finding and Viewing Member Source
- This command finds the definition of the member the cursor is on.
Finding involves roughly the same as the standard Emacs tags facility
does—loading the file and searching for a regular expression matching
- This command finds the declaration of the member the cursor is on.
- This is the same command as <RET>, but views the member definition
instead of finding the member's source file.
- This is the same command as f, but views the member's declaration instead of finding the file the declaration is in.
You can install a hook function to perform actions after a member or class declaration or definition has been found, or when it is not found.
All the commands described above can also be found in the context menu displayed when clicking mouse-2 on a member name.
5.3 Display of Inherited Members
- D b
- This command toggles the display of inherited members in the member buffer. This is also in the buffer's context menu.
5.4 Searching Members
- G v
- Position the cursor on a member whose name is read from the minibuffer;
only members shown in the current member buffer appear in the completion
- G m
- Like the above command, but all members for the current class appear in
the completion list. If necessary, the current member list is switched
to the one containing the member.
With a prefix argument (C-u), all members in the class tree, i.e., all members the browser knows about appear in the completion list. The member display will be switched to the class and member list containing the member.
- G n
- Repeat the last member search.
Look into the buffer's context menu for a convenient way to do this with a mouse.
5.5 Switching to Tree Buffer
- Pop up the tree buffer to which the member buffer belongs.
- Do the same as <TAB> but also position the cursor on the class displayed in the member buffer.
- F a u
- This command toggles the display of
publicmembers. The ‘a’ stands for “access”.
- F a o
- This command toggles the display of
- F a i
- This command toggles the display of
- F v
- This command toggles the display of
- F i
- This command toggles the display of
- F c
- This command toggles the display of
- F p
- This command toggles the display of pure virtual members.
- F r
- This command removes all filters.
These commands are also found in the buffer's context menu.
5.7 Displaying Member Attributes
- D a
- Toggle the display of member attributes (default is on).
The nine member attributes Ebrowse knows about are displayed as a list a single-characters flags enclosed in angle brackets in front the of the member's name. A ‘-’ at a given position means that the attribute is false. The list of attributes from left to right is
- The member is a template.
- The member is declared
- Means the member is declared
- The member is declared
- The member is
- The member is a pure virtual function.
- The member is declared
- The member is declared
- The member is a function with a throw list.
This command is also in the buffer's context menu.
5.8 Long and Short Member Display
- D l
- This command toggles the member buffer between short and long display
form. The short display form displays member names, only:
| isEmpty contains hasMember create | storeSize hash isEqual restoreGuts | saveGuts
The long display shows one member per line with member name and regular expressions matching the member (if known):
| isEmpty Bool isEmpty () const... | hash unsigned hash () const... | isEqual int isEqual (...
Regular expressions will only be displayed when the Lisp database has not been produced with the ebrowse option ‘--no-regexps’. See –no-regexps.
5.9 Display of Regular Expressions
- D r
- This command toggles the long display form from displaying the regular expressions matching the member declarations to those expressions matching member definitions.
Regular expressions will only be displayed when the Lisp database has not been produced with the ebrowse option ‘--no-regexps’, see –no-regexps.
5.10 Displaying Another Class
- C c
- This command lets you switch the member buffer to another class. It
reads the name of the new class from the minibuffer with completion.
- C b
- This is the same command as C c but restricts the classes shown in
the completion list to immediate base classes, only. If only one base
class exists, this one is immediately shown in the minibuffer.
- C d
- Same as C b, but for derived classes.
- C p
- Switch to the previous class in the class hierarchy on the same level as
the class currently displayed.
- C n
- Switch to the next sibling of the class in the class tree.
5.11 Burying a Member Buffer
- This command is a synonym for M-x bury-buffer.
5.12 Setting the Column Width
- D w
- This command sets the column width depending on the display form used (long or short display).
5.13 Forced Redisplay
- This command forces a redisplay of the member buffer. If the width of the window displaying the member buffer is changed this command redraws the member list with the appropriate column widths and number of columns.
5.14 Getting Help
- This key is bound to
6 Tags-like Functions
Ebrowse provides tags functions similar to those of the standard Emacs Tags facility, but better suited to the needs of C++ programmers.
6.1 Finding and Viewing Members
The functions in this section are similar to those described in Source Display, and also in Finding/Viewing, except that they work in a C++ source buffer, not in member and tree buffers created by Ebrowse.
- C-c C-m f
- Find the definition of the member around point. If you invoke this
function with a prefix argument, the declaration is searched.
If more than one class contains a member with the given name you can select the class with completion. If there is a scope declaration in front of the member name, this class name is used as initial input for the completion.
- C-c C-m F
- Find the declaration of the member around point.
- C-c C-m v
- View the definition of the member around point.
- C-c C-m V
- View the declaration of the member around point.
- C-c C-m 4 f
- Find a member's definition in another window.
- C-c C-m 4 F
- Find a member's declaration in another window.
- C-c C-m 4 v
- View a member's definition in another window.
- C-c C-m 4 V
- View a member's declaration in another window.
- C-c C-m 5 f
- Find a member's definition in another frame.
- C-c C-m 5 F
- Find a member's declaration in another frame.
- C-c C-m 5 v
- View a member's definition in another frame.
- C-c C-m 5 V
- View a member's declaration in another frame.
6.2 The Position Stack
When jumping to a member declaration or definition with one of Ebrowse's commands, the position from where you performed the jump and the position where you jumped to are recorded in a position stack. There are several ways in which you can quickly move to positions in the stack:
- C-c C-m -
- This command sets point to the previous position in the position stack.
Directly after you performed a jump, this will put you back to the
position where you came from.
The stack is not popped, i.e., you can always switch back and forth between positions in the stack. To avoid letting the stack grow to infinite size there is a maximum number of positions defined. When this number is reached, older positions are discarded when new positions are pushed on the stack.
- C-c C-m +
- This command moves forward in the position stack, setting point to
the next position stored in the position stack.
- C-c C-m p
- Displays an electric buffer showing all positions saved in the stack. You can select a position by pressing <SPC> in a line. You can view a position with v.
6.3 Searching and Replacing
Ebrowse allows you to perform operations on all or a subset of the files mentioned in a class tree. When you invoke one of the following functions and more than one class tree is loaded, you must choose a class tree to use from an electric tree menu. If the selected tree contains marked classes, the following commands operate on the files mentioned in the marked classes only. Otherwise all files in the class tree are used.
- C-c C-m s
- This function performs a regular expression search in the chosen set of
- C-c C-m u
- This command performs a search for calls of a given member which is
selected in the usual way with completion.
- C-c C-m %
- Perform a query replace over the set of files.
- C-c C-m ,
- All three operations above stop when finding a match. You can restart
the operation with this command.
- C-c C-m n
- This restarts the last tags operation with the next file in the list.
6.4 Members in Files
6.5 Member Apropos
A special buffer is popped up containing all identifiers matching the regular expression, and what kind of symbol it is (e.g., a member function, or a type). You can then switch to this buffer, and use the command C-c C-m f, for example, to jump to a specific member.
6.6 Symbol Completion
6.7 Quick Member Display
Appendix A GNU Free Documentation License
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- COMBINING DOCUMENTS
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- COLLECTIONS OF DOCUMENTS
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- FUTURE REVISIONS OF THIS LICENSE
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ADDENDUM: How to use this License for your documents
To use this License in a document you have written, include a copy of the License in the document and put the following copyright and license notices just after the title page:
Copyright (C) year your name. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled ``GNU Free Documentation License''.
If you have Invariant Sections, Front-Cover Texts and Back-Cover Texts, replace the “with...Texts.” line with this:
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If you have Invariant Sections without Cover Texts, or some other combination of the three, merge those two alternatives to suit the situation.
If your document contains nontrivial examples of program code, we recommend releasing these examples in parallel under your choice of free software license, such as the GNU General Public License, to permit their use in free software.
- ‘*Globals*’: Member Display
- *Members* buffer: Member Display
--append: Output file
--files: Input files
--help: Generating browser files
--no-structs-or-unions: Structs and unions
--output-file: Output file
--search-path: Input files
- appending output to class data base: Output file
- apropos on class members: Apropos
- attributes: Attributes
- base class, display: Switching Classes
- base classes, members: Inherited Members
- branches of class tree: Expanding and Collapsing
- BROWSE file: Output file
- browsing: Loading a Tree
- buffer switching: Switching to Tree
- burying member buffers: Killing/Burying
- burying tree buffer: Quitting
- class data base creation: Generating browser files
- class declaration: Source Display
- class display: Switching Classes
- class location: Go to Class
- class members, types: Member Buffers
- class statistics: Statistics
- class tree, collapse or expand: Expanding and Collapsing
- class tree, save to a file: Saving a Tree
- class trees: Tree Buffers
- class, remove from tree: Killing Classes
- collapse tree branch: Expanding and Collapsing
- column width: Column Width
- command line for ebrowse: Generating browser files
- completion: Symbol Completion
- context menu: Loading a Tree
- declaration of a member, in member buffers: Finding/Viewing
- defines: Switching Member Lists
- definition of a member, in member buffers: Finding/Viewing
- derived class, display: Switching Classes
- display form: Long and Short Display
- ebrowse, the program: Generating browser files
- expand tree branch: Expanding and Collapsing
- expanding branches: Go to Class
extern "C"attribute: Attributes
- file names in tree buffers: File Name Display
- file, members: Members in Files
- files: Members in Files
- filters: Filters
- finding a class: Source Display
- finding class member, in C++ source: Finding and Viewing
- finding members, in member buffers: Finding/Viewing
- freezing a member buffer: Member Display
- friend functions: Input files
- friend functions, list: Member Display
- friends: Switching Member Lists
- header files: Input files
- help: Getting Help
- indentation of the tree: Tree Indentation
- indentation, member: Column Width
- inherited members: Inherited Members
- input files, for ebrowse: Input files
- instance member variables, list: Member Display
- killing classes: Killing Classes
- list class members in a file: Members in Files
- loading: Loading a Tree
- locate class: Go to Class
- long display: Long and Short Display
- major modes, of Ebrowse buffers: Overview
- marking classes: Marking Classes
- maximum regexp length for recording: Matching
- member attribute display: Attributes
- member buffer: Overview
- member buffer mode: Member Buffers
- member buffer, for member at point: Member Buffer Display
- member declaration, finding, in C++ source: Finding and Viewing
- member declarations, in member buffers: Finding/Viewing
- member definition, finding, in C++ source: Finding and Viewing
- member definitions, in member buffers: Finding/Viewing
- member functions, list: Member Display
- member indentation: Column Width
- member lists, in member buffers: Switching Member Lists
- member lists, in tree buffers: Member Display
- members: Member Buffers
- members in file, listing: Members in Files
- members, matching regexp: Apropos
- minimum regexp length for recording: Matching
- mouse highlight in tree buffers: Loading a Tree
- next member list: Switching Member Lists
- operations on marked classes: Marking Classes
- output file name: Output file
- parser for C++ sources: Overview
- position stack: Position Stack
- previous member list: Switching Member Lists
- pure virtual function attribute: Attributes
- pure virtual members: Filters
- redisplay of member buffers: Redisplay
- regular expression display: Regexp Display
- regular expressions, recording: Matching
- remove filters: Filters
- replacing in multiple C++ files: Search & Replace
- response files: Input files
- restart tags-operation: Search & Replace
- return to original position: Position Stack
- save tree to a file: Saving a Tree
- search for class: Go to Class
- searching members: Searching Members
- searching multiple C++ files: Search & Replace
- short display: Long and Short Display
- standard input, specifying input files: Input files
- static: Switching Member Lists
- static member functions, list: Member Display
- static members: Switching Member Lists
- static variables, list: Member Display
- statistics for a tree: Statistics
- structs: Structs and unions
- subclass, display: Switching Classes
- superclass, display: Switching Classes
- superclasses, members: Inherited Members
- switching buffers: Switching to Tree
- symbol completion: Symbol Completion
- tags: Finding and Viewing
- toggle mark: Marking Classes
- tree buffer: Overview
- tree buffer mode: Tree Buffers
- tree buffer, switch to: Switching to Tree
- tree indentation: Tree Indentation
- tree statistics: Statistics
- tree, save to a file: Saving a Tree
- types: Switching Member Lists
- types of class members: Member Buffers
- types, list: Member Display
- unions: Structs and unions
- unmark all: Marking Classes
- verbose operation: Verbosity
- viewing class member, in C++ source: Finding and Viewing
- viewing members, in member buffers: Finding/Viewing
- viewing, class: Source Display