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6 Virtual Dired

Using Virtual Dired means putting a buffer with Dired-like contents in Dired mode. The files described by the buffer contents need not actually exist. This is useful if you want to peruse an ‘ls -lR’ output file, for example one you got from an FTP server. You can use all motion commands usually available in Dired. You can also use it to save a Dired buffer in a file and resume it in a later session.

Type M-x dired-virtual to put the current buffer into virtual Dired mode. You will be prompted for the top level directory of this buffer, with a default value guessed from the buffer contents. To convert the virtual to a real Dired buffer again, type g (which calls dired-virtual-revert) in the virtual Dired buffer and answer ‘y’. You don't have to do this, though: you can relist single subdirectories using l (dired-do-redisplay) on the subdirectory headerline, leaving the buffer in virtual Dired mode all the time.

The function ‘dired-virtual-mode’ is specially designed to turn on virtual Dired mode from the auto-mode-alist. To edit all *.dired files automatically in virtual Dired mode, put this into your ~/.emacs:

     (setq auto-mode-alist (cons '("[^/]\\.dired$" . dired-virtual-mode)
                                   auto-mode-alist))

The regexp is a bit more complicated than usual to exclude .dired local-variable files.