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4.9 The Case Table

You can customize case conversion by installing a special case table. A case table specifies the mapping between upper case and lower case letters. It affects both the case conversion functions for Lisp objects (see the previous section) and those that apply to text in the buffer (see Case Changes). Each buffer has a case table; there is also a standard case table which is used to initialize the case table of new buffers.

A case table is a char-table (see Char-Tables) whose subtype is case-table. This char-table maps each character into the corresponding lower case character. It has three extra slots, which hold related tables:


The upcase table maps each character into the corresponding upper case character.


The canonicalize table maps all of a set of case-related characters into a particular member of that set.


The equivalences table maps each one of a set of case-related characters into the next character in that set.

In simple cases, all you need to specify is the mapping to lower-case; the three related tables will be calculated automatically from that one.

For some languages, upper and lower case letters are not in one-to-one correspondence. There may be two different lower case letters with the same upper case equivalent. In these cases, you need to specify the maps for both lower case and upper case.

The extra table canonicalize maps each character to a canonical equivalent; any two characters that are related by case-conversion have the same canonical equivalent character. For example, since ‘a’ and ‘A’ are related by case-conversion, they should have the same canonical equivalent character (which should be either ‘a’ for both of them, or ‘A’ for both of them).

The extra table equivalences is a map that cyclically permutes each equivalence class (of characters with the same canonical equivalent). (For ordinary ASCII, this would map ‘a’ into ‘A’ and ‘A’ into ‘a’, and likewise for each set of equivalent characters.)

When constructing a case table, you can provide nil for canonicalize; then Emacs fills in this slot from the lower case and upper case mappings. You can also provide nil for equivalences; then Emacs fills in this slot from canonicalize. In a case table that is actually in use, those components are non-nil. Do not try to specify equivalences without also specifying canonicalize.

Here are the functions for working with case tables:

Function: case-table-p object

This predicate returns non-nil if object is a valid case table.

Function: set-standard-case-table table

This function makes table the standard case table, so that it will be used in any buffers created subsequently.

Function: standard-case-table

This returns the standard case table.

Function: current-case-table

This function returns the current buffer’s case table.

Function: set-case-table table

This sets the current buffer’s case table to table.

Macro: with-case-table table body…

The with-case-table macro saves the current case table, makes table the current case table, evaluates the body forms, and finally restores the case table. The return value is the value of the last form in body. The case table is restored even in case of an abnormal exit via throw or error (see Nonlocal Exits).

Some language environments modify the case conversions of ASCII characters; for example, in the Turkish language environment, the ASCII character ‘I’ is downcased into a Turkish “dotless i”. This can interfere with code that requires ordinary ASCII case conversion, such as implementations of ASCII-based network protocols. In that case, use the with-case-table macro with the variable ascii-case-table, which stores the unmodified case table for the ASCII character set.

Variable: ascii-case-table

The case table for the ASCII character set. This should not be modified by any language environment settings.

The following three functions are convenient subroutines for packages that define non-ASCII character sets. They modify the specified case table case-table; they also modify the standard syntax table. See Syntax Tables. Normally you would use these functions to change the standard case table.

Function: set-case-syntax-pair uc lc case-table

This function specifies a pair of corresponding letters, one upper case and one lower case.

Function: set-case-syntax-delims l r case-table

This function makes characters l and r a matching pair of case-invariant delimiters.

Function: set-case-syntax char syntax case-table

This function makes char case-invariant, with syntax syntax.

Command: describe-buffer-case-table

This command displays a description of the contents of the current buffer’s case table.

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