The Font Lock functionality is based on several basic functions. Each of these calls the function specified by the corresponding variable. This indirection allows major and minor modes to modify the way fontification works in the buffers of that mode, and even use the Font Lock mechanisms for features that have nothing to do with fontification. (This is why the description below says “should” when it describes what the functions do: the mode can customize the values of the corresponding variables to do something entirely different.) The variables mentioned below are described in Other Font Lock Variables.
This function should fontify the current buffer’s accessible portion,
by calling the function specified by
Used when turning Font Lock off to remove the fontification. Calls
the function specified by
font-lock-fontify-region beg end &optional loudly
Should fontify the region between beg and end. If
loudly is non-
nil, should display status messages while
fontifying. Calls the function specified by
font-lock-unfontify-region beg end
Should remove fontification from the region between beg and
end. Calls the function specified by
font-lock-flush &optional beg end
This function should mark the fontification of the region between
beg and end as outdated. If not specified or
beg and end default to the beginning and end of the
buffer’s accessible portion. Calls the function specified by
font-lock-ensure &optional beg end
This function should make sure the region between beg and
end has been fontified. The optional arguments beg and
end default to the beginning and the end of the buffer’s
accessible portion. Calls the function specified by
There are several variables that control how Font Lock mode highlights
text. But major modes should not set any of these variables directly.
Instead, they should set
font-lock-defaults as a buffer-local
variable. The value assigned to this variable is used, if and when Font
Lock mode is enabled, to set all the other variables.
This variable is set by modes to specify how to fontify text in that
mode. It automatically becomes buffer-local when set. If its value
nil, Font Lock mode does no highlighting, and you can use
the ‘Faces’ menu (under ‘Edit’ and then ‘Text
Properties’ in the menu bar) to assign faces explicitly to text in the
nil, the value should look like this:
(keywords [keywords-only [case-fold [syntax-alist other-vars…]]])
The first element, keywords, indirectly specifies the value of
font-lock-keywords which directs search-based fontification.
It can be a symbol, a variable or a function whose value is the list
to use for
font-lock-keywords. It can also be a list of
several such symbols, one for each possible level of fontification.
The first symbol specifies the ‘mode default’ level of
fontification, the next symbol level 1 fontification, the next level 2,
and so on. The ‘mode default’ level is normally the same as level
1. It is used when
font-lock-maximum-decoration has a
value. See Levels of Font Lock.
The second element, keywords-only, specifies the value of the
font-lock-keywords-only. If this is omitted or
nil, syntactic fontification (of strings and comments) is also
performed. If this is non-
nil, syntactic fontification is not
performed. See Syntactic Font Lock.
The third element, case-fold, specifies the value of
font-lock-keywords-case-fold-search. If it is non-
Font Lock mode ignores case during search-based fontification.
If the fourth element, syntax-alist, is non-
nil, it should
be a list of cons cells of the form
. string). These are used to set up a syntax table for syntactic
fontification; the resulting syntax table is stored in
font-lock-syntax-table. If syntax-alist is omitted or
nil, syntactic fontification uses the syntax table returned by
syntax-table function. See Syntax Table Functions.
All the remaining elements (if any) are collectively called
other-vars. Each of these elements should have the form
(variable . value)—which means, make
variable buffer-local and then set it to value. You can
use these other-vars to set other variables that affect
fontification, aside from those you can control with the first five
elements. See Other Font Lock Variables.
If your mode fontifies text explicitly by adding
font-lock-face properties, it can specify
(nil t) for
font-lock-defaults to turn off all automatic fontification.
However, this is not required; it is possible to fontify some things
font-lock-face properties and set up automatic
fontification for other parts of the text.