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32.8.6 Internals of the Kill Ring

The variable kill-ring holds the kill ring contents, in the form of a list of strings. The most recent kill is always at the front of the list.

The kill-ring-yank-pointer variable points to a link in the kill ring list, whose car is the text to yank next. We say it identifies the “front” of the ring. Moving kill-ring-yank-pointer to a different link is called rotating the kill ring. We call the kill ring a “ring” because the functions that move the yank pointer wrap around from the end of the list to the beginning, or vice-versa. Rotation of the kill ring is virtual; it does not change the value of kill-ring.

Both kill-ring and kill-ring-yank-pointer are Lisp variables whose values are normally lists. The word “pointer” in the name of the kill-ring-yank-pointer indicates that the variable's purpose is to identify one element of the list for use by the next yank command.

The value of kill-ring-yank-pointer is always eq to one of the links in the kill ring list. The element it identifies is the car of that link. Kill commands, which change the kill ring, also set this variable to the value of kill-ring. The effect is to rotate the ring so that the newly killed text is at the front.

Here is a diagram that shows the variable kill-ring-yank-pointer pointing to the second entry in the kill ring ("some text" "a different piece of text" "yet older text").

     kill-ring                  ---- kill-ring-yank-pointer
       |                       |
       |                       v
       |     --- ---          --- ---      --- ---
        --> |   |   |------> |   |   |--> |   |   |--> nil
             --- ---          --- ---      --- ---
              |                |            |
              |                |            |
              |                |             -->"yet older text"
              |                |
              |                 --> "a different piece of text"
              |
               --> "some text"

This state of affairs might occur after C-y (yank) immediately followed by M-y (yank-pop).

— Variable: kill-ring

This variable holds the list of killed text sequences, most recently killed first.

— Variable: kill-ring-yank-pointer

This variable's value indicates which element of the kill ring is at the “front” of the ring for yanking. More precisely, the value is a tail of the value of kill-ring, and its car is the kill string that C-y should yank.

— User Option: kill-ring-max

The value of this variable is the maximum length to which the kill ring can grow, before elements are thrown away at the end. The default value for kill-ring-max is 60.