41.16.4 Other Display Specifications

Here are the other sorts of display specifications that you can use in the display text property.


Display string instead of the text that has this property.

Recursive display specifications are not supported—string’s display properties, if any, are not used.

(image . image-props)

This kind of display specification is an image descriptor (see Image Descriptors). When used as a display specification, it means to display the image instead of the text that has the display specification.

(slice x y width height)

This specification together with image specifies a slice (a partial area) of the image to display. The elements y and x specify the top left corner of the slice, within the image; width and height specify the width and height of the slice. Integers are numbers of pixels. A floating-point number in the range 0.0–1.0 stands for that fraction of the width or height of the entire image.

((margin nil) string)

A display specification of this form means to display string instead of the text that has the display specification, at the same position as that text. It is equivalent to using just string, but it is done as a special case of marginal display (see Displaying in the Margins).

(left-fringe bitmap [face])
(right-fringe bitmap [face])

This display specification on any character of a line of text causes the specified bitmap be displayed in the left or right fringes for that line, instead of the characters that have the display specification. The optional face specifies the face whose colors are to be used for the bitmap display. See Fringe Bitmaps, for the details.

(space-width factor)

This display specification affects all the space characters within the text that has the specification. It displays all of these spaces factor times as wide as normal. The element factor should be an integer or float. Characters other than spaces are not affected at all; in particular, this has no effect on tab characters.

(min-width (width))

This display specification ensures the text that has it takes at least width space on display, by adding a stretch of white space to the end of the text if the text is shorter than width. The text is partitioned using the identity of the parameter, which is why the parameter is a list with one element. For instance:

(insert (propertize "foo" 'display '(min-width (6.0))))

This will add padding after ‘foo’ bringing the total width up to the width of six normal characters. Note that the affected characters are identified by the (6.0) list in the display property, compared with eq. The element width can be either an integer or a float specifying the required minimum width of the text (see Pixel Specification for Spaces).

(height height)

This display specification makes the text taller or shorter. Here are the possibilities for height:

(+ n)

This means to use a font that is n steps larger. A step is defined by the set of available fonts—specifically, those that match what was otherwise specified for this text, in all attributes except height. Each size for which a suitable font is available counts as another step. n should be an integer.

(- n)

This means to use a font that is n steps smaller.

a number, factor

A number, factor, means to use a font that is factor times as tall as the default font.

a symbol, function

A symbol is a function to compute the height. It is called with the current height as argument, and should return the new height to use.

anything else, form

If the height value doesn’t fit the previous possibilities, it is a form. Emacs evaluates it to get the new height, with the symbol height bound to the current specified font height.

(raise factor)

This kind of display specification raises or lowers the text it applies to, relative to the baseline of the line. It is mainly meant to support display of subscripts and superscripts.

The factor must be a number, which is interpreted as a multiple of the height of the affected text. If it is positive, that means to display the characters raised. If it is negative, that means to display them lower down.

Note that if the text also has a height display specification, which was specified before (i.e. to the left of) raise, the latter will affect the amount of raising or lowering in pixels, because that is based on the height of the text being raised. Therefore, if you want to display a sub- or superscript that is smaller than the normal text height, consider specifying raise before height.

You can make any display specification conditional. To do that, package it in another list of the form (when condition . spec). Then the specification spec applies only when condition evaluates to a non-nil value. During the evaluation, object is bound to the string or buffer having the conditional display property. position and buffer-position are bound to the position within object and the buffer position where the display property was found, respectively. Both positions can be different when object is a string.

Note that condition will only be evaluated when redisplay examines the text where this display spec is located, so this feature is best suited for conditions that are relatively stable, i.e. yield, for each particular buffer position, the same results on every evaluation. If the results change for the same text location, e.g., if the result depends on the position of point, then the conditional specification might not do what you want, because redisplay examines only those parts of buffer text where it has reasons to assume that something changed since the last display cycle.