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
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
(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.