4.4.2 The Body of append-to-buffer

The body of the append-to-buffer function begins with let.

As we have seen before (see let), the purpose of a let expression is to create and give initial values to one or more variables that will only be used within the body of the let. This means that such a variable will not be confused with any variable of the same name outside the let expression.

We can see how the let expression fits into the function as a whole by showing a template for append-to-buffer with the let expression in outline:

(defun append-to-buffer (buffer start end)
  (interactive …)
  (let ((variable value))

The let expression has three elements:

  1. The symbol let;
  2. A varlist containing, in this case, a single two-element list, (variable value);
  3. The body of the let expression.

In the append-to-buffer function, the varlist looks like this:

(oldbuf (current-buffer))

In this part of the let expression, the one variable, oldbuf, is bound to the value returned by the (current-buffer) expression. The variable, oldbuf, is used to keep track of the buffer in which you are working and from which you will copy.

The element or elements of a varlist are surrounded by a set of parentheses so the Lisp interpreter can distinguish the varlist from the body of the let. As a consequence, the two-element list within the varlist is surrounded by a circumscribing set of parentheses. The line looks like this:

(let ((oldbuf (current-buffer)))
  … )

The two parentheses before oldbuf might surprise you if you did not realize that the first parenthesis before oldbuf marks the boundary of the varlist and the second parenthesis marks the beginning of the two-element list, (oldbuf (current-buffer)).