28.3 Buffer Names

Each buffer has a unique name, which is a string. Many of the functions that work on buffers accept either a buffer or a buffer name as an argument. Any argument called buffer-or-name is of this sort, and an error is signaled if it is neither a string nor a buffer. Any argument called buffer must be an actual buffer object, not a name.

Buffers that are ephemeral and generally uninteresting to the user have names starting with a space, so that the list-buffers and buffer-menu commands don’t mention them (but if such a buffer visits a file, it is mentioned). A name starting with space also initially disables recording undo information; see Undo.

Function: buffer-name &optional buffer

This function returns the name of buffer as a string. buffer defaults to the current buffer.

If buffer-name returns nil, it means that buffer has been killed. See Killing Buffers.

     ⇒ "buffers.texi"

(setq foo (get-buffer "temp"))
     ⇒ #<buffer temp>
(kill-buffer foo)
     ⇒ nil
(buffer-name foo)
     ⇒ nil
     ⇒ #<killed buffer>
Command: rename-buffer newname &optional unique

This function renames the current buffer to newname. An error is signaled if newname is not a string.

Ordinarily, rename-buffer signals an error if newname is already in use. However, if unique is non-nil, it modifies newname to make a name that is not in use. Interactively, you can make unique non-nil with a numeric prefix argument. (This is how the command rename-uniquely is implemented.)

This function returns the name actually given to the buffer.

Function: get-buffer buffer-or-name

This function returns the buffer specified by buffer-or-name. If buffer-or-name is a string and there is no buffer with that name, the value is nil. If buffer-or-name is a buffer, it is returned as given; that is not very useful, so the argument is usually a name. For example:

(setq b (get-buffer "lewis"))
     ⇒ #<buffer lewis>
(get-buffer b)
     ⇒ #<buffer lewis>
(get-buffer "Frazzle-nots")
     ⇒ nil

See also the function get-buffer-create in Creating Buffers.

Function: generate-new-buffer-name starting-name &optional ignore

This function returns a name that would be unique for a new buffer—but does not create the buffer. It starts with starting-name, and produces a name not currently in use for any buffer by appending a number inside of ‘<…>’. It starts at 2 and keeps incrementing the number until it is not the name of an existing buffer.

If the optional second argument ignore is non-nil, it should be a string, a potential buffer name. It means to consider that potential buffer acceptable, if it is tried, even if it is the name of an existing buffer (which would normally be rejected). Thus, if buffers named ‘foo’, ‘foo<2>’, ‘foo<3>’ and ‘foo<4>’ exist,

(generate-new-buffer-name "foo")
     ⇒ "foo<5>"
(generate-new-buffer-name "foo" "foo<3>")
     ⇒ "foo<3>"
(generate-new-buffer-name "foo" "foo<6>")
     ⇒ "foo<5>"

See the related function generate-new-buffer in Creating Buffers.