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32.17.4 Indentation Relative to Previous Lines

This section describes two commands that indent the current line based on the contents of previous lines.

— Command: indent-relative &optional unindented-ok

This command inserts whitespace at point, extending to the same column as the next indent point of the previous nonblank line. An indent point is a non-whitespace character following whitespace. The next indent point is the first one at a column greater than the current column of point. For example, if point is underneath and to the left of the first non-blank character of a line of text, it moves to that column by inserting whitespace.

If the previous nonblank line has no next indent point (i.e., none at a great enough column position), indent-relative either does nothing (if unindented-ok is non-nil) or calls tab-to-tab-stop. Thus, if point is underneath and to the right of the last column of a short line of text, this command ordinarily moves point to the next tab stop by inserting whitespace.

The return value of indent-relative is unpredictable.

In the following example, point is at the beginning of the second line:

                      This line is indented twelve spaces.
          -!-The quick brown fox jumped.

Evaluation of the expression (indent-relative nil) produces the following:

                      This line is indented twelve spaces.
                      -!-The quick brown fox jumped.

In this next example, point is between the ‘m’ and ‘p’ of ‘jumped’:

                      This line is indented twelve spaces.
          The quick brown fox jum-!-ped.

Evaluation of the expression (indent-relative nil) produces the following:

                      This line is indented twelve spaces.
          The quick brown fox jum  -!-ped.
— Command: indent-relative-maybe

This command indents the current line like the previous nonblank line, by calling indent-relative with t as the unindented-ok argument. The return value is unpredictable.

If the previous nonblank line has no indent points beyond the current column, this command does nothing.