The variable which directly controls search-based fontification is
font-lock-keywords, which is typically specified via the
keywords element in
The value of this variable is a list of the keywords to highlight. Lisp
programs should not set this variable directly. Normally, the value is
automatically set by Font Lock mode, using the keywords element in
font-lock-defaults. The value can also be altered using the
font-lock-remove-keywords (see Customizing Keywords).
Each element of
font-lock-keywords specifies how to find
certain cases of text, and how to highlight those cases. Font Lock mode
processes the elements of
font-lock-keywords one by one, and for
each element, it finds and handles all matches. Ordinarily, once
part of the text has been fontified already, this cannot be overridden
by a subsequent match in the same text; but you can specify different
behavior using the override element of a subexp-highlighter.
Each element of
font-lock-keywords should have one of these
Highlight all matches for regexp using
font-lock-keyword-face. For example,
;; Highlight occurrences of the word ‘foo’ ;; using
Be careful when composing these regular expressions; a poorly written
pattern can dramatically slow things down! The function
regexp-opt (see Regexp Functions) is useful for calculating
optimal regular expressions to match several keywords.
Find text by calling function, and highlight the matches
it finds using
When function is called, it receives one argument, the limit of
the search; it should begin searching at point, and not search beyond the
limit. It should return non-
nil if it succeeds, and set the
match data to describe the match that was found. Returning
indicates failure of the search.
Fontification will call function repeatedly with the same limit, and with point where the previous invocation left it, until function fails. On failure, function need not reset point in any particular way.
(matcher . subexp)
In this kind of element, matcher is either a regular expression or a function, as described above. The CDR, subexp, specifies which subexpression of matcher should be highlighted (instead of the entire text that matcher matched).
;; Highlight the ‘bar’ in each occurrence of ‘fubar’, ;; using
font-lock-keyword-face. ("fu\\(bar\\)" . 1)
If you use
regexp-opt to produce the regular expression
matcher, you can use
regexp-opt-depth (see Regexp Functions) to calculate the value for subexp.
(matcher . facespec)
In this kind of element, facespec is an expression whose value specifies the face to use for highlighting. In the simplest case, facespec is a Lisp variable (a symbol) whose value is a face name.
;; Highlight occurrences of ‘fubar’, ;; using the face which is the value of
fubar-face. ("fubar" . fubar-face)
However, facespec can also evaluate to a list of this form:
(face face prop1 val1 prop2 val2…)
to specify the face face and various additional text properties
to put on the text that matches. If you do this, be sure to add the
other text property names that you set in this way to the value of
font-lock-extra-managed-props so that the properties will also
be cleared out when they are no longer appropriate. Alternatively,
you can set the variable
a function that clears these properties. See Other Font Lock Variables.
(matcher . subexp-highlighter)
In this kind of element, subexp-highlighter is a list which specifies how to highlight matches found by matcher. It has the form:
(subexp facespec [override [laxmatch]])
The CAR, subexp, is an integer specifying which subexpression of the match to fontify (0 means the entire matching text). The second subelement, facespec, is an expression whose value specifies the face, as described above.
The last two values in subexp-highlighter, override and
laxmatch, are optional flags. If override is
this element can override existing fontification made by previous
font-lock-keywords. If it is
each character is fontified if it has not been fontified already by
some other element. If it is
prepend, the face specified by
facespec is added to the beginning of the
property. If it is
append, the face is added to the end of the
If laxmatch is non-
nil, it means there should be no error
if there is no subexpression numbered subexp in matcher.
Obviously, fontification of the subexpression numbered subexp will
not occur. However, fontification of other subexpressions (and other
regexps) will continue. If laxmatch is
nil, and the
specified subexpression is missing, then an error is signaled which
terminates search-based fontification.
Here are some examples of elements of this kind, and what they do:
;; Highlight occurrences of either ‘foo’ or ‘bar’, using ;;
foo-bar-face, even if they have already been highlighted. ;;
foo-bar-faceshould be a variable whose value is a face. ("foo\\|bar" 0 foo-bar-face t) ;; Highlight the first subexpression within each occurrence ;; that the function
fubar-matchfinds, ;; using the face which is the value of
fubar-face. (fubar-match 1 fubar-face)
(matcher . anchored-highlighter)
In this kind of element, anchored-highlighter specifies how to highlight text that follows a match found by matcher. So a match found by matcher acts as the anchor for further searches specified by anchored-highlighter. anchored-highlighter is a list of the following form:
(anchored-matcher pre-form post-form subexp-highlighters…)
Here, anchored-matcher, like matcher, is either a regular expression or a function. After a match of matcher is found, point is at the end of the match. Now, Font Lock evaluates the form pre-form. Then it searches for matches of anchored-matcher and uses subexp-highlighters to highlight these. A subexp-highlighter is as described above. Finally, Font Lock evaluates post-form.
The forms pre-form and post-form can be used to initialize before, and cleanup after, anchored-matcher is used. Typically, pre-form is used to move point to some position relative to the match of matcher, before starting with anchored-matcher. post-form might be used to move back, before resuming with matcher.
After Font Lock evaluates pre-form, it does not search for anchored-matcher beyond the end of the line. However, if pre-form returns a buffer position that is greater than the position of point after pre-form is evaluated, then the position returned by pre-form is used as the limit of the search instead. It is generally a bad idea to return a position greater than the end of the line; in other words, the anchored-matcher search should not span lines.
;; Highlight occurrences of the word ‘item’ following ;; an occurrence of the word ‘anchor’ (on the same line) ;; in the value of
item-face. ("\\<anchor\\>" "\\<item\\>" nil nil (0 item-face))
Here, pre-form and post-form are
searching for ‘item’ starts at the end of the match of
‘anchor’, and searching for subsequent instances of ‘anchor’
resumes from where searching for ‘item’ concluded.
This sort of element specifies several highlighter lists for a single matcher. A highlighter list can be of the type subexp-highlighter or anchored-highlighter as described above.
;; Highlight occurrences of the word ‘anchor’ in the value ;; of
anchor-face, and subsequent occurrences of the word ;; ‘item’ (on the same line) in the value of
item-face. ("\\<anchor\\>" (0 anchor-face) ("\\<item\\>" nil nil (0 item-face)))
(eval . form)
Here form is an expression to be evaluated the first time
this value of
font-lock-keywords is used in a buffer.
Its value should have one of the forms described in this table.
Warning: Do not design an element of
to match text which spans lines; this does not work reliably.
For details, see See Multiline Font Lock.
You can use case-fold in
font-lock-defaults to specify
the value of
font-lock-keywords-case-fold-search which says
whether search-based fontification should be case-insensitive.
nil means that regular expression matching for the sake of
font-lock-keywords should be case-insensitive.