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31.27 Atomic Change Groups

In database terminology, an atomic change is an indivisible change—it can succeed entirely or it can fail entirely, but it cannot partly succeed. A Lisp program can make a series of changes to one or several buffers as an atomic change group, meaning that either the entire series of changes will be installed in their buffers or, in case of an error, none of them will be.

To do this for one buffer, the one already current, simply write a call to atomic-change-group around the code that makes the changes, like this:

  (insert foo)
  (delete-region x y))

If an error (or other nonlocal exit) occurs inside the body of atomic-change-group, it unmakes all the changes in that buffer that were during the execution of the body. This kind of change group has no effect on any other buffers—any such changes remain.

If you need something more sophisticated, such as to make changes in various buffers constitute one atomic group, you must directly call lower-level functions that atomic-change-group uses.

Function: prepare-change-group &optional buffer

This function sets up a change group for buffer buffer, which defaults to the current buffer. It returns a “handle” that represents the change group. You must use this handle to activate the change group and subsequently to finish it.

To use the change group, you must activate it. You must do this before making any changes in the text of buffer.

Function: activate-change-group handle

This function activates the change group that handle designates.

After you activate the change group, any changes you make in that buffer become part of it. Once you have made all the desired changes in the buffer, you must finish the change group. There are two ways to do this: you can either accept (and finalize) all the changes, or cancel them all.

Function: accept-change-group handle

This function accepts all the changes in the change group specified by handle, making them final.

Function: cancel-change-group handle

This function cancels and undoes all the changes in the change group specified by handle.

Your code should use unwind-protect to make sure the group is always finished. The call to activate-change-group should be inside the unwind-protect, in case the user types C-g just after it runs. (This is one reason why prepare-change-group and activate-change-group are separate functions, because normally you would call prepare-change-group before the start of that unwind-protect.) Once you finish the group, don’t use the handle again—in particular, don’t try to finish the same group twice.

To make a multibuffer change group, call prepare-change-group once for each buffer you want to cover, then use nconc to combine the returned values, like this:

(nconc (prepare-change-group buffer-1)
       (prepare-change-group buffer-2))

You can then activate the multibuffer change group with a single call to activate-change-group, and finish it with a single call to accept-change-group or cancel-change-group.

Nested use of several change groups for the same buffer works as you would expect. Non-nested use of change groups for the same buffer will get Emacs confused, so don’t let it happen; the first change group you start for any given buffer should be the last one finished.

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