Using Emacs Abbrev Mode for Abbreviation

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This page is a tutorial on how to use emacs's abbrev feature.

Defining Your Abbrevs

Create a file with the following content:

;; sample use of emacs abbreviation feature

(define-abbrev-table 'global-abbrev-table '(

    ;; math/unicode symbols
    ("8in" "∈")
    ("8nin" "∉")
    ("8inf" "∞")
    ("8luv" "♥")
    ("8smly" "☺")

    ;; email
    ("8me" "")

    ;; computing tech
    ("8wp" "Wikipedia")
    ("8ms" "Microsoft")
    ("8g" "Google")
    ("8it" "IntelliType")
    ("8msw" "Microsoft Windows")
    ("8win" "Windows")
    ("8ie" "Internet Explorer")
    ("8ahk" "AutoHotkey")

    ;; normal english words
    ("8alt" "alternative")
    ("8char" "character")
    ("8def" "definition")
    ("8bg" "background")
    ("8kb" "keyboard")
    ("8ex" "example")
    ("8kbd" "keybinding")
    ("8env" "environment")
    ("8var" "variable")
    ("8ev" "environment variable")
    ("8cp" "computer")

    ;; signature
    ("8xl" "Xah Lee")

    ;; url
    ("8uxl" "")

    ;; emacs regex
    ("8d" "\\([0-9]+?\\)")
    ("8str" "\\([^\"]+?\\)\"")

    ;; shell commands
    ("8ditto" "ditto -ck --sequesterRsrc --keepParent src dest")
    ("8im" "convert -quality 85% ")

    ("8f0" "find . -type f -size 0 -exec rm {} ';'")
    ("8rsync" "rsync -z -r -v -t --exclude=\"*~\" --exclude=\".DS_Store\" --exclude=\".bash_history\" --exclude=\"**/xx_xahlee_info/*\"  --exclude=\"*/_curves_robert_yates/*.png\" --exclude=\"logs/*\"  --exclude=\"xlogs/*\" --delete --rsh=\"ssh -l xah\" ~/web/")

;; stop asking whether to save newly added abbrev when quitting emacs
(setq save-abbrevs nil)

;; turn on abbrev mode globally
(setq-default abbrev-mode t)

Now, put the above file at ~/.emacs.d/my_emacs_abbrev.el. Now, in your emacs init file, put this line:

(load "my_emacs_abbrev")

You can now restart emacs, or just select the line then call eval-region. That will load your abbrev definitions.

Now, type for example 8g then press Space, then it'll expand to Google .

I add “8” in front of all my abbrevs. This way, it is easy to avoid expanding when you don't want to. I choose “8” because it's one of the easy reach keys for right hand, and is a rare starting letter of a word.

Add & Remove Abbrev

To add a new abbrev, just create a new line of definition, then call eval-buffer. To remove, just remove a line.

You may want to put your abbrev file in Emacs's Bookmark, so you can open fast.

Allowed Abbrev Chars

abbrev only allow sequence of English letters to be used as input. So, you cannot define -> as abbrev for . You might use rarr.

For lots math symbols, see: Emacs Unicode Math Symbols Input Mode (xmsi-mode).

Emacs's Traditional Method for Using the Abbrev System

Emacs has about 14 commands for {adding, removing, listing, editing} abbrevs. You can read about it at: (info "(emacs) Abbrevs").

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