Emacs: How to Edit Lisp Code

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

This page shows you how to edit lisp code efficiently with plain GNU emacs.

Highlight Brackets: show-paren-mode

Emacs: Highlight Brackets ()[]{}

Insert Brackets by Pair

Emacs: Auto Brackets electric-pair-mode

You should ALWAYS insert brackets by pair.

Delete Brackets by Pair

Emacs: Delete Brackets by Pair

You should ALWAYS delete brackets by pair.

Move Cursor to Bracket

Emacs: Move Cursor to Bracket/Quote

It's critical to have keys that move cursor to previous opening bracket and next closing bracket.

Navigate Lisp Code as Tree

Emacs: Navigate Lisp Code as Tree

You can move cursor to brackets in such way as navigating a tree.

This is less useful than the freely moving to any bracket.

Select Lisp Expression by Unit

Alt+x mark-sexpCtrl+Alt+Space】 to select a complete parenthesized expression. Your cursor must be on the left bracket.

To select a complete sexp, type Ctrl+Alt+ (backward-up-list) then Ctrl+Alt+Space.

Xah Emacs Lisp Mode

You may try my elisp mode. It provides better syntax coloring, and lots abbrev and function parameter templates.

Emacs: Xah Emacs Lisp Mode

If you have a question, put $5 at patreon and message me on xah discord.
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Emacs Tutorial

Emacs Init

Emacs Keys


ELisp Examples

ELisp Write Major Mode



Basic Functions

Writing Command

Writing Script

Lisp Data Structure

Lisp Symbol

Elisp Misc