Emacs: Select Line, between Quotes, Extend Selection

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

This page shows many useful emacs commands for text selection.

Select Text between Quotes/Brackets

Select text inside quotes is one of the most frequently needed operation in programing languages code.

(defun xah-select-text-in-quote ()
  "Select text between the nearest left and right delimiters.
Delimiters here includes the following chars: \"<>(){}[]“”‘’‹›«»「」『』【】〖〗《》〈〉〔〕()
This command select between any bracket chars, not the inner text of a bracket. For example, if text is


 the selected char is “c”, not “a(b)c”.

URL `http://ergoemacs.org/emacs/modernization_mark-word.html'
Version 2016-12-18"
  (let (
         (if (boundp 'xah-brackets)
             (concat "^\"" xah-brackets)
    (skip-chars-backward $skipChars)
    (setq $pos (point))
    (skip-chars-forward $skipChars)
    (set-mark $pos)))

Select Current Line

This command selects current line.

If there's already a selection, extend selection downward by line.

(defun xah-select-line ()
  "Select current line. If region is active, extend selection downward by line.
URL `http://ergoemacs.org/emacs/modernization_mark-word.html'
Version 2017-11-01"
  (if (region-active-p)
        (forward-line 1)
      (set-mark (line-beginning-position)))))
(defun xah-select-current-line ()
  "Select current line.
URL `http://ergoemacs.org/emacs/modernization_mark-word.html'
Version 2016-07-22"
  (set-mark (line-beginning-position)))

Select Current Block

This lets you select current block of text. (a block here is text between empty lines.)

If there's already a selection, extend selection downward by block.

(defun xah-select-block ()
  "Select the current/next block of text between blank lines.
If region is active, extend selection downward by block.

URL `http://ergoemacs.org/emacs/modernization_mark-word.html'
Version 2017-11-01"
  (if (region-active-p)
      (re-search-forward "\n[ \t]*\n" nil "move")
      (skip-chars-forward " \n\t")
      (when (re-search-backward "\n[ \t]*\n" nil "move")
        (re-search-forward "\n[ \t]*\n"))
      (push-mark (point) t t)
      (re-search-forward "\n[ \t]*\n" nil "move"))))
(defun xah-select-current-block ()
  "Select the current block of text between blank lines.

URL `http://ergoemacs.org/emacs/modernization_mark-word.html'
Version 2017-07-02"
    (skip-chars-forward " \n\t")
    (when (re-search-backward "\n[ \t]*\n" nil "move")
      (re-search-forward "\n[ \t]*\n"))
    (push-mark (point) t t)
    (re-search-forward "\n[ \t]*\n" nil "move")))

Extend Selection

Here's a multi-purpose command that select different text depending on where cursor is, and if called repeatedly, expand selection.

When no selection:

(defun xah-extend-selection ()
  "Select the current word, bracket/quote expression, or expand selection.
Subsequent calls expands the selection.

when no selection,
• if cursor is on a bracket, select whole bracketed thing including bracket
• if cursor is on a quote, select whole quoted thing including quoted
• if cursor is on the beginning of line, select the line.
• else, select current word.

when there's a selection, the selection extension behavior is still experimental.
• if 1 line is selected, extend to next line.
• if multiple lines is selected, extend to next line.
• if a bracketed text is selected, extend to include the outer bracket. If there's no outer, select current line.

 to line, or bracket/quoted text,
or text block, whichever is the smallest.

URL `http://ergoemacs.org/emacs/modernization_mark-word.html'
Version 2017-01-15"
  (if (region-active-p)
        (let (($rb (region-beginning)) ($re (region-end)))
          (goto-char $rb)
           ((looking-at "\\s(")
            (if (eq (nth 0 (syntax-ppss)) 0)
                  (message "left bracket, depth 0.")
                  (end-of-line) ; select current line
                  (set-mark (line-beginning-position)))
                (message "left bracket, depth not 0")
                (up-list -1 t t)
           ((eq $rb (line-beginning-position))
              (goto-char $rb)
              (let (($firstLineEndPos (line-end-position)))
                 ((eq $re $firstLineEndPos)
                    (message "exactly 1 line. extend to next whole line." )
                    (forward-line 1)
                 ((< $re $firstLineEndPos)
                    (message "less than 1 line. complete the line." )
                 ((> $re $firstLineEndPos)
                    (message "beginning of line, but end is greater than 1st end of line" )
                    (goto-char $re)
                    (if (eq (point) (line-end-position))
                          (message "exactly multiple lines" )
                          (forward-line 1)
                        (message "multiple lines but end is not eol. make it so" )
                        (goto-char $re)
                 (t (error "logic error 42946" ))))))
           ((and (> (point) (line-beginning-position)) (<= (point) (line-end-position)))
              (message "less than 1 line" )
              (end-of-line) ; select current line
              (set-mark (line-beginning-position))))
           (t (message "last resort" ) nil))))
       ((looking-at "\\s(")
        (message "left bracket")
        (mark-sexp)) ; left bracket
       ((looking-at "\\s)")
        (message "right bracket")
        (backward-up-list) (mark-sexp))
       ((looking-at "\\s\"")
        (message "string quote")
        (mark-sexp)) ; string quote
       ((and (eq (point) (line-beginning-position)) (not (looking-at "\n")))
        (message "beginning of line and not empty")
        (set-mark (line-beginning-position)))
       ((or (looking-back "\\s_" 1) (looking-back "\\sw" 1))
        (message "left is word or symbol")
        (skip-syntax-backward "_w" )
        ;; (re-search-backward "^\\(\\sw\\|\\s_\\)" nil t)
       ((and (looking-at "\\s ") (looking-back "\\s " 1))
        (message "left and right both space" )
        (skip-chars-backward "\\s " ) (set-mark (point))
        (skip-chars-forward "\\s "))
       ((and (looking-at "\n") (looking-back "\n" 1))
        (message "left and right both newline")
        (skip-chars-forward "\n")
        (set-mark (point))
        (re-search-forward "\n[ \t]*\n")) ; between blank lines, select next text block
       (t (message "just mark sexp" )

You should give these commands keys. [see Emacs: How to Define Keys].

I suggest these keybinding:

xah-extend-selection is even more useful together with commands that move cursor to brackets or quotes. [see Emacs: Move Cursor to Bracket/Quote]

The above commands are also in ergoemacs-mode [https://ergoemacs.github.io/ ] and xah-fly-keys. [see Emacs: Xah Fly Keys]

Enhanced Editing Commands Topic

  1. Select Line, between Quotes, Extend Selection
  2. Copy/Cut Current Line If No Selection
  3. Copy/Cut All or Selection
  4. Paste or Paste Previous
  5. Delete Whitespace around Cursor
  6. Move Cursor to Beginning of Line/Paragraph
  7. Move Cursor by Text Block
  8. Move Cursor to Bracket/Quote
  9. Move Cursor to Punctuation
  10. Delete Text Block
  11. Toggle Comment Current Line
  12. Insert Date Time

Working with Brackets

  1. Highlight Brackets ()[]{}
  2. electric-pair-mode
  3. Insert Brackets by Pair
  4. Delete Brackets ()[]{} by Pair
  5. Select Line, between Quotes, Extend Selection
  6. Move Cursor to Bracket/Quote
  7. Change Brackets/Quotes

Emacs Modernization

  1. Simple Changes Emacs Should Adopt
  2. Why Emacs Keys are Painful
  3. Problems of the Scratch Buffer
  4. M-key Notation vs Alt+key Notation
  5. Menu Problem
  6. Mode Line Problem
  7. cua-mode Problems
  8. kill-buffer Induces Buffer Accumulation
  9. Emacs Form Feed ^L
  10. Inconsistency of Search Features
  11. Single Key to Delete Whole Line
  12. Emacs HTML Mode Sucks
  13. Emacs Does Not Support Viewing Images Files In Windows
  14. Emacs Spell Checker Problems
  15. Adopt HTML as Texinfo Replacement
  16. Support HTML Mail
  17. Problems of “man” Command
  18. Emacs Lisp Mode Syntax Coloring Problem
  19. Emacs Ahk Mode Problems
  20. Problems of Emacs's Manual
  21. Problems of Emacs's Manual; Examples
  22. Emacs: Have You Read Emacs Manual?
  23. Elisp: Ban Syntax Table
  24. Emacs: Make elisp-index-search use Current Symbol
  25. Emacs: Usability Problems of Mode Documentation
  26. Emacs GNU Texinfo Problems; Invalid HTML
  27. A Record of Frustration in IT Industry; Disappearing FSF URLs, 2006
  28. Emacs Manual Node Persistency Issues
  29. Emacs: dired-do-query-replace-regex Replace ALL (fixed)
  30. Problems of Emacs Supporting Obsolete Systems
  31. Elisp: Function to Copy/Delete a Dir Recursively (fixed)
  32. Thoughts on Common Lisp Scheme Lisp Based Emacs
  33. Text Editors Popularity and Market Research
  34. Text Editor's Cursor Movement Behavior (emacs, vi, Notepad++)
  35. GNU Emacs Development Inefficiency
  36. Emacs Dev Inefficiency and Emacs Web 2.0?
  37. Letter-Case Commands Usability Problems
  38. Emacs: Select Line, between Quotes, Extend Selection
  39. Emacs: isearch Current Word
  40. Suggestions on Line Wrap Commands
  41. Emacs: Single Key to Delete Whole Line
  42. Emacs Undo and Emacs Cult Problem

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