An inline function is a function that works just like an
ordinary function, except for one thing: when you byte-compile a call
to the function (see Byte Compilation), the function’s definition
is expanded into the caller. To define an inline function, use
defsubst instead of
defsubstname args [doc] [declare] [interactive] body…
This macro defines an inline function. Its syntax is exactly the same
defun (see Defining Functions).
Making a function inline often makes its function calls run faster. But it also has disadvantages. For one thing, it reduces flexibility; if you change the definition of the function, calls already inlined still use the old definition until you recompile them.
Another disadvantage is that making a large function inline can increase the size of compiled code both in files and in memory. Since the speed advantage of inline functions is greatest for small functions, you generally should not make large functions inline.
Also, inline functions do not behave well with respect to debugging,
tracing, and advising (see Advising Functions). Since ease of
debugging and the flexibility of redefining functions are important
features of Emacs, you should not make a function inline, even if it’s
small, unless its speed is really crucial, and you’ve timed the code
to verify that using
defun actually has performance problems.
After an inline function is defined, its inline expansion can be performed later on in the same file, just like macros.
It’s possible to use
defsubst to define a macro to expand
into the same code that an inline function would execute
(see Macros). But the macro would be limited to direct use in
expressions—a macro cannot be called with
mapcar and so on. Also, it takes some work to convert an
ordinary function into a macro. To convert it into an inline function
is easy; just replace
defsubst. Since each
argument of an inline function is evaluated exactly once, you needn’t
worry about how many times the body uses the arguments, as you do for
As an alternative to
defsubst, you can use
define-inline to define functions via their exhaustive compiler
macro. See define-inline.