Emacs: Select Line, between Quotes, Extend Selection 🚀

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Master these text selection commands, and you almost never need to manually mark a region.

Select Text between Quotes/Brackets

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

put this in your Emacs Init File:

(defvar xah-brackets '("“”" "()" "[]" "{}" "<>" "<>" "()" "[]" "{}" "⦅⦆" "〚〛" "⦃⦄" "‹›" "«»" "「」" "〈〉" "《》" "【】" "〔〕" "⦗⦘" "『』" "〖〗" "〘〙" "「」" "⟦⟧" "⟨⟩" "⟪⟫" "⟮⟯" "⟬⟭" "⌈⌉" "⌊⌋" "⦇⦈" "⦉⦊" "❛❜" "❝❞" "❨❩" "❪❫" "❴❵" "❬❭" "❮❯" "❰❱" "❲❳" "〈〉" "⦑⦒" "⧼⧽" "﹙﹚" "﹛﹜" "﹝﹞" "⁽⁾" "₍₎" "⦋⦌" "⦍⦎" "⦏⦐" "⁅⁆" "⸢⸣" "⸤⸥" "⟅⟆" "⦓⦔" "⦕⦖" "⸦⸧" "⸨⸩" "⦅⦆")
 "A list of strings, each element is a string of 2 chars, the left bracket and a matching right bracket.
Used by `xah-select-text-in-quote' and others.
Version 2023-07-31")

(defconst xah-left-brackets
  (mapcar (lambda (x) (substring x 0 1)) xah-brackets)
  "List of left bracket chars. Each element is a string.")

(defconst xah-right-brackets
  (mapcar (lambda (x) (substring x 1 2)) xah-brackets)
  "List of right bracket chars. Each element is a string.")

(defun xah-select-text-in-quote ()
  "Select text between the nearest left and right delimiters.
Delimiters here includes the following chars: \" ` and anything in `xah-brackets'.
This command ignores nesting. For example, if text is
the selected char is “c”, not “a(b)c”.

URL `http://xahlee.info/emacs/emacs/modernization_mark-word.html'
Version: 2020-11-24 2023-07-16 2023-07-23"
  (let ((xskipChars (concat "^\"`" (mapconcat #'identity xah-brackets ""))))
    (skip-chars-backward xskipChars)
    (push-mark (point) t t)
    (skip-chars-forward xskipChars)))

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.
If `visual-line-mode' is on, consider line as visual line.

URL `http://xahlee.info/emacs/emacs/modernization_mark-word.html'
Version: 2017-11-01 2021-03-19 2023-07-16"
  (if (region-active-p)
      (if visual-line-mode
          (let ((xp1 (point)))
            (end-of-visual-line 1)
            (when (eq xp1 (point))
              (end-of-visual-line 2)))
          (forward-line 1)
    (if visual-line-mode
        (progn (beginning-of-visual-line)
               (push-mark (point) t t)
        (push-mark (line-beginning-position) t t)

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 plus 1 blankline.
If region is active, extend selection downward by block.

URL `http://xahlee.info/emacs/emacs/modernization_mark-word.html'
Version: 2019-12-26 2021-04-04 2021-08-13"
  (if (region-active-p)
      (re-search-forward "\n[ \t]*\n[ \t]*\n*" nil 1)
      (skip-chars-forward " \n\t")
      (when (re-search-backward "\n[ \t]*\n" nil 1)
        (goto-char (match-end 0)))
      (push-mark (point) t t)
      (re-search-forward "\n[ \t]*\n" nil 1))))

Extend Selection

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

This command is currently most useful in lisp code. Or, place cursor on a bracket and select the whole including bracket and text in between. (bracket here includes parenthesis and any type of quotation marks.)

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

when there is no selection,
• If cursor is on any type of bracket (including parenthesis, quotation mark), select whole bracketed thing including bracket
• else, select current word.

when there is a selection, the selection extension behavior is still experimental. But when cursor is on a any type of bracket (parenthesis, quote), it extends selection to outer bracket.

URL `http://xahlee.info/emacs/emacs/modernization_mark-word.html'
Version: 2020-02-04 2023-07-22 2023-07-23"
  (if (region-active-p)
        (let ((xrb (region-beginning)) (xre (region-end)))
          (goto-char xrb)
           ((looking-at "\\s(")
            (if (eq (nth 0 (syntax-ppss)) 0)
                  ;; (message "left bracket, depth 0.")
                  (end-of-line) ; select current line
                  (push-mark (line-beginning-position) t t))
                ;; (message "left bracket, depth not 0")
                (up-list -1 t t)
           ((eq xrb (line-beginning-position))
              (goto-char xrb)
              (let ((xfirstLineEndPos (line-end-position)))
                 ((eq xre xfirstLineEndPos)
                    ;; (message "exactly 1 line. extend to next whole line." )
                    (forward-line 1)
                 ((< xre xfirstLineEndPos)
                    ;; (message "less than 1 line. complete the line." )
                 ((> xre xfirstLineEndPos)
                    ;; (message "beginning of line, but end is greater than 1st end of line" )
                    (goto-char xre)
                    (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 xre)
                 (t (error "%s: logic error 42946" real-this-command))))))
           ((and (> (point) (line-beginning-position)) (<= (point) (line-end-position)))
              ;; (message "less than 1 line" )
              (end-of-line) ; select current line
              (push-mark (line-beginning-position) t t)))
            ;; (message "last resort" )
       ((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")
       ;;  (end-of-line)
       ;;  (push-mark (line-beginning-position) t t))
        ;; (prog2 (backward-char) (looking-at "[-_a-zA-Z0-9]") (forward-char))
        (looking-back "[-_a-zA-Z0-9]" (max (- (point) 1) (point-min)))
        ;; (message "left is word or symbol")
        (skip-chars-backward "-_a-zA-Z0-9")
        ;; (re-search-backward "^\\(\\sw\\|\\s_\\)" nil t)
        (skip-chars-forward "-_a-zA-Z0-9")
        (setq mark-active t)
        ;; (exchange-point-and-mark)
       ((and (looking-at "[:blank:]")
             (prog2 (backward-char) (looking-at "[:blank:]") (forward-char)))
        ;; (message "left and right both space" )
        (skip-chars-backward "[:blank:]") (push-mark (point) t t)
        (skip-chars-forward "[:blank:]"))
       ((and (looking-at "\n")
             (eq (char-before) 10))
        ;; (message "left and right both newline")
        (skip-chars-forward "\n")
        (push-mark (point)  t t)
        (re-search-forward "\n[ \t]*\n")) ; between blank lines, select next block
        ;; (message "just mark sexp" )

You should give these commands keys. [see Emacs: Define Keybinding].

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 🚀]

The above commands are also in xah-fly-keys. [see Emacs: Xah Fly Keys]

Emacs, Work with Brackets

Emacs Modernization