The Lumber Room

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Emacs auto-save

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[The code you’re looking for is at the end of the post :)]
Following up on my previous post on auto-save…


GNU Emacs is one of the oldest programs existing, and it has had an auto-save-mode for god knows how many decades now, but it doesn’t quite do what I want. Like this other user, I was annoyed that it saves to a different file (/dir/filename is saved to /dir/#filename# while the file is being edited), and still requires you to save the file when you quit Emacs or close the buffer, thus making it not auto-save at all, but merely a backup facility guarding against Emacs crashes.

Someone at Emacswiki’s AutoSave page suggested M-x run-with-idle-timer RET SECONDS RET save-buffer RET, but I tried that for a while and it is really not a good idea; it tries to save every buffer, even those not associated with files, like completion buffers. I considered trying to figure out how to make it run on only buffers associated with files, but then I realised that it would probably be better to modify the built-in auto-save mechanism do what I want, instead of rolling my own new one, because that was smart about things like this.

C-h f auto-save-mode is actually quite sparse compared to the usual Emacs documentation. Anyway, I figured out with a bit of looking in the source files that I could edit make-auto-save-file-name function to modify what filename it used for auto-saves. On a bit more thought, I realised that it is usually never necessary to edit Emacs functions; you can always use hooks (or, in rare cases, advice). So this works: (add-hook 'auto-save-hook 'save-buffer). Yeah, it will still be saving the file in the #filename#, but it will be saving it to your file too. Actually I then realised I don’t need that either. Doing M-x apropos-variable RET auto-save RET gives several variables including:

auto-save-file-name-transforms
  Variable: Transforms to apply to buffer file name before making auto-save file name.
auto-save-timeout
  Variable: *Number of seconds idle time before auto-save.
auto-save-visited-file-name
  Variable: Non-nil says auto-save a buffer in the file it is visiting, when practical.

and setting auto-save-visited-file-name to t seemed to do what I want. Until I actually tried to use it, and discovered that whoever added that feature probably hasn’t actually used it at all — it asks a “File has changed on buffer, really edit it? (y/n/r/h)” each time it auto-saves and you try to continue editing. You could turn on auto-revert-mode to make that problem go away, but I’m unsure if that’s a good idea: sometimes I overwrite files by mistake (gcc hello.c -o hello.c) and having Emacs not auto-revert is very helpful in those cases. So I’ll stick with my earlier idea, which works perfectly, after being fixed by Bryan Murdock:

(defun save-buffer-if-visiting-file (&optional args)
"Save the current buffer only if it is visiting a file"
(interactive)
(if (buffer-file-name)
(save-buffer args)))
(add-hook 'auto-save-hook 'save-buffer-if-visiting-file)

Bryan Murdock also posted it.

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Written by S

Tue, 2008-01-22 at 22:05:17 +05:30

Posted in compknow

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