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V. Compiling and Testing Programs

The previous chapter discusses the Emacs commands that are useful for making changes in programs. This chapter deals with commands that assist in the larger process of developing and maintaining programs.

V.1 Running Compilations under Emacs  Compiling programs in languages other than Lisp (C, Pascal, etc.).
V.2 Searching with Grep under Emacs  Running grep as if it were a compiler.
V.3 Compilation Mode  The mode for visiting compiler errors.
V.4 Subshells for Compilation  Customizing your shell properly for use in the compilation buffer.
V.5 Running Debuggers Under Emacs  Running symbolic debuggers for non-Lisp programs.
V.6 Executing Lisp Expressions  Various modes for editing Lisp programs, with different facilities for running the Lisp programs.
V.7 Libraries of Lisp Code for Emacs  Creating Lisp programs to run in Emacs.
V.9 Lisp Interaction Buffers  Executing Lisp in an Emacs buffer.
V.8 Evaluating Emacs-Lisp Expressions  Executing a single Lisp expression in Emacs.
V.10 Running an External Lisp  Communicating through Emacs with a separate Lisp.

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V.1 Running Compilations under Emacs

Emacs can run compilers for noninteractive languages such as C and Fortran as inferior processes, feeding the error log into an Emacs buffer. It can also parse the error messages and show you the source lines where compilation errors occurred.

M-x compile
Run a compiler asynchronously under Emacs, with error messages going to the `*compilation*' buffer.
M-x recompile
Invoke a compiler with the same command as in the last invocation of M-x compile.
M-x grep
Run grep asynchronously under Emacs, with matching lines listed in the buffer named `*grep*'.
M-x grep-find
Run grep via find, with user-specified arguments, and collect output in the buffer named `*grep*'.
M-x kill-compilation
M-x kill-grep
Kill the running compilation or grep subprocess.

To run make or another compilation command, do M-x compile. This command reads a shell command line using the minibuffer, and then executes the command in an inferior shell, putting output in the buffer named `*compilation*'. The current buffer's default directory is used as the working directory for the execution of the command; normally, therefore, the compilation happens in this directory.

When the shell command line is read, the minibuffer appears containing a default command line, which is the command you used the last time you did M-x compile. If you type just RET, the same command line is used again. For the first M-x compile, the default is `make -k'. The default compilation command comes from the variable compile-command; if the appropriate compilation command for a file is something other than `make -k', it can be useful for the file to specify a local value for compile-command (see section AD.2.5 Local Variables in Files).

Starting a compilation displays the buffer `*compilation*' in another window but does not select it. The buffer's mode line tells you whether compilation is finished, with the word `run' or `exit' inside the parentheses. You do not have to keep this buffer visible; compilation continues in any case. While a compilation is going on, the string `Compiling' appears in the mode lines of all windows. When this string disappears, the compilation is finished.

If you want to watch the compilation transcript as it appears, switch to the `*compilation*' buffer and move point to the end of the buffer. When point is at the end, new compilation output is inserted above point, which remains at the end. If point is not at the end of the buffer, it remains fixed while more compilation output is added at the end of the buffer.

If you set the variable compilation-scroll-output to a non-nil value, then the compilation buffer always scrolls to follow output as it comes in.

To kill the compilation process, do M-x kill-compilation. When the compiler process terminates, the mode line of the `*compilation*' buffer changes to say `signal' instead of `run'. Starting a new compilation also kills any running compilation, as only one can exist at any time. However, M-x compile asks for confirmation before actually killing a compilation that is running.

To rerun the last compilation with the same command, type M-x recompile. This automatically reuses the compilation command from the last invocation of M-x compile.

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V.2 Searching with Grep under Emacs

Just as you can run a compiler from Emacs and then visit the lines where there were compilation errors, you can also run grep and then visit the lines on which matches were found. This works by treating the matches reported by grep as if they were "errors."

To do this, type M-x grep, then enter a command line that specifies how to run grep. Use the same arguments you would give grep when running it normally: a grep-style regexp (usually in single-quotes to quote the shell's special characters) followed by file names, which may use wildcards. The output from grep goes in the `*grep*' buffer. You can find the corresponding lines in the original files using C-x ` and RET, as with compilation errors.

If you specify a prefix argument for M-x grep, it figures out the tag (see section W.2 Tags Tables) around point, and puts that into the default grep command.

The command M-x grep-find is similar to M-x grep, but it supplies a different initial default for the command--one that runs both find and grep, so as to search every file in a directory tree. See also the find-grep-dired command, in AB.15 Dired and find.

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V.3 Compilation Mode

The `*compilation*' buffer uses a special major mode, Compilation mode, whose main feature is to provide a convenient way to look at the source line where the error happened.

If you set the variable compilation-scroll-output to a non-nil value, then the compilation buffer always scrolls to follow output as it comes in.

C-x `
Visit the locus of the next compiler error message or grep match.
Visit the locus of the error message that point is on. This command is used in the compilation buffer.
Visit the locus of the error message that you click on.

You can visit the source for any particular error message by moving point in the `*compilation*' buffer to that error message and typing RET (compile-goto-error). Alternatively, you can click Mouse-2 on the error message; you need not switch to the `*compilation*' buffer first.

To parse the compiler error messages sequentially, type C-x ` (next-error). The character following the C-x is the backquote or "grave accent," not the single-quote. This command is available in all buffers, not just in `*compilation*'; it displays the next error message at the top of one window and source location of the error in another window.

The first time C-x ` is used after the start of a compilation, it moves to the first error's location. Subsequent uses of C-x ` advance down to subsequent errors. If you visit a specific error message with RET or Mouse-2, subsequent C-x ` commands advance from there. When C-x ` gets to the end of the buffer and finds no more error messages to visit, it fails and signals an Emacs error.

C-u C-x ` starts scanning from the beginning of the compilation buffer. This is one way to process the same set of errors again.

To parse messages from the compiler, Compilation mode uses the variable compilation-error-regexp-alist which lists various formats of error messages and tells Emacs how to extract the source file and the line number from the text of a message. If your compiler isn't supported, you can tailor Compilation mode to it by adding elements to that list. A similar variable grep-regexp-alist tells Emacs how to parse output of a grep command.

Compilation mode also redefines the keys SPC and DEL to scroll by screenfuls, and M-n and M-p to move to the next or previous error message. You can also use M-{ and M-} to move up or down to an error message for a different source file.

The features of Compilation mode are also available in a minor mode called Compilation Minor mode. This lets you parse error messages in any buffer, not just a normal compilation output buffer. Type M-x compilation-minor-mode to enable the minor mode. This defines the keys RET and Mouse-2, as in the Compilation major mode.

Compilation minor mode works in any buffer, as long as the contents are in a format that it understands. In an Rlogin buffer (see section AC.15.10 Remote Host Shell), Compilation minor mode automatically accesses remote source files by FTP (see section M.1 File Names).

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V.4 Subshells for Compilation

Emacs uses a shell to run the compilation command, but specifies the option for a noninteractive shell. This means, in particular, that the shell should start with no prompt. If you find your usual shell prompt making an unsightly appearance in the `*compilation*' buffer, it means you have made a mistake in your shell's init file by setting the prompt unconditionally. (This init file's name may be `.bashrc', `.profile', `.cshrc', `.shrc', or various other things, depending on the shell you use.) The shell init file should set the prompt only if there already is a prompt. In csh, here is how to do it:

if ($?prompt) set prompt = ...

And here's how to do it in bash:

if [ "${PS1+set}" = set ]
then PS1=...

There may well be other things that your shell's init file ought to do only for an interactive shell. You can use the same method to conditionalize them.

The MS-DOS "operating system" does not support asynchronous subprocesses; to work around this lack, M-x compile runs the compilation command synchronously on MS-DOS. As a consequence, you must wait until the command finishes before you can do anything else in Emacs. See section AH. Emacs and MS-DOS.

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V.5 Running Debuggers Under Emacs

The GUD (Grand Unified Debugger) library provides an interface to various symbolic debuggers from within Emacs. We recommend the debugger GDB, which is free software, but you can also run DBX, SDB or XDB if you have them. GUD can also serve as an interface to the Perl's debugging mode, the Python debugger PDB, and to JDB, the Java Debugger. See section `The Lisp Debugger' in the Emacs Lisp Reference Manual, for information on debugging Emacs Lisp programs.

V.5.1 Starting GUD  How to start a debugger subprocess.
V.5.2 Debugger Operation  Connection between the debugger and source buffers.
V.5.3 Commands of GUD  Key bindings for common commands.
V.5.4 GUD Customization  Defining your own commands for GUD.
V.5.5 GUD Tooltips  Showing variable values by pointing with the mouse.

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V.5.1 Starting GUD

There are several commands for starting a debugger, each corresponding to a particular debugger program.

M-x gdb RET file RET
Run GDB as a subprocess of Emacs. This command creates a buffer for input and output to GDB, and switches to it. If a GDB buffer already exists, it just switches to that buffer.

M-x dbx RET file RET
Similar, but run DBX instead of GDB.

M-x xdb RET file RET
Similar, but run XDB instead of GDB. Use the variable gud-xdb-directories to specify directories to search for source files.

M-x sdb RET file RET
Similar, but run SDB instead of GDB.

Some versions of SDB do not mention source file names in their messages. When you use them, you need to have a valid tags table (see section W.2 Tags Tables) in order for GUD to find functions in the source code. If you have not visited a tags table or the tags table doesn't list one of the functions, you get a message saying `The sdb support requires a valid tags table to work'. If this happens, generate a valid tags table in the working directory and try again.

M-x perldb RET file RET
Run the Perl interpreter in debug mode to debug file, a Perl program.

M-x jdb RET file RET
Run the Java debugger to debug file.

M-x pdb RET file RET
Run the Python debugger to debug file.

Each of these commands takes one argument: a command line to invoke the debugger. In the simplest case, specify just the name of the executable file you want to debug. You may also use options that the debugger supports. However, shell wildcards and variables are not allowed. GUD assumes that the first argument not starting with a `-' is the executable file name.

Emacs can only run one debugger process at a time.

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V.5.2 Debugger Operation

When you run a debugger with GUD, the debugger uses an Emacs buffer for its ordinary input and output. This is called the GUD buffer. The debugger displays the source files of the program by visiting them in Emacs buffers. An arrow (`=>') in one of these buffers indicates the current execution line.(12) Moving point in this buffer does not move the arrow.

You can start editing these source files at any time in the buffers that display them. The arrow is not part of the file's text; it appears only on the screen. If you do modify a source file, keep in mind that inserting or deleting lines will throw off the arrow's positioning; GUD has no way of figuring out which line corresponded before your changes to the line number in a debugger message. Also, you'll typically have to recompile and restart the program for your changes to be reflected in the debugger's tables.

If you wish, you can control your debugger process entirely through the debugger buffer, which uses a variant of Shell mode. All the usual commands for your debugger are available, and you can use the Shell mode history commands to repeat them. See section AC.15.3 Shell Mode.

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V.5.3 Commands of GUD

The GUD interaction buffer uses a variant of Shell mode, so the commands of Shell mode are available (see section AC.15.3 Shell Mode). GUD mode also provides commands for setting and clearing breakpoints, for selecting stack frames, and for stepping through the program. These commands are available both in the GUD buffer and globally, but with different key bindings.

The breakpoint commands are normally used in source file buffers, because that is the easiest way to specify where to set or clear the breakpoint. Here's the global command to set a breakpoint:

Set a breakpoint on the source line that point is on.

Here are the other special commands provided by GUD. The keys starting with C-c are available only in the GUD interaction buffer. The key bindings that start with C-x C-a are available in the GUD interaction buffer and also in source files.

C-c C-l
C-x C-a C-l
Display in another window the last line referred to in the GUD buffer (that is, the line indicated in the last location message). This runs the command gud-refresh.

C-c C-s
C-x C-a C-s
Execute a single line of code (gud-step). If the line contains a function call, execution stops after entering the called function.

C-c C-n
C-x C-a C-n
Execute a single line of code, stepping across entire function calls at full speed (gud-next).

C-c C-i
C-x C-a C-i
Execute a single machine instruction (gud-stepi).

C-c C-r
C-x C-a C-r
Continue execution without specifying any stopping point. The program will run until it hits a breakpoint, terminates, or gets a signal that the debugger is checking for (gud-cont).

C-c C-d
C-x C-a C-d
Delete the breakpoint(s) on the current source line, if any (gud-remove). If you use this command in the GUD interaction buffer, it applies to the line where the program last stopped.

C-c C-t
C-x C-a C-t
Set a temporary breakpoint on the current source line, if any. If you use this command in the GUD interaction buffer, it applies to the line where the program last stopped.

The above commands are common to all supported debuggers. If you are using GDB or (some versions of) DBX, these additional commands are available:

C-c <
C-x C-a <
Select the next enclosing stack frame (gud-up). This is equivalent to the `up' command.

C-c >
C-x C-a >
Select the next inner stack frame (gud-down). This is equivalent to the `down' command.

If you are using GDB, these additional key bindings are available:

With GDB, complete a symbol name (gud-gdb-complete-command). This key is available only in the GUD interaction buffer, and requires GDB versions 4.13 and later.

C-c C-f
C-x C-a C-f
Run the program until the selected stack frame returns (or until it stops for some other reason).

These commands interpret a numeric argument as a repeat count, when that makes sense.

Because TAB serves as a completion command, you can't use it to enter a tab as input to the program you are debugging with GDB. Instead, type C-q TAB to enter a tab.

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V.5.4 GUD Customization

On startup, GUD runs one of the following hooks: gdb-mode-hook, if you are using GDB; dbx-mode-hook, if you are using DBX; sdb-mode-hook, if you are using SDB; xdb-mode-hook, if you are using XDB; perldb-mode-hook, for Perl debugging mode; pdb-mode-hook, for PDB; jdb-mode-hook, for JDB. You can use these hooks to define custom key bindings for the debugger interaction buffer. See section AD.2.3 Hooks.

Here is a convenient way to define a command that sends a particular command string to the debugger, and set up a key binding for it in the debugger interaction buffer:

(gud-def function cmdstring binding docstring)

This defines a command named function which sends cmdstring to the debugger process, and gives it the documentation string docstring. You can then use the command function in any buffer. If binding is non-nil, gud-def also binds the command to C-c binding in the GUD buffer's mode and to C-x C-a binding generally.

The command string cmdstring may contain certain `%'-sequences that stand for data to be filled in at the time function is called:

The name of the current source file. If the current buffer is the GUD buffer, then the "current source file" is the file that the program stopped in.

The number of the current source line. If the current buffer is the GUD buffer, then the "current source line" is the line that the program stopped in.

The text of the C lvalue or function-call expression at or adjacent to point.

The text of the hexadecimal address at or adjacent to point.

The numeric argument of the called function, as a decimal number. If the command is used without a numeric argument, `%p' stands for the empty string.

If you don't use `%p' in the command string, the command you define ignores any numeric argument.

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V.5.5 GUD Tooltips

The Tooltip facility (see section P.18 Tooltips (or "Balloon Help")) provides support for GUD. If GUD support is activated by customizing the tooltip group, variable values can be displayed in tooltips by pointing at them with the mouse in the GUD buffer or in source buffers with major modes in the customizable list tooltip-gud-modes.

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V.6 Executing Lisp Expressions

Emacs has several different major modes for Lisp and Scheme. They are the same in terms of editing commands, but differ in the commands for executing Lisp expressions. Each mode has its own purpose.

Emacs-Lisp mode
The mode for editing source files of programs to run in Emacs Lisp. This mode defines C-M-x to evaluate the current defun. See section V.7 Libraries of Lisp Code for Emacs.
Lisp Interaction mode
The mode for an interactive session with Emacs Lisp. It defines C-j to evaluate the sexp before point and insert its value in the buffer. See section V.9 Lisp Interaction Buffers.
Lisp mode
The mode for editing source files of programs that run in Lisps other than Emacs Lisp. This mode defines C-M-x to send the current defun to an inferior Lisp process. See section V.10 Running an External Lisp.
Inferior Lisp mode
The mode for an interactive session with an inferior Lisp process. This mode combines the special features of Lisp mode and Shell mode (see section AC.15.3 Shell Mode).
Scheme mode
Like Lisp mode but for Scheme programs.
Inferior Scheme mode
The mode for an interactive session with an inferior Scheme process.

Most editing commands for working with Lisp programs are in fact available globally. See section U. Editing Programs.

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V.7 Libraries of Lisp Code for Emacs

Lisp code for Emacs editing commands is stored in files whose names conventionally end in `.el'. This ending tells Emacs to edit them in Emacs-Lisp mode (see section V.6 Executing Lisp Expressions).

To execute a file of Emacs Lisp code, use M-x load-file. This command reads a file name using the minibuffer and then executes the contents of that file as Lisp code. It is not necessary to visit the file first; in any case, this command reads the file as found on disk, not text in an Emacs buffer.

Once a file of Lisp code is installed in the Emacs Lisp library directories, users can load it using M-x load-library. Programs can load it by calling load-library, or with load, a more primitive function that is similar but accepts some additional arguments.

M-x load-library differs from M-x load-file in that it searches a sequence of directories and tries three file names in each directory. Suppose your argument is lib; the three names are `lib.elc', `lib.el', and lastly just `lib'. If `lib.elc' exists, it is by convention the result of compiling `lib.el'; it is better to load the compiled file, since it will load and run faster.

If load-library finds that `lib.el' is newer than `lib.elc' file, it issues a warning, because it's likely that somebody made changes to the `.el' file and forgot to recompile it.

Because the argument to load-library is usually not in itself a valid file name, file name completion is not available. Indeed, when using this command, you usually do not know exactly what file name will be used.

The sequence of directories searched by M-x load-library is specified by the variable load-path, a list of strings that are directory names. The default value of the list contains the directory where the Lisp code for Emacs itself is stored. If you have libraries of your own, put them in a single directory and add that directory to load-path. nil in this list stands for the current default directory, but it is probably not a good idea to put nil in the list. If you find yourself wishing that nil were in the list, most likely what you really want to do is use M-x load-file this once.

Often you do not have to give any command to load a library, because the commands defined in the library are set up to autoload that library. Trying to run any of those commands calls load to load the library; this replaces the autoload definitions with the real ones from the library.

Emacs Lisp code can be compiled into byte-code which loads faster, takes up less space when loaded, and executes faster. See section `Byte Compilation' in the Emacs Lisp Reference Manual. By convention, the compiled code for a library goes in a separate file whose name consists of the library source file with `c' appended. Thus, the compiled code for `foo.el' goes in `foo.elc'. That's why load-library searches for `.elc' files first.

By default, Emacs refuses to load compiled Lisp files which were compiled with XEmacs, a modified versions of Emacs--they can cause Emacs to crash. Set the variable load-dangerous-libraries to t if you want to try loading them.

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V.8 Evaluating Emacs-Lisp Expressions

Lisp programs intended to be run in Emacs should be edited in Emacs-Lisp mode; this happens automatically for file names ending in `.el'. By contrast, Lisp mode itself is used for editing Lisp programs intended for other Lisp systems. To switch to Emacs-Lisp mode explicitly, use the command M-x emacs-lisp-mode.

For testing of Lisp programs to run in Emacs, it is often useful to evaluate part of the program as it is found in the Emacs buffer. For example, after changing the text of a Lisp function definition, evaluating the definition installs the change for future calls to the function. Evaluation of Lisp expressions is also useful in any kind of editing, for invoking noninteractive functions (functions that are not commands).

Read a single Lisp expression in the minibuffer, evaluate it, and print the value in the echo area (eval-expression).
C-x C-e
Evaluate the Lisp expression before point, and print the value in the echo area (eval-last-sexp).
Evaluate the defun containing or after point, and print the value in the echo area (eval-defun).
M-x eval-region
Evaluate all the Lisp expressions in the region.
M-x eval-current-buffer
Evaluate all the Lisp expressions in the buffer.

M-: (eval-expression) is the most basic command for evaluating a Lisp expression interactively. It reads the expression using the minibuffer, so you can execute any expression on a buffer regardless of what the buffer contains. When the expression is evaluated, the current buffer is once again the buffer that was current when M-: was typed.

In Emacs-Lisp mode, the key C-M-x is bound to the command eval-defun, which parses the defun containing or following point as a Lisp expression and evaluates it. The value is printed in the echo area. This command is convenient for installing in the Lisp environment changes that you have just made in the text of a function definition.

C-M-x treats defvar expressions specially. Normally, evaluating a defvar expression does nothing if the variable it defines already has a value. But C-M-x unconditionally resets the variable to the initial value specified in the defvar expression. defcustom expressions are treated similarly. This special feature is convenient for debugging Lisp programs.

The command C-x C-e (eval-last-sexp) evaluates the Lisp expression preceding point in the buffer, and displays the value in the echo area. It is available in all major modes, not just Emacs-Lisp mode. It does not treat defvar specially.

If C-M-x, C-x C-e, or M-: is given a numeric argument, it inserts the value into the current buffer at point, rather than displaying it in the echo area. The argument's value does not matter.

The most general command for evaluating Lisp expressions from a buffer is eval-region. M-x eval-region parses the text of the region as one or more Lisp expressions, evaluating them one by one. M-x eval-current-buffer is similar but evaluates the entire buffer. This is a reasonable way to install the contents of a file of Lisp code that you are ready to test. Later, as you find bugs and change individual functions, use C-M-x on each function that you change. This keeps the Lisp world in step with the source file.

The customizable variables eval-expression-print-level and eval-expression-print-length control the maximum depth and length of lists to print in the result of the evaluation commands before abbreviating them. eval-expression-debug-on-error controls whether evaluation errors invoke the debugger when these commands are used.

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V.9 Lisp Interaction Buffers

The buffer `*scratch*' which is selected when Emacs starts up is provided for evaluating Lisp expressions interactively inside Emacs.

The simplest way to use the `*scratch*' buffer is to insert Lisp expressions and type C-j after each expression. This command reads the Lisp expression before point, evaluates it, and inserts the value in printed representation before point. The result is a complete typescript of the expressions you have evaluated and their values.

The `*scratch*' buffer's major mode is Lisp Interaction mode, which is the same as Emacs-Lisp mode except for the binding of C-j.

The rationale for this feature is that Emacs must have a buffer when it starts up, but that buffer is not useful for editing files since a new buffer is made for every file that you visit. The Lisp interpreter typescript is the most useful thing I can think of for the initial buffer to do. Type M-x lisp-interaction-mode to put the current buffer in Lisp Interaction mode.

An alternative way of evaluating Emacs Lisp expressions interactively is to use Inferior Emacs-Lisp mode, which provides an interface rather like Shell mode (see section AC.15.3 Shell Mode) for evaluating Emacs Lisp expressions. Type M-x ielm to create an `*ielm*' buffer which uses this mode.

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V.10 Running an External Lisp

Emacs has facilities for running programs in other Lisp systems. You can run a Lisp process as an inferior of Emacs, and pass expressions to it to be evaluated. You can also pass changed function definitions directly from the Emacs buffers in which you edit the Lisp programs to the inferior Lisp process.

To run an inferior Lisp process, type M-x run-lisp. This runs the program named lisp, the same program you would run by typing lisp as a shell command, with both input and output going through an Emacs buffer named `*lisp*'. That is to say, any "terminal output" from Lisp will go into the buffer, advancing point, and any "terminal input" for Lisp comes from text in the buffer. (You can change the name of the Lisp executable file by setting the variable inferior-lisp-program.)

To give input to Lisp, go to the end of the buffer and type the input, terminated by RET. The `*lisp*' buffer is in Inferior Lisp mode, which combines the special characteristics of Lisp mode with most of the features of Shell mode (see section AC.15.3 Shell Mode). The definition of RET to send a line to a subprocess is one of the features of Shell mode.

For the source files of programs to run in external Lisps, use Lisp mode. This mode can be selected with M-x lisp-mode, and is used automatically for files whose names end in `.l', `.lsp', or `.lisp', as most Lisp systems usually expect.

When you edit a function in a Lisp program you are running, the easiest way to send the changed definition to the inferior Lisp process is the key C-M-x. In Lisp mode, this runs the function lisp-eval-defun, which finds the defun around or following point and sends it as input to the Lisp process. (Emacs can send input to any inferior process regardless of what buffer is current.)

Contrast the meanings of C-M-x in Lisp mode (for editing programs to be run in another Lisp system) and Emacs-Lisp mode (for editing Lisp programs to be run in Emacs): in both modes it has the effect of installing the function definition that point is in, but the way of doing so is different according to where the relevant Lisp environment is found. See section V.6 Executing Lisp Expressions.

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