GNU Emacs Manual. Node: Lisp Indent

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20.5.3: Customizing Lisp Indentation

The indentation pattern for a Lisp expression can depend on the function called by the expression. For each Lisp function, you can choose among several predefined patterns of indentation, or define an arbitrary one with a Lisp program.

The standard pattern of indentation is as follows: the second line of the expression is indented under the first argument, if that is on the same line as the beginning of the expression; otherwise, the second line is indented underneath the function name. Each following line is indented under the previous line whose nesting depth is the same.

If the variable lisp-indent-offset is non-nil, it overrides the usual indentation pattern for the second line of an expression, so that such lines are always indented lisp-indent-offset more columns than the containing list.

The standard pattern is overridden for certain functions. Functions whose names start with def always indent the second line by lisp-body-indent extra columns beyond the open-parenthesis starting the expression.

The standard pattern can be overridden in various ways for individual functions, according to the lisp-indent-function property of the function name. There are four possibilities for this property:


This is the same as no property; the standard indentation pattern is used.

defun The pattern used for function names that start with def is used for this function also.
a number, number The first number arguments of the function are distinguished arguments; the rest are considered the body of the expression. A line in the expression is indented according to whether the first argument on it is distinguished or not. If the argument is part of the body, the line is indented lisp-body-indent more columns than the open-parenthesis starting the containing expression. If the argument is distinguished and is either the first or second argument, it is indented twice that many extra columns. If the argument is distinguished and not the first or second argument, the standard pattern is followed for that line.
a symbol, symbol symbol should be a function name; that function is called to calculate the indentation of a line within this expression. The function receives two arguments:


The value returned by parse-partial-sexp (a Lisp primitive for indentation and nesting computation) when it parses up to the beginning of this line.

pos The position at which the line being indented begins.
It should return either a number, which is the number of columns of indentation for that line, or a list whose car is such a number. The difference between returning a number and returning a list is that a number says that all following lines at the same nesting level should be indented just like this one; a list says that following lines might call for different indentations. This makes a difference when the indentation is being computed by C-M-q; if the value is a number, C-M-q need not recalculate indentation for the following lines until the end of the list.

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