Emacs unfill-paragraph, unfill-region, compact-uncompact-block

Perm url with updates: http://xahlee.org/emacs/emacs_unfill-paragraph.html

Emacs unfill-paragraph, unfill-region, compact-uncompact-block

Xah Lee, 2010-05-12

Emacs has a fill-paragraph command. The command add line breaks in the current paragraph, so that each line is no more than about 70 chars. However, there's no unfill-paragraph — a command that does the reverse. Here's the solution.

unfill-paragraph, unfill-region

(defun unfill-paragraph ()
  "Replace newline chars in current paragraph by single spaces.
This command does the reverse of `fill-paragraph'."
  (let ((fill-column 90002000))
    (fill-paragraph nil)))

(defun unfill-region (start end)
  "Replace newline chars in region by single spaces.
This command does the reverse of `fill-region'."
  (interactive "r")
  (let ((fill-column 90002000))
    (fill-region start end)))

You can define a keyboard shortcut for them.

The above code works by setting the variable “fill-column” to a large value then call fill-paragraph to do the work.


A even better command is compact-uncompact-block. It automatically “fill” or “unfill” depending on whether the current paragraph is already “filled”. Also, it automatically works on the current text selection if there's one, so you don't need to choose between “*-paragraph” or “-region” versions.

(defun compact-uncompact-block ()
  "Remove or add line endings on the current block of text.
This command similar to a toggle for `fill-paragraph' and `unfill-paragraph'
When there is a text selection, act on the region.

When in text modes, the “current block” is equivalent to the
current paragraph.  When in programing language modes, “current block”
is defined by between empty lines.

Todo: when in a programing lang mode, make the function more
smart, so that it doesn't cut strings.  Right now, the code uses
fill* functions. A proper implementation to compact is replacing
newline chars by space when the newline char is not inside
string. To uncompact, a proper solution needs to know the basic
syntax of each lang. A simple implementation is to simply insert
newline after “}” or “;” for c-like syntaxes."

  ;; This command symbol has a property “'stateIsCompact-p”, the
  ;; possible values are t and nil. This property is used to easily
  ;; determine whether to compact or uncompact, when this command is
  ;; called again

  (let (bds currentLineCharCount currentStateIsCompact
            (bigFillColumnVal 4333999) (deactivate-mark nil))

      ;; currentLineCharCount is used to determine whether current state
      ;; is compact or not, when the command is run for the first time
      (setq currentLineCharCount
              (setq bds (bounds-of-thing-at-point 'line))
              (length (buffer-substring-no-properties (car bds) (cdr bds)))    
              ;; Note: 'line includes eol if it is not buffer's last line

      ;; Determine whether the text is currently compact.  when the last
      ;; command is this, then symbol property easily tells, but when
      ;; this command is used fresh, right now we use num of chars of
      ;; the cursor line as a way to define current compatness state
      (setq currentStateIsCompact
            (if (eq last-command this-command)
                (get this-command 'stateIsCompact-p)
              (if (> currentLineCharCount fill-column) t nil)

      (if (and transient-mark-mode mark-active)
          (if currentStateIsCompact
              (fill-region (region-beginning) (region-end))
            (let ((fill-column bigFillColumnVal))
              (fill-region (region-beginning) (region-end)))
        (if currentStateIsCompact
            (fill-paragraph nil)
          (let ((fill-column bigFillColumnVal))
            (fill-paragraph nil))

      (put this-command 'stateIsCompact-p
           (if currentStateIsCompact
               nil t)) ) ) )

For a detailed explanation about why this command provides better usability than the several “fill” commands, see: Suggestions on Emacs's Line-Cutting Commands.

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