functions.texi   [plain text]

@c -*-texinfo-*-
@c This is part of the GNU Emacs Lisp Reference Manual.
@c Copyright (C) 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2001,
@c   2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  Free Software Foundation, Inc.
@c See the file elisp.texi for copying conditions.
@setfilename ../info/functions
@node Functions, Macros, Variables, Top
@chapter Functions

  A Lisp program is composed mainly of Lisp functions.  This chapter
explains what functions are, how they accept arguments, and how to
define them.

* What Is a Function::    Lisp functions vs. primitives; terminology.
* Lambda Expressions::    How functions are expressed as Lisp objects.
* Function Names::        A symbol can serve as the name of a function.
* Defining Functions::    Lisp expressions for defining functions.
* Calling Functions::     How to use an existing function.
* Mapping Functions::     Applying a function to each element of a list, etc.
* Anonymous Functions::   Lambda expressions are functions with no names.
* Function Cells::        Accessing or setting the function definition
                            of a symbol.
* Obsolete Functions::    Declaring functions obsolete.
* Inline Functions::	  Defining functions that the compiler will open code.
* Function Safety::       Determining whether a function is safe to call.
* Related Topics::        Cross-references to specific Lisp primitives
                            that have a special bearing on how functions work.
@end menu

@node What Is a Function
@section What Is a Function?

  In a general sense, a function is a rule for carrying on a computation
given several values called @dfn{arguments}.  The result of the
computation is called the value of the function.  The computation can
also have side effects: lasting changes in the values of variables or
the contents of data structures.

  Here are important terms for functions in Emacs Lisp and for other
function-like objects.

@table @dfn
@item function
@cindex function
In Emacs Lisp, a @dfn{function} is anything that can be applied to
arguments in a Lisp program.  In some cases, we use it more
specifically to mean a function written in Lisp.  Special forms and
macros are not functions.

@item primitive
@cindex primitive
@cindex subr
@cindex built-in function
A @dfn{primitive} is a function callable from Lisp that is written in C,
such as @code{car} or @code{append}.  These functions are also called
@dfn{built-in functions}, or @dfn{subrs}.  (Special forms are also
considered primitives.)

Usually the reason we implement a function as a primitive is either
because it is fundamental, because it provides a low-level interface
to operating system services, or because it needs to run fast.
Primitives can be modified or added only by changing the C sources and
recompiling the editor.  See @ref{Writing Emacs Primitives}.

@item lambda expression
A @dfn{lambda expression} is a function written in Lisp.
These are described in the following section.
@xref{Lambda Expressions}.
@end ifnottex

@item special form
A @dfn{special form} is a primitive that is like a function but does not
evaluate all of its arguments in the usual way.  It may evaluate only
some of the arguments, or may evaluate them in an unusual order, or
several times.  Many special forms are described in @ref{Control

@item macro
@cindex macro
A @dfn{macro} is a construct defined in Lisp by the programmer.  It
differs from a function in that it translates a Lisp expression that you
write into an equivalent expression to be evaluated instead of the
original expression.  Macros enable Lisp programmers to do the sorts of
things that special forms can do.  @xref{Macros}, for how to define and
use macros.

@item command
@cindex command
A @dfn{command} is an object that @code{command-execute} can invoke; it
is a possible definition for a key sequence.  Some functions are
commands; a function written in Lisp is a command if it contains an
interactive declaration (@pxref{Defining Commands}).  Such a function
can be called from Lisp expressions like other functions; in this case,
the fact that the function is a command makes no difference.

Keyboard macros (strings and vectors) are commands also, even though
they are not functions.  A symbol is a command if its function
definition is a command; such symbols can be invoked with @kbd{M-x}.
The symbol is a function as well if the definition is a function.
@xref{Interactive Call}.

@item keystroke command
@cindex keystroke command
A @dfn{keystroke command} is a command that is bound to a key sequence
(typically one to three keystrokes).  The distinction is made here
merely to avoid confusion with the meaning of ``command'' in non-Emacs
editors; for Lisp programs, the distinction is normally unimportant.

@item byte-code function
A @dfn{byte-code function} is a function that has been compiled by the
byte compiler.  @xref{Byte-Code Type}.
@end table

@defun functionp object
This function returns @code{t} if @var{object} is any kind of
function, or a special form, or, recursively, a symbol whose function
definition is a function or special form.  (This does not include
@end defun

Unlike @code{functionp}, the next three functions do @emph{not}
treat a symbol as its function definition.

@defun subrp object
This function returns @code{t} if @var{object} is a built-in function
(i.e., a Lisp primitive).

(subrp 'message)            ; @r{@code{message} is a symbol,}
     @result{} nil                 ;   @r{not a subr object.}
@end group
(subrp (symbol-function 'message))
     @result{} t
@end group
@end example
@end defun

@defun byte-code-function-p object
This function returns @code{t} if @var{object} is a byte-code
function.  For example:

(byte-code-function-p (symbol-function 'next-line))
     @result{} t
@end group
@end example
@end defun

@defun subr-arity subr
This function provides information about the argument list of a
primitive, @var{subr}.  The returned value is a pair
@code{(@var{min} . @var{max})}.  @var{min} is the minimum number of
args.  @var{max} is the maximum number or the symbol @code{many}, for a
function with @code{&rest} arguments, or the symbol @code{unevalled} if
@var{subr} is a special form.
@end defun

@node Lambda Expressions
@section Lambda Expressions
@cindex lambda expression

  A function written in Lisp is a list that looks like this:

(lambda (@var{arg-variables}@dots{})
@end example

Such a list is called a @dfn{lambda expression}.  In Emacs Lisp, it
actually is valid as an expression---it evaluates to itself.  In some
other Lisp dialects, a lambda expression is not a valid expression at
all.  In either case, its main use is not to be evaluated as an
expression, but to be called as a function.

* Lambda Components::       The parts of a lambda expression.
* Simple Lambda::           A simple example.
* Argument List::           Details and special features of argument lists.
* Function Documentation::  How to put documentation in a function.
@end menu

@node Lambda Components
@subsection Components of a Lambda Expression


  A function written in Lisp (a ``lambda expression'') is a list that
looks like this:

(lambda (@var{arg-variables}@dots{})
@end example
@end ifnottex

@cindex lambda list
  The first element of a lambda expression is always the symbol
@code{lambda}.  This indicates that the list represents a function.  The
reason functions are defined to start with @code{lambda} is so that
other lists, intended for other uses, will not accidentally be valid as

  The second element is a list of symbols---the argument variable names.
This is called the @dfn{lambda list}.  When a Lisp function is called,
the argument values are matched up against the variables in the lambda
list, which are given local bindings with the values provided.
@xref{Local Variables}.

  The documentation string is a Lisp string object placed within the
function definition to describe the function for the Emacs help
facilities.  @xref{Function Documentation}.

  The interactive declaration is a list of the form @code{(interactive
@var{code-string})}.  This declares how to provide arguments if the
function is used interactively.  Functions with this declaration are called
@dfn{commands}; they can be called using @kbd{M-x} or bound to a key.
Functions not intended to be called in this way should not have interactive
declarations.  @xref{Defining Commands}, for how to write an interactive

@cindex body of function
  The rest of the elements are the @dfn{body} of the function: the Lisp
code to do the work of the function (or, as a Lisp programmer would say,
``a list of Lisp forms to evaluate'').  The value returned by the
function is the value returned by the last element of the body.

@node Simple Lambda
@subsection A Simple Lambda-Expression Example

  Consider for example the following function:

(lambda (a b c) (+ a b c))
@end example

We can call this function by writing it as the @sc{car} of an
expression, like this:

((lambda (a b c) (+ a b c))
 1 2 3)
@end group
@end example

This call evaluates the body of the lambda expression  with the variable
@code{a} bound to 1, @code{b} bound to 2, and @code{c} bound to 3.
Evaluation of the body adds these three numbers, producing the result 6;
therefore, this call to the function returns the value 6.

  Note that the arguments can be the results of other function calls, as in
this example:

((lambda (a b c) (+ a b c))
 1 (* 2 3) (- 5 4))
@end group
@end example

This evaluates the arguments @code{1}, @code{(* 2 3)}, and @code{(- 5
4)} from left to right.  Then it applies the lambda expression to the
argument values 1, 6 and 1 to produce the value 8.

  It is not often useful to write a lambda expression as the @sc{car} of
a form in this way.  You can get the same result, of making local
variables and giving them values, using the special form @code{let}
(@pxref{Local Variables}).  And @code{let} is clearer and easier to use.
In practice, lambda expressions are either stored as the function
definitions of symbols, to produce named functions, or passed as
arguments to other functions (@pxref{Anonymous Functions}).

  However, calls to explicit lambda expressions were very useful in the
old days of Lisp, before the special form @code{let} was invented.  At
that time, they were the only way to bind and initialize local

@node Argument List
@subsection Other Features of Argument Lists
@kindex wrong-number-of-arguments
@cindex argument binding
@cindex binding arguments
@cindex argument lists, features

  Our simple sample function, @code{(lambda (a b c) (+ a b c))},
specifies three argument variables, so it must be called with three
arguments: if you try to call it with only two arguments or four
arguments, you get a @code{wrong-number-of-arguments} error.

  It is often convenient to write a function that allows certain
arguments to be omitted.  For example, the function @code{substring}
accepts three arguments---a string, the start index and the end
index---but the third argument defaults to the @var{length} of the
string if you omit it.  It is also convenient for certain functions to
accept an indefinite number of arguments, as the functions @code{list}
and @code{+} do.

@cindex optional arguments
@cindex rest arguments
@kindex &optional
@kindex &rest
  To specify optional arguments that may be omitted when a function
is called, simply include the keyword @code{&optional} before the optional
arguments.  To specify a list of zero or more extra arguments, include the
keyword @code{&rest} before one final argument.

  Thus, the complete syntax for an argument list is as follows:

 @r{[}&optional @var{optional-vars}@dots{}@r{]}
 @r{[}&rest @var{rest-var}@r{]})
@end group
@end example

The square brackets indicate that the @code{&optional} and @code{&rest}
clauses, and the variables that follow them, are optional.

  A call to the function requires one actual argument for each of the
@var{required-vars}.  There may be actual arguments for zero or more of
the @var{optional-vars}, and there cannot be any actual arguments beyond
that unless the lambda list uses @code{&rest}.  In that case, there may
be any number of extra actual arguments.

  If actual arguments for the optional and rest variables are omitted,
then they always default to @code{nil}.  There is no way for the
function to distinguish between an explicit argument of @code{nil} and
an omitted argument.  However, the body of the function is free to
consider @code{nil} an abbreviation for some other meaningful value.
This is what @code{substring} does; @code{nil} as the third argument to
@code{substring} means to use the length of the string supplied.

@cindex CL note---default optional arg
@b{Common Lisp note:} Common Lisp allows the function to specify what
default value to use when an optional argument is omitted; Emacs Lisp
always uses @code{nil}.  Emacs Lisp does not support ``supplied-p''
variables that tell you whether an argument was explicitly passed.
@end quotation

  For example, an argument list that looks like this:

(a b &optional c d &rest e)
@end example

binds @code{a} and @code{b} to the first two actual arguments, which are
required.  If one or two more arguments are provided, @code{c} and
@code{d} are bound to them respectively; any arguments after the first
four are collected into a list and @code{e} is bound to that list.  If
there are only two arguments, @code{c} is @code{nil}; if two or three
arguments, @code{d} is @code{nil}; if four arguments or fewer, @code{e}
is @code{nil}.

  There is no way to have required arguments following optional
ones---it would not make sense.  To see why this must be so, suppose
that @code{c} in the example were optional and @code{d} were required.
Suppose three actual arguments are given; which variable would the
third argument be for?  Would it be used for the @var{c}, or for
@var{d}?  One can argue for both possibilities.  Similarly, it makes
no sense to have any more arguments (either required or optional)
after a @code{&rest} argument.

  Here are some examples of argument lists and proper calls:

((lambda (n) (1+ n))                ; @r{One required:}
 1)                                 ; @r{requires exactly one argument.}
     @result{} 2
((lambda (n &optional n1)           ; @r{One required and one optional:}
         (if n1 (+ n n1) (1+ n)))   ; @r{1 or 2 arguments.}
 1 2)
     @result{} 3
((lambda (n &rest ns)               ; @r{One required and one rest:}
         (+ n (apply '+ ns)))       ; @r{1 or more arguments.}
 1 2 3 4 5)
     @result{} 15
@end smallexample

@node Function Documentation
@subsection Documentation Strings of Functions
@cindex documentation of function

  A lambda expression may optionally have a @dfn{documentation string} just
after the lambda list.  This string does not affect execution of the
function; it is a kind of comment, but a systematized comment which
actually appears inside the Lisp world and can be used by the Emacs help
facilities.  @xref{Documentation}, for how the @var{documentation-string} is

  It is a good idea to provide documentation strings for all the
functions in your program, even those that are called only from within
your program.  Documentation strings are like comments, except that they
are easier to access.

  The first line of the documentation string should stand on its own,
because @code{apropos} displays just this first line.  It should consist
of one or two complete sentences that summarize the function's purpose.

  The start of the documentation string is usually indented in the
source file, but since these spaces come before the starting
double-quote, they are not part of the string.  Some people make a
practice of indenting any additional lines of the string so that the
text lines up in the program source.  @emph{That is a mistake.}  The
indentation of the following lines is inside the string; what looks
nice in the source code will look ugly when displayed by the help

  You may wonder how the documentation string could be optional, since
there are required components of the function that follow it (the body).
Since evaluation of a string returns that string, without any side effects,
it has no effect if it is not the last form in the body.  Thus, in
practice, there is no confusion between the first form of the body and the
documentation string; if the only body form is a string then it serves both
as the return value and as the documentation.

  The last line of the documentation string can specify calling
conventions different from the actual function arguments.  Write
text like this:

\(fn @var{arglist})
@end example

following a blank line, at the beginning of the line, with no newline
following it inside the documentation string.  (The @samp{\} is used
to avoid confusing the Emacs motion commands.)  The calling convention
specified in this way appears in help messages in place of the one
derived from the actual arguments of the function.

  This feature is particularly useful for macro definitions, since the
arguments written in a macro definition often do not correspond to the
way users think of the parts of the macro call.

@node Function Names
@section Naming a Function
@cindex function definition
@cindex named function
@cindex function name

  In most computer languages, every function has a name; the idea of a
function without a name is nonsensical.  In Lisp, a function in the
strictest sense has no name.  It is simply a list whose first element is
@code{lambda}, a byte-code function object, or a primitive subr-object.

  However, a symbol can serve as the name of a function.  This happens
when you put the function in the symbol's @dfn{function cell}
(@pxref{Symbol Components}).  Then the symbol itself becomes a valid,
callable function, equivalent to the list or subr-object that its
function cell refers to.  The contents of the function cell are also
called the symbol's @dfn{function definition}.  The procedure of using a
symbol's function definition in place of the symbol is called
@dfn{symbol function indirection}; see @ref{Function Indirection}.

  In practice, nearly all functions are given names in this way and
referred to through their names.  For example, the symbol @code{car} works
as a function and does what it does because the primitive subr-object
@code{#<subr car>} is stored in its function cell.

  We give functions names because it is convenient to refer to them by
their names in Lisp expressions.  For primitive subr-objects such as
@code{#<subr car>}, names are the only way you can refer to them: there
is no read syntax for such objects.  For functions written in Lisp, the
name is more convenient to use in a call than an explicit lambda
expression.  Also, a function with a name can refer to itself---it can
be recursive.  Writing the function's name in its own definition is much
more convenient than making the function definition point to itself
(something that is not impossible but that has various disadvantages in

  We often identify functions with the symbols used to name them.  For
example, we often speak of ``the function @code{car},'' not
distinguishing between the symbol @code{car} and the primitive
subr-object that is its function definition.  For most purposes, the
distinction is not important.

  Even so, keep in mind that a function need not have a unique name.  While
a given function object @emph{usually} appears in the function cell of only
one symbol, this is just a matter of convenience.  It is easy to store
it in several symbols using @code{fset}; then each of the symbols is
equally well a name for the same function.

  A symbol used as a function name may also be used as a variable; these
two uses of a symbol are independent and do not conflict.  (Some Lisp
dialects, such as Scheme, do not distinguish between a symbol's value
and its function definition; a symbol's value as a variable is also its
function definition.)  If you have not given a symbol a function
definition, you cannot use it as a function; whether the symbol has a
value as a variable makes no difference to this.

@node Defining Functions
@section Defining Functions
@cindex defining a function

  We usually give a name to a function when it is first created.  This
is called @dfn{defining a function}, and it is done with the
@code{defun} special form.

@defspec defun name argument-list body-forms
@code{defun} is the usual way to define new Lisp functions.  It
defines the symbol @var{name} as a function that looks like this:

(lambda @var{argument-list} . @var{body-forms})
@end example

@code{defun} stores this lambda expression in the function cell of
@var{name}.  It returns the value @var{name}, but usually we ignore this

As described previously, @var{argument-list} is a list of argument
names and may include the keywords @code{&optional} and @code{&rest}
(@pxref{Lambda Expressions}).  Also, the first two of the
@var{body-forms} may be a documentation string and an interactive

There is no conflict if the same symbol @var{name} is also used as a
variable, since the symbol's value cell is independent of the function
cell.  @xref{Symbol Components}.

Here are some examples:

(defun foo () 5)
     @result{} foo
@end group
     @result{} 5
@end group

(defun bar (a &optional b &rest c)
    (list a b c))
     @result{} bar
@end group
(bar 1 2 3 4 5)
     @result{} (1 2 (3 4 5))
@end group
(bar 1)
     @result{} (1 nil nil)
@end group
@error{} Wrong number of arguments.
@end group

(defun capitalize-backwards ()
  "Upcase the last letter of a word."
  (backward-word 1)
  (forward-word 1)
  (backward-char 1)
  (capitalize-word 1))
     @result{} capitalize-backwards
@end group
@end example

Be careful not to redefine existing functions unintentionally.
@code{defun} redefines even primitive functions such as @code{car}
without any hesitation or notification.  Redefining a function already
defined is often done deliberately, and there is no way to distinguish
deliberate redefinition from unintentional redefinition.
@end defspec

@cindex function aliases
@defun defalias name definition &optional docstring
@anchor{Definition of defalias}
This special form defines the symbol @var{name} as a function, with
definition @var{definition} (which can be any valid Lisp function).
It returns @var{definition}.

If @var{docstring} is non-@code{nil}, it becomes the function
documentation of @var{name}.  Otherwise, any documentation provided by
@var{definition} is used.

The proper place to use @code{defalias} is where a specific function
name is being defined---especially where that name appears explicitly in
the source file being loaded.  This is because @code{defalias} records
which file defined the function, just like @code{defun}

By contrast, in programs that manipulate function definitions for other
purposes, it is better to use @code{fset}, which does not keep such
records.  @xref{Function Cells}.
@end defun

  You cannot create a new primitive function with @code{defun} or
@code{defalias}, but you can use them to change the function definition of
any symbol, even one such as @code{car} or @code{x-popup-menu} whose
normal definition is a primitive.  However, this is risky: for
instance, it is next to impossible to redefine @code{car} without
breaking Lisp completely.  Redefining an obscure function such as
@code{x-popup-menu} is less dangerous, but it still may not work as
you expect.  If there are calls to the primitive from C code, they
call the primitive's C definition directly, so changing the symbol's
definition will have no effect on them.

  See also @code{defsubst}, which defines a function like @code{defun}
and tells the Lisp compiler to open-code it.  @xref{Inline Functions}.

@node Calling Functions
@section Calling Functions
@cindex function invocation
@cindex calling a function

  Defining functions is only half the battle.  Functions don't do
anything until you @dfn{call} them, i.e., tell them to run.  Calling a
function is also known as @dfn{invocation}.

  The most common way of invoking a function is by evaluating a list.
For example, evaluating the list @code{(concat "a" "b")} calls the
function @code{concat} with arguments @code{"a"} and @code{"b"}.
@xref{Evaluation}, for a description of evaluation.

  When you write a list as an expression in your program, you specify
which function to call, and how many arguments to give it, in the text
of the program.  Usually that's just what you want.  Occasionally you
need to compute at run time which function to call.  To do that, use
the function @code{funcall}.  When you also need to determine at run
time how many arguments to pass, use @code{apply}.

@defun funcall function &rest arguments
@code{funcall} calls @var{function} with @var{arguments}, and returns
whatever @var{function} returns.

Since @code{funcall} is a function, all of its arguments, including
@var{function}, are evaluated before @code{funcall} is called.  This
means that you can use any expression to obtain the function to be
called.  It also means that @code{funcall} does not see the
expressions you write for the @var{arguments}, only their values.
These values are @emph{not} evaluated a second time in the act of
calling @var{function}; the operation of @code{funcall} is like the
normal procedure for calling a function, once its arguments have
already been evaluated.

The argument @var{function} must be either a Lisp function or a
primitive function.  Special forms and macros are not allowed, because
they make sense only when given the ``unevaluated'' argument
expressions.  @code{funcall} cannot provide these because, as we saw
above, it never knows them in the first place.

(setq f 'list)
     @result{} list
@end group
(funcall f 'x 'y 'z)
     @result{} (x y z)
@end group
(funcall f 'x 'y '(z))
     @result{} (x y (z))
@end group
(funcall 'and t nil)
@error{} Invalid function: #<subr and>
@end group
@end example

Compare these examples with the examples of @code{apply}.
@end defun

@defun apply function &rest arguments
@code{apply} calls @var{function} with @var{arguments}, just like
@code{funcall} but with one difference: the last of @var{arguments} is a
list of objects, which are passed to @var{function} as separate
arguments, rather than a single list.  We say that @code{apply}
@dfn{spreads} this list so that each individual element becomes an

@code{apply} returns the result of calling @var{function}.  As with
@code{funcall}, @var{function} must either be a Lisp function or a
primitive function; special forms and macros do not make sense in

(setq f 'list)
     @result{} list
@end group
(apply f 'x 'y 'z)
@error{} Wrong type argument: listp, z
@end group
(apply '+ 1 2 '(3 4))
     @result{} 10
@end group
(apply '+ '(1 2 3 4))
     @result{} 10
@end group

(apply 'append '((a b c) nil (x y z) nil))
     @result{} (a b c x y z)
@end group
@end example

For an interesting example of using @code{apply}, see @ref{Definition
of mapcar}.
@end defun

@cindex functionals
  It is common for Lisp functions to accept functions as arguments or
find them in data structures (especially in hook variables and property
lists) and call them using @code{funcall} or @code{apply}.  Functions
that accept function arguments are often called @dfn{functionals}.

  Sometimes, when you call a functional, it is useful to supply a no-op
function as the argument.  Here are two different kinds of no-op

@defun identity arg
This function returns @var{arg} and has no side effects.
@end defun

@defun ignore &rest args
This function ignores any arguments and returns @code{nil}.
@end defun

@node Mapping Functions
@section Mapping Functions
@cindex mapping functions

  A @dfn{mapping function} applies a given function (@emph{not} a
special form or macro) to each element of a list or other collection.
Emacs Lisp has several such functions; @code{mapcar} and
@code{mapconcat}, which scan a list, are described here.
@xref{Definition of mapatoms}, for the function @code{mapatoms} which
maps over the symbols in an obarray.  @xref{Definition of maphash},
for the function @code{maphash} which maps over key/value associations
in a hash table.

  These mapping functions do not allow char-tables because a char-table
is a sparse array whose nominal range of indices is very large.  To map
over a char-table in a way that deals properly with its sparse nature,
use the function @code{map-char-table} (@pxref{Char-Tables}).

@defun mapcar function sequence
@anchor{Definition of mapcar}
@code{mapcar} applies @var{function} to each element of @var{sequence}
in turn, and returns a list of the results.

The argument @var{sequence} can be any kind of sequence except a
char-table; that is, a list, a vector, a bool-vector, or a string.  The
result is always a list.  The length of the result is the same as the
length of @var{sequence}.  For example:

(mapcar 'car '((a b) (c d) (e f)))
     @result{} (a c e)
(mapcar '1+ [1 2 3])
     @result{} (2 3 4)
(mapcar 'char-to-string "abc")
     @result{} ("a" "b" "c")
@end group

;; @r{Call each function in @code{my-hooks}.}
(mapcar 'funcall my-hooks)
@end group

(defun mapcar* (function &rest args)
  "Apply FUNCTION to successive cars of all ARGS.
Return the list of results."
  ;; @r{If no list is exhausted,}
  (if (not (memq nil args))
      ;; @r{apply function to @sc{car}s.}
      (cons (apply function (mapcar 'car args))
            (apply 'mapcar* function
                   ;; @r{Recurse for rest of elements.}
                   (mapcar 'cdr args)))))
@end group

(mapcar* 'cons '(a b c) '(1 2 3 4))
     @result{} ((a . 1) (b . 2) (c . 3))
@end group
@end smallexample
@end defun

@defun mapc function sequence
@code{mapc} is like @code{mapcar} except that @var{function} is used for
side-effects only---the values it returns are ignored, not collected
into a list.  @code{mapc} always returns @var{sequence}.
@end defun

@defun mapconcat function sequence separator
@code{mapconcat} applies @var{function} to each element of
@var{sequence}: the results, which must be strings, are concatenated.
Between each pair of result strings, @code{mapconcat} inserts the string
@var{separator}.  Usually @var{separator} contains a space or comma or
other suitable punctuation.

The argument @var{function} must be a function that can take one
argument and return a string.  The argument @var{sequence} can be any
kind of sequence except a char-table; that is, a list, a vector, a
bool-vector, or a string.

(mapconcat 'symbol-name
           '(The cat in the hat)
           " ")
     @result{} "The cat in the hat"
@end group

(mapconcat (function (lambda (x) (format "%c" (1+ x))))
     @result{} "IBM.9111"
@end group
@end smallexample
@end defun

@node Anonymous Functions
@section Anonymous Functions
@cindex anonymous function

  In Lisp, a function is a list that starts with @code{lambda}, a
byte-code function compiled from such a list, or alternatively a
primitive subr-object; names are ``extra.''  Although usually functions
are defined with @code{defun} and given names at the same time, it is
occasionally more concise to use an explicit lambda expression---an
anonymous function.  Such a list is valid wherever a function name is.

  Any method of creating such a list makes a valid function.  Even this:

(setq silly (append '(lambda (x)) (list (list '+ (* 3 4) 'x))))
@result{} (lambda (x) (+ 12 x))
@end group
@end smallexample

This computes a list that looks like @code{(lambda (x) (+ 12 x))} and
makes it the value (@emph{not} the function definition!) of

  Here is how we might call this function:

(funcall silly 1)
@result{} 13
@end group
@end example

(It does @emph{not} work to write @code{(silly 1)}, because this function
is not the @emph{function definition} of @code{silly}.  We have not given
@code{silly} any function definition, just a value as a variable.)

  Most of the time, anonymous functions are constants that appear in
your program.  For example, you might want to pass one as an argument to
the function @code{mapcar}, which applies any given function to each
element of a list.

  Here we define a function @code{change-property} which
uses a function as its third argument:

(defun change-property (symbol prop function)
  (let ((value (get symbol prop)))
    (put symbol prop (funcall function value))))
@end group
@end example

Here we define a function that uses @code{change-property},
passing it a function to double a number:

(defun double-property (symbol prop)
  (change-property symbol prop '(lambda (x) (* 2 x))))
@end group
@end example

In such cases, we usually use the special form @code{function} instead
of simple quotation to quote the anonymous function, like this:

(defun double-property (symbol prop)
  (change-property symbol prop
                   (function (lambda (x) (* 2 x)))))
@end group
@end example

Using @code{function} instead of @code{quote} makes a difference if you
compile the function @code{double-property}.  For example, if you
compile the second definition of @code{double-property}, the anonymous
function is compiled as well.  By contrast, if you compile the first
definition which uses ordinary @code{quote}, the argument passed to
@code{change-property} is the precise list shown:

(lambda (x) (* x 2))
@end example

The Lisp compiler cannot assume this list is a function, even though it
looks like one, since it does not know what @code{change-property} will
do with the list.  Perhaps it will check whether the @sc{car} of the third
element is the symbol @code{*}!  Using @code{function} tells the
compiler it is safe to go ahead and compile the constant function.

  Nowadays it is possible to omit @code{function} entirely, like this:

(defun double-property (symbol prop)
  (change-property symbol prop (lambda (x) (* 2 x))))
@end group
@end example

This is because @code{lambda} itself implies @code{function}.

  We sometimes write @code{function} instead of @code{quote} when
quoting the name of a function, but this usage is just a sort of

(function @var{symbol}) @equiv{} (quote @var{symbol}) @equiv{} '@var{symbol}
@end example

@cindex @samp{#'} syntax
  The read syntax @code{#'} is a short-hand for using @code{function}.
For example,

#'(lambda (x) (* x x))
@end example

is equivalent to

(function (lambda (x) (* x x)))
@end example

@defspec function function-object
@cindex function quoting
This special form returns @var{function-object} without evaluating it.
In this, it is equivalent to @code{quote}.  However, it serves as a
note to the Emacs Lisp compiler that @var{function-object} is intended
to be used only as a function, and therefore can safely be compiled.
Contrast this with @code{quote}, in @ref{Quoting}.
@end defspec

  @xref{describe-symbols example}, for a realistic example using
@code{function} and an anonymous function.

@node Function Cells
@section Accessing Function Cell Contents

  The @dfn{function definition} of a symbol is the object stored in the
function cell of the symbol.  The functions described here access, test,
and set the function cell of symbols.

  See also the function @code{indirect-function}.  @xref{Definition of

@defun symbol-function symbol
@kindex void-function
This returns the object in the function cell of @var{symbol}.  If the
symbol's function cell is void, a @code{void-function} error is

This function does not check that the returned object is a legitimate

(defun bar (n) (+ n 2))
     @result{} bar
@end group
(symbol-function 'bar)
     @result{} (lambda (n) (+ n 2))
@end group
(fset 'baz 'bar)
     @result{} bar
@end group
(symbol-function 'baz)
     @result{} bar
@end group
@end example
@end defun

@cindex void function cell
  If you have never given a symbol any function definition, we say that
that symbol's function cell is @dfn{void}.  In other words, the function
cell does not have any Lisp object in it.  If you try to call such a symbol
as a function, it signals a @code{void-function} error.

  Note that void is not the same as @code{nil} or the symbol
@code{void}.  The symbols @code{nil} and @code{void} are Lisp objects,
and can be stored into a function cell just as any other object can be
(and they can be valid functions if you define them in turn with
@code{defun}).  A void function cell contains no object whatsoever.

  You can test the voidness of a symbol's function definition with
@code{fboundp}.  After you have given a symbol a function definition, you
can make it void once more using @code{fmakunbound}.

@defun fboundp symbol
This function returns @code{t} if the symbol has an object in its
function cell, @code{nil} otherwise.  It does not check that the object
is a legitimate function.
@end defun

@defun fmakunbound symbol
This function makes @var{symbol}'s function cell void, so that a
subsequent attempt to access this cell will cause a
@code{void-function} error.  It returns @var{symbol}.  (See also
@code{makunbound}, in @ref{Void Variables}.)

(defun foo (x) x)
     @result{} foo
@end group
(foo 1)
@end group
(fmakunbound 'foo)
     @result{} foo
@end group
(foo 1)
@error{} Symbol's function definition is void: foo
@end group
@end example
@end defun

@defun fset symbol definition
This function stores @var{definition} in the function cell of
@var{symbol}.  The result is @var{definition}.  Normally
@var{definition} should be a function or the name of a function, but
this is not checked.  The argument @var{symbol} is an ordinary evaluated

There are three normal uses of this function:

@itemize @bullet
Copying one symbol's function definition to another---in other words,
making an alternate name for a function.  (If you think of this as the
definition of the new name, you should use @code{defalias} instead of
@code{fset}; see @ref{Definition of defalias}.)

Giving a symbol a function definition that is not a list and therefore
cannot be made with @code{defun}.  For example, you can use @code{fset}
to give a symbol @code{s1} a function definition which is another symbol
@code{s2}; then @code{s1} serves as an alias for whatever definition
@code{s2} presently has.  (Once again use @code{defalias} instead of
@code{fset} if you think of this as the definition of @code{s1}.)

In constructs for defining or altering functions.  If @code{defun}
were not a primitive, it could be written in Lisp (as a macro) using
@end itemize

Here are examples of these uses:

;; @r{Save @code{foo}'s definition in @code{old-foo}.}
(fset 'old-foo (symbol-function 'foo))
@end group

;; @r{Make the symbol @code{car} the function definition of @code{xfirst}.}
;; @r{(Most likely, @code{defalias} would be better than @code{fset} here.)}
(fset 'xfirst 'car)
     @result{} car
@end group
(xfirst '(1 2 3))
     @result{} 1
@end group
(symbol-function 'xfirst)
     @result{} car
@end group
(symbol-function (symbol-function 'xfirst))
     @result{} #<subr car>
@end group

;; @r{Define a named keyboard macro.}
(fset 'kill-two-lines "\^u2\^k")
     @result{} "\^u2\^k"
@end group

;; @r{Here is a function that alters other functions.}
(defun copy-function-definition (new old)
  "Define NEW with the same function definition as OLD."
  (fset new (symbol-function old)))
@end group
@end example
@end defun

  @code{fset} is sometimes used to save the old definition of a
function before redefining it.  That permits the new definition to
invoke the old definition.  But it is unmodular and unclean for a Lisp
file to redefine a function defined elsewhere.  If you want to modify
a function defined by another package, it is cleaner to use
@code{defadvice} (@pxref{Advising Functions}).

@node Obsolete Functions
@section Declaring Functions Obsolete

You can use @code{make-obsolete} to declare a function obsolete.  This
indicates that the function may be removed at some stage in the future.

@defun make-obsolete obsolete-name current-name &optional when
This function makes the byte compiler warn that the function
@var{obsolete-name} is obsolete.  If @var{current-name} is a symbol, the
warning message says to use @var{current-name} instead of
@var{obsolete-name}.  @var{current-name} does not need to be an alias for
@var{obsolete-name}; it can be a different function with similar
functionality.  If @var{current-name} is a string, it is the warning

If provided, @var{when} should be a string indicating when the function
was first made obsolete---for example, a date or a release number.
@end defun

You can define a function as an alias and declare it obsolete at the
same time using the macro @code{define-obsolete-function-alias}.

@defmac define-obsolete-function-alias obsolete-name current-name &optional when docstring
This macro marks the function @var{obsolete-name} obsolete and also
defines it as an alias for the function @var{current-name}.  It is
equivalent to the following:

(defalias @var{obsolete-name} @var{current-name} @var{docstring})
(make-obsolete @var{obsolete-name} @var{current-name} @var{when})
@end example
@end defmac

@node Inline Functions
@section Inline Functions
@cindex inline functions

@findex defsubst
You can define an @dfn{inline function} by using @code{defsubst} instead
of @code{defun}.  An inline function works just like an ordinary
function except for one thing: when you compile a call to the function,
the function's definition is open-coded into the caller.

Making a function inline makes explicit calls run faster.  But it also
has disadvantages.  For one thing, it reduces flexibility; if you
change the definition of the function, calls already inlined still use
the old definition until you recompile them.

Another disadvantage is that making a large function inline can increase
the size of compiled code both in files and in memory.  Since the speed
advantage of inline functions is greatest for small functions, you
generally should not make large functions inline.

Also, inline functions do not behave well with respect to debugging,
tracing, and advising (@pxref{Advising Functions}).  Since ease of
debugging and the flexibility of redefining functions are important
features of Emacs, you should not make a function inline, even if it's
small, unless its speed is really crucial, and you've timed the code
to verify that using @code{defun} actually has performance problems.

It's possible to define a macro to expand into the same code that an
inline function would execute.  (@xref{Macros}.)  But the macro would be
limited to direct use in expressions---a macro cannot be called with
@code{apply}, @code{mapcar} and so on.  Also, it takes some work to
convert an ordinary function into a macro.  To convert it into an inline
function is very easy; simply replace @code{defun} with @code{defsubst}.
Since each argument of an inline function is evaluated exactly once, you
needn't worry about how many times the body uses the arguments, as you
do for macros.  (@xref{Argument Evaluation}.)

Inline functions can be used and open-coded later on in the same file,
following the definition, just like macros.

@node Function Safety
@section Determining whether a Function is Safe to Call
@cindex function safety
@cindex safety of functions

Some major modes such as SES call functions that are stored in user
files.  (@inforef{Top, ,ses}, for more information on SES.)  User
files sometimes have poor pedigrees---you can get a spreadsheet from
someone you've just met, or you can get one through email from someone
you've never met.  So it is risky to call a function whose source code
is stored in a user file until you have determined that it is safe.

@defun unsafep form &optional unsafep-vars
Returns @code{nil} if @var{form} is a @dfn{safe} Lisp expression, or
returns a list that describes why it might be unsafe.  The argument
@var{unsafep-vars} is a list of symbols known to have temporary
bindings at this point; it is mainly used for internal recursive
calls.  The current buffer is an implicit argument, which provides a
list of buffer-local bindings.
@end defun

Being quick and simple, @code{unsafep} does a very light analysis and
rejects many Lisp expressions that are actually safe.  There are no
known cases where @code{unsafep} returns @code{nil} for an unsafe
expression.  However, a ``safe'' Lisp expression can return a string
with a @code{display} property, containing an associated Lisp
expression to be executed after the string is inserted into a buffer.
This associated expression can be a virus.  In order to be safe, you
must delete properties from all strings calculated by user code before
inserting them into buffers.

What is a safe Lisp expression?  Basically, it's an expression that
calls only built-in functions with no side effects (or only innocuous
ones).  Innocuous side effects include displaying messages and
altering non-risky buffer-local variables (but not global variables).

@table @dfn
@item Safe expression
An atom or quoted thing.
A call to a safe function (see below), if all its arguments are
safe expressions.
One of the special forms @code{and}, @code{catch}, @code{cond},
@code{if}, @code{or}, @code{prog1}, @code{prog2}, @code{progn},
@code{while}, and @code{unwind-protect}], if all its arguments are
A form that creates temporary bindings (@code{condition-case},
@code{dolist}, @code{dotimes}, @code{lambda}, @code{let}, or
@code{let*}), if all args are safe and the symbols to be bound are not
explicitly risky (see @pxref{File Local Variables}).
An assignment using @code{add-to-list}, @code{setq}, @code{push}, or
@code{pop}, if all args are safe and the symbols to be assigned are
not explicitly risky and they already have temporary or buffer-local
One of [apply, mapc, mapcar, mapconcat] if the first argument is a
safe explicit lambda and the other args are safe expressions.
@end itemize

@item Safe function
A lambda containing safe expressions.
A symbol on the list @code{safe-functions}, so the user says it's safe.
A symbol with a non-@code{nil} @code{side-effect-free} property.
A symbol with a non-@code{nil} @code{safe-function} property.  Value t
indicates a function that is safe but has innocuous side effects.
Other values will someday indicate functions with classes of side
effects that are not always safe.
@end itemize

The @code{side-effect-free} and @code{safe-function} properties are
provided for built-in functions and for low-level functions and macros
defined in @file{subr.el}.  You can assign these properties for the
functions you write.
@end table
@end ignore

@node Related Topics
@section Other Topics Related to Functions

  Here is a table of several functions that do things related to
function calling and function definitions.  They are documented
elsewhere, but we provide cross references here.

@table @code
@item apply
See @ref{Calling Functions}.

@item autoload
See @ref{Autoload}.

@item call-interactively
See @ref{Interactive Call}.

@item commandp
See @ref{Interactive Call}.

@item documentation
See @ref{Accessing Documentation}.

@item eval
See @ref{Eval}.

@item funcall
See @ref{Calling Functions}.

@item function
See @ref{Anonymous Functions}.

@item ignore
See @ref{Calling Functions}.

@item indirect-function
See @ref{Function Indirection}.

@item interactive
See @ref{Using Interactive}.

@item interactive-p
See @ref{Interactive Call}.

@item mapatoms
See @ref{Creating Symbols}.

@item mapcar
See @ref{Mapping Functions}.

@item map-char-table
See @ref{Char-Tables}.

@item mapconcat
See @ref{Mapping Functions}.

@item undefined
See @ref{Functions for Key Lookup}.
@end table

   arch-tag: 39100cdf-8a55-4898-acba-595db619e8e2
@end ignore