Templates and Snippets in Emacs

30 August 2020

I was only trying to write that last article, but it took me days to finally do it. I had so much work to do before I got there.

I had come to appreciate Emacs automatically inserting the boilerplate namespace declarations in new Clojure files, and I really thought I needed such convenience for my blog posts written in AsciiDoc in JBake. I dove down a 20-tab-deep, yak-shaving hole to get it done. [1]

I had to figure out the right search terms and names for what Emacs was doing for me. I finally found yatemplate which seems similar to yasnippets. Spacemacs has the templates layer for integrating yatemplate support, so I added that layer and created a template for my adoc files in my .emacs.d directory. My simple case worked, but I recognized that I’ll want that template on all my machines, so having a local copy of it wouldn’t cut it. I needed a way to check-in and version more Emacs/Spacemacs files than just my ~/.spacemacs files I was previously distributing.

I learned yasnippets would default to looking in ~/.spacemacs.d/ if the configuration was in there, so I had to move my ~/.spacemacs file over to ~/.spacemacs.d/init.el. To have the templates layer source templates from the .spacemacs.d directory, it required an extra bit of configuration when introducing it to the dotspacemacs-configuration-layers:

  (templates :variables templates-private-directory "~/.spacemacs.d/templates")

At this point, I could now commit my .spacemacs.d directory with the regular configuration file and the supporting templates and snippets. All those files will be cloned to all my workstations.

I was almost ready to write that article, but yasnippet and yatemplate have this fancy templating language. I’m sure that can make my article-creation even smarter! I read a bit more and found a couple cool elisp functions for automatically filling in the date and building a title from the file name. With the final enhancements to my adoc template, I could write the article, if I could only remember what I was trying to do in the first place. I hope to at least remember how to use these snippets and templates for future work.

1. I often measure task complexity in the number of tabs I end up having opened.

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August 2020