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22.2.4 Defining Derived Modes

The recommended way to define a new major mode is to derive it from an existing one using define-derived-mode. If there is no closely related mode, you should inherit from either text-mode, special-mode, or prog-mode. See Basic Major Modes. If none of these are suitable, you can inherit from fundamental-mode (see Major Modes).

Macro: define-derived-mode variant parent name docstring keyword-args… body…

This macro defines variant as a major mode command, using name as the string form of the mode name. variant and parent should be unquoted symbols.

The new command variant is defined to call the function parent, then override certain aspects of that parent mode:

In addition, you can specify how to override other aspects of parent with body. The command variant evaluates the forms in body after setting up all its usual overrides, just before running the mode hooks.

If parent has a non-nil mode-class symbol property, then define-derived-mode sets the mode-class property of variant to the same value. This ensures, for example, that if parent is a special mode, then variant is also a special mode (see Major Mode Conventions).

You can also specify nil for parent. This gives the new mode no parent. Then define-derived-mode behaves as described above, but, of course, omits all actions connected with parent.

The argument docstring specifies the documentation string for the new mode. define-derived-mode adds some general information about the mode’s hook, followed by the mode’s keymap, at the end of this documentation string. If you omit docstring, define-derived-mode generates a documentation string.

The keyword-args are pairs of keywords and values. The values are evaluated. The following keywords are currently supported:


You can use this to explicitly specify a syntax table for the new mode. If you specify a nil value, the new mode uses the same syntax table as parent, or the standard syntax table if parent is nil. (Note that this does not follow the convention used for non-keyword arguments that a nil value is equivalent with not specifying the argument.)


You can use this to explicitly specify an abbrev table for the new mode. If you specify a nil value, the new mode uses the same abbrev table as parent, or fundamental-mode-abbrev-table if parent is nil. (Again, a nil value is not equivalent to not specifying this keyword.)


If this is specified, the value should be the customization group for this mode. (Not all major modes have one.) Only the (still experimental and unadvertised) command customize-mode currently uses this. define-derived-mode does not automatically define the specified customization group.

Here is a hypothetical example:

(define-derived-mode hypertext-mode
  text-mode "Hypertext"
  "Major mode for hypertext.
  (setq case-fold-search nil))

(define-key hypertext-mode-map
  [down-mouse-3] 'do-hyper-link)

Do not write an interactive spec in the definition; define-derived-mode does that automatically.

Function: derived-mode-p &rest modes

This function returns non-nil if the current major mode is derived from any of the major modes given by the symbols modes.

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