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20.4 Distinguish Interactive Calls

Sometimes a command should display additional visual feedback (such as an informative message in the echo area) for interactive calls only. There are three ways to do this. The recommended way to test whether the function was called using call-interactively is to give it an optional argument print-message and use the interactive spec to make it non-nil in interactive calls. Here’s an example:

(defun foo (&optional print-message)
  (interactive "p")
  (when print-message
    (message "foo")))

We use "p" because the numeric prefix argument is never nil. Defined in this way, the function does display the message when called from a keyboard macro.

The above method with the additional argument is usually best, because it allows callers to say “treat this call as interactive”. But you can also do the job by testing called-interactively-p.

Function: called-interactively-p kind

This function returns t when the calling function was called using call-interactively.

The argument kind should be either the symbol interactive or the symbol any. If it is interactive, then called-interactively-p returns t only if the call was made directly by the user—e.g., if the user typed a key sequence bound to the calling function, but not if the user ran a keyboard macro that called the function (see Keyboard Macros). If kind is any, called-interactively-p returns t for any kind of interactive call, including keyboard macros.

If in doubt, use any; the only known proper use of interactive is if you need to decide whether to display a helpful message while a function is running.

A function is never considered to be called interactively if it was called via Lisp evaluation (or with apply or funcall).

Here is an example of using called-interactively-p:

(defun foo ()
  (when (called-interactively-p 'any)
    (message "Interactive!")
;; Type M-x foo.
     -| Interactive!
     ⇒ nil

Here is another example that contrasts direct and indirect calls to called-interactively-p.

(defun bar ()
  (message "%s" (list (foo) (called-interactively-p 'any))))
;; Type M-x bar.
     -| (nil t)

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