Eclipse to Emacs: Navigating your source tree

Posted: - Modified: | emacs

Two other things I like about the Eclipse development environment are the ability to jump to a function definition and the ability to open any resource in the workspace. Fortunately, these shortcuts are easy to duplicate in Emacs.

Exuberant Ctags is a utility that builds an index of the function definitions in your source code. You can use this index to jump to any function definition using editors such as vi or emacs. To index your Drupal source code, for example, go to the root of your source directory and use a command like this:

find . -name \*.module -o -name \*.php -o -name \*.inc -o -name \*.install -o -name \*.engine -o -name \*.profile | etags -l php -

To use this index in Emacs, add the following code to your ~/.emacs, changing drupal-project-path as necessary:

(defvar drupal-project-path "~/proj/example" "*Base path for your project")

(require 'etags)
(setq tags-file-name (expand-file-name "TAGS" drupal-project-path))

Evaluate the code. You can then use M-. (find-tag) to jump to the declaration of a function in your project.

To open any resource in your source tree with a few keystrokes, index the files with filecache and use ido to open the file. Ido is well worth learning how to use. Here’s the code I use, taken almost directly from the filecache documentation:

(require 'filecache)
(require 'ido)
(defun file-cache-ido-find-file (file)
  "Using ido, interactively open file from file cache'.
First select a file, matched using ido-switch-buffer against the contents
in `file-cache-alist'. If the file exist in more than one
directory, select directory. Lastly the file is opened."
  (interactive (list (file-cache-ido-read "File: "
                                           (lambda (x)
                                             (car x))
  (let* ((record (assoc file file-cache-alist)))
      (if (= (length record) 2)
          (car (cdr record))
         (format "Find %s in dir: " file) (cdr record)))))))

(defun file-cache-ido-read (prompt choices)
  (let ((ido-make-buffer-list-hook
	 (lambda ()
	   (setq ido-temp-list choices))))
    (ido-read-buffer prompt)))

(ido-mode t)
;; Change this to filter out your version control files
(add-to-list 'file-cache-filter-regexps "\\.svn-base$")
(if drupal-project-path
    (file-cache-add-directory-using-find drupal-project-path))

(global-set-key (kbd "ESC ESC f") 'file-cache-ido-find-file)

This turns ESC ESC f into a handy shortcut for finding files anywhere in your project tree. Read the source code (ido.el) for more information on ido shortcuts.

Good luck and have fun!

(UPDATE: Added “.” to the find command – two people suggested it! =) )
(UPDATE: Forced etags to detect files as php and added .engine and .profile to the list of extensions)
(UPDATE: Added version control filter for file-cache)

You can comment with Disqus or you can e-mail me at