Emacs - Evil :set option

07. 08. 2022 | Jakub Kadlčík | EN emacs vim evil

Do you miss all the easy-to-use :set commands from Vim? You know, :set wrap, :set number, :set colorcolumn, :set expandtab, etc.

Narcissistic rant

Even though the Evil project itself doesn’t claim any such title, urban legends say that Evil is the best Vim emulator ever implemented. Naturally, my expectations were high. And yet, I was blown away. Evil does everything perfectly (or at least well enough to fool me) - modes, macros, window management, plugins, colon commands (although not all of them are implemented - I am looking at you :retab).

For me, the only major letdown was missing support for :set options such as :set wrap, :set number, and so on. Of course, Emacs has its own commands for achieving the same behavior. My issue is simply the non-existing:set command and, therefore, inability to use the options that I already know.

Introducing evil-set-option

For this reason, I created evil-set-option.

Click, it's a gif!


Use Quelpa (or any package manager that you prefer) to install the package.

(use-package evil-set-option
  :ensure t
  :quelpa (evil-set-option
           :fetcher github
           :repo "FrostyX/evil-set-option"
           :branch "main")

And now you can run your favorite :set commands.

:set wrap
:set number
:set colorcolumn=80

Supported options

Currently, only a dozen of options that seemed to be the most popular, are supported. Vim comes with hundreds of options, and for understandable reasons, I wasn’t going to implement all of them within the first release. Please let me know what are your favorite options that we simply must have.

The list of all currently supported options can be found here.

Custom option behavior

Sometimes the default implementation of an option might not be applicable. You might want to use a different mode that suits your build more, you might run an older version of Emacs, that doesn’t support some modes, etc. In such cases, you can override the default implementation.

;; The default implementation for `:set number' uses
;; `display-line-numbers-mode' which is available since Emacs 26.
;; See https://www.emacswiki.org/emacs/LineNumbers
;; You can override it to use `linum-mode' instead

(defun evil-set-option-number (value)
  (linum-mode (if value 1 0)))

Future plans

I have a bigger picture in mind. The evil-set-option package won’t get bloated with another functionality apart from supporting more and more options. My plan is to create a new package called evil-vimrc that will provide the ability to parse a .vimrc file - although very naively. VimL is a full-featured scripting language and it would require executing the config file code to parse the options accurately. I don’t think that would be time worth spending. A dummy implementation that parses all set statements is still going to be useful in many cases.

The hypothetical usage will look like this

(evil-vimrc-load "~/.vimrc")

And the ~/.vimrc as expected.

set nocompatible
set nowrap
set title
set expandtab

Or alternativelly, defining the .vimrc configuration within Emacs Lisp.

 (:set nocompatible)
 (:set nowrap)
 (:set title)
 (:set expandtab))

Stay tuned.