(lispref.info)Programmed Completion

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Programmed Completion

   Sometimes it is not possible to create an alist or an obarray
containing all the intended possible completions.  In such a case, you
can supply your own function to compute the completion of a given
string.  This is called "programmed completion".

   To use this feature, pass a symbol with a function definition as the
COLLECTION argument to `completing-read'.  This command arranges to
pass the function along to `try-completion' and `all-completions',
which will then let your function do all the work.

   The completion function should accept three arguments:

   * The string to be completed.

   * The predicate function to filter possible matches, or `nil' if
     none.  Your function should call the predicate for each possible
     match and ignore the possible match if the predicate returns `nil'.

   * A flag specifying the type of operation.

   There are three flag values for three operations:

   * `nil' specifies `try-completion'.  The completion function should
     return the completion of the specified string, or `t' if the
     string is an exact match already, or `nil' if the string matches no

   * `t' specifies `all-completions'.  The completion function should
     return a list of all possible completions of the specified string.

   * `lambda' specifies a test for an exact match.  The completion
     function should return `t' if the specified string is an exact
     match for some possibility; `nil' otherwise.

   It would be consistent and clean for completion functions to allow
lambda expressions (lists which are functions) as well as function
symbols as COLLECTION, but this is impossible.  Lists as completion
tables are already assigned another meaning--as alists.  It would be
unreliable to fail to handle an alist normally because it is also a
possible function.  So you must arrange for any function you wish to
use for completion to be encapsulated in a symbol.

   Emacs uses programmed completion when completing file names.  *Note
File Name Completion::.

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