(lispref.info)Setting Variables


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How to Alter a Variable Value
=============================

   The usual way to change the value of a variable is with the special
form `setq'.  When you need to compute the choice of variable at run
time, use the function `set'.

 - Special Form: setq [SYMBOL FORM]...
     This special form is the most common method of changing a
     variable's value.  Each SYMBOL is given a new value, which is the
     result of evaluating the corresponding FORM.  The most-local
     existing binding of the symbol is changed.

     The value of the `setq' form is the value of the last FORM.

          (setq x (1+ 2))
               => 3
          x                   ; `x' now has a global value.
               => 3
          (let ((x 5))
            (setq x 6)        ; The local binding of `x' is set.
            x)
               => 6
          x                   ; The global value is unchanged.
               => 3

     Note that the first FORM is evaluated, then the first SYMBOL is
     set, then the second FORM is evaluated, then the second SYMBOL is
     set, and so on:

          (setq x 10          ; Notice that `x' is set before
                y (1+ x))     ;   the value of `y' is computed.
               => 11

 - Function: set SYMBOL VALUE
     This function sets SYMBOL's value to VALUE, then returns VALUE.
     Since `set' is a function, the expression written for SYMBOL is
     evaluated to obtain the symbol to be set.

     The most-local existing binding of the variable is the binding
     that is set; shadowed bindings are not affected.  If SYMBOL is not
     actually a symbol, a `wrong-type-argument' error is signaled.

          (set one 1)
          error--> Symbol's value as variable is void: one
          (set 'one 1)
               => 1
          (set 'two 'one)
               => one
          (set two 2)         ; `two' evaluates to symbol `one'.
               => 2
          one                 ; So it is `one' that was set.
               => 2
          (let ((one 1))      ; This binding of `one' is set,
            (set 'one 3)      ;   not the global value.
            one)
               => 3
          one
               => 2

     Logically speaking, `set' is a more fundamental primitive that
     `setq'.  Any use of `setq' can be trivially rewritten to use
     `set'; `setq' could even be defined as a macro, given the
     availability of `set'.  However, `set' itself is rarely used;
     beginners hardly need to know about it.  It is needed only when the
     choice of variable to be set is made at run time.  For example, the
     command `set-variable', which reads a variable name from the user
     and then sets the variable, needs to use `set'.

          Common Lisp note: in Common Lisp, `set' always changes the
          symbol's special value, ignoring any lexical bindings.  In
          Emacs Lisp, all variables and all bindings are special, so
          `set' always affects the most local existing binding.


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