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5.5 Modifying List Variables

These functions, and one macro, provide convenient ways to modify a list which is stored in a variable.

macro push element listname

This macro creates a new list whose CAR is element and whose CDR is the list specified by listname, and saves that list in listname. In the simplest case, listname is an unquoted symbol naming a list, and this macro is equivalent to (setq listname (cons element listname)).

(setq l '(a b))
⇒ (a b)
(push 'c l)
⇒ (c a b)
l
⇒ (c a b)

More generally, listname can be a generalized variable. In that case, this macro does the equivalent of (setf listname (cons element listname)). See Generalized Variables.

For the pop macro, which removes the first element from a list, See List Elements.

Two functions modify lists that are the values of variables.

function add-to-list symbol element \&optional append compare-fn

This function sets the variable symbol by consing element onto the old value, if element is not already a member of that value. It returns the resulting list, whether updated or not. The value of symbol had better be a list already before the call. add-to-list uses compare-fn to compare element against existing list members; if compare-fn is nil, it uses equal.

Normally, if element is added, it is added to the front of symbol, but if the optional argument append is non-nil, it is added at the end.

The argument symbol is not implicitly quoted; add-to-list is an ordinary function, like set and unlike setq. Quote the argument yourself if that is what you want.

Do not use this function when symbol refers to a lexical variable.

Here’s a scenario showing how to use add-to-list:

(setq foo '(a b))
⇒ (a b)

(add-to-list 'foo 'c) ;; Add c.
⇒ (c a b)

(add-to-list 'foo 'b) ;; No effect.
⇒ (c a b)

foo ;; foo was changed.
⇒ (c a b)

An equivalent expression for (add-to-list 'var value) is this:

(if (member value var)
var
(setq var (cons value var)))

function add-to-ordered-list symbol element \&optional order

This function sets the variable symbol by inserting element into the old value, which must be a list, at the position specified by order. If element is already a member of the list, its position in the list is adjusted according to order. Membership is tested using eq. This function returns the resulting list, whether updated or not.

The order is typically a number (integer or float), and the elements of the list are sorted in non-decreasing numerical order.

order may also be omitted or nil. Then the numeric order of element stays unchanged if it already has one; otherwise, element has no numeric order. Elements without a numeric list order are placed at the end of the list, in no particular order.

Any other value for order removes the numeric order of element if it already has one; otherwise, it is equivalent to nil.

The argument symbol is not implicitly quoted; add-to-ordered-list is an ordinary function, like set and unlike setq. Quote the argument yourself if necessary.

The ordering information is stored in a hash table on symbol’s list-order property. symbol cannot refer to a lexical variable.

Here’s a scenario showing how to use add-to-ordered-list:

(setq foo '())
⇒ nil

(add-to-ordered-list 'foo 'a 1) ;; Add a.
⇒ (a)

(add-to-ordered-list 'foo 'c 3) ;; Add c.
⇒ (a c)

(add-to-ordered-list 'foo 'b 2) ;; Add b.
⇒ (a b c)

(add-to-ordered-list 'foo 'b 4) ;; Move b.
⇒ (a c b)

(add-to-ordered-list 'foo 'd) ;; Append d.
⇒ (a c b d)

(add-to-ordered-list 'foo 'e) ;; Add e.
⇒ (a c b e d)

foo ;; foo was changed.
⇒ (a c b e d)