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29.15 Mouse Tracking

Sometimes it is useful to track the mouse, which means to display something to indicate where the mouse is and move the indicator as the mouse moves. For efficient mouse tracking, you need a way to wait until the mouse actually moves.

The convenient way to track the mouse is to ask for events to represent mouse motion. Then you can wait for motion by waiting for an event. In addition, you can easily handle any other sorts of events that may occur. That is useful, because normally you don’t want to track the mouse forever—only until some other event, such as the release of a button.

macro track-mouse body…

This macro executes body, with generation of mouse motion events enabled. Typically, body would use read-event to read the motion events and modify the display accordingly. See Motion Events, for the format of mouse motion events.

The value of track-mouse is that of the last form in body. You should design body to return when it sees the up-event that indicates the release of the button, or whatever kind of event means it is time to stop tracking.

The track-mouse form causes Emacs to generate mouse motion events by binding the variable track-mouse to a non-nil value. If that variable has the special value dragging, it additionally instructs the display engine to refrain from changing the shape of the mouse pointer. This is desirable in Lisp programs that require mouse dragging across large portions of Emacs display, which might otherwise cause the mouse pointer to change its shape according to the display portion it hovers on (see Pointer Shape). Therefore, Lisp programs that need the mouse pointer to retain its original shape during dragging should bind track-mouse to the value dragging at the beginning of their body.

The usual purpose of tracking mouse motion is to indicate on the screen the consequences of pushing or releasing a button at the current position.

In many cases, you can avoid the need to track the mouse by using the mouse-face text property (see Special Properties). That works at a much lower level and runs more smoothly than Lisp-level mouse tracking.