NonGNU ELPA - annotate


annotate files without changing them
annotate-1.8.0.tar, 2022-Sep-30, 950 KiB
Bastian Bechtold <>, cage <>
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To install this package, run in Emacs:

M-x package-install RET annotate RET

Full description

1 introduction

This package provides a minor mode annotate-mode, which can add annotations to arbitrary files without changing the files themselves. This is very useful for code reviews. When annotate-mode is active, C-c C-a will create, edit, or delete annotations.


2 Usage

2.1 Quick start

With an active region, C-c C-a creates a new annotation for that region. With no active region, C-c C-a will create an annotation for the word under point. If point is on an annotated region, C-c C-a will edit that annotation instead of creating a new one. Typing C-c C-d or clearing the annotation deletes them.

Use C-c ] to jump to the next annotation and C-c [ to jump to the previous annotation.

2.2 Metadata

The current database for annotations is contained in the file indicated by the variable annotate-file (~/.emacs.d/annotations by default) but each user can change this value in a dynamic way using the command annotate-switch-db. This command will take care to refresh/redraw all annotations in the buffers that uses annotate-mode.

The database holds the hash of each annotated file so it can print a warning if the file has been modified outside Emacs (for example).

Warning can be suppressed setting the variable annotate-warn-if-hash-mismatch to nil.

Please note that switching database, in this context, means rebinding the aforementioned variable (annotate-file). This means than no more than a single database can be active for each Emacs session.

If an empty annotation database (in memory) is saved the database file is deleted instead, if annotate-database-confirm-deletion is non nil (the default) a confirmation action is asked to the user before actually remove the file from the file system.

  1. related customizable variable
    • annotate-file
    • annotate-warn-if-hash-mismatch
    • annotate-database-confirm-deletion
2.2.1 Non centralized database

To use multiple database in the same Emacs session annotate-file should be made buffer-local, see: this thread and, in particular this message.

Finally, if the customizable variable annotate-file-buffer-local is non-nil (default nil), for each annotated file an annotation database is saved under the same directory that contains the annotated file.

The name of the annotation database is built concatenating the name of the annotated file without the optional extension and the string value bound to the customizable variable annotate-buffer-local-database-extension (default: notes), example follows:

annotated file annotations file
/home/user/foo.c /home/user/foo.notes

Important note: if /home/user/foo.notes exists, will be overwritten.

  1. related customizable variable
    • annotate-file-buffer-local
    • annotate-buffer-local-database-extension
2.2.2 Uninstalling

Users of no-littering can take advantage of its packages generated files management.

2.3 keybindings

2.3.1 C-c C-a (function annotate-annotate)

Creates a new annotation for that region. With no active region, C-c C-a will create an annotation for the word under point. If point is on an annotated region, C-c C-a will edit that annotation instead of creating a new one. Clearing the annotation deletes them.

If annotate-annotation-confirm-deletion is non nil (the default is nil) a confirmation action is asked, using y-or-n-p, to the user before actually remove the annotation.

If point is the newline character and the customizable variable annotate-endline-annotate-whole-line is not nil (default is non nil) the whole line is annotated (or the next if the line is empty).

If the line contains a single annotation that cover all the line annotating the newline Will ask to edit the annotation. If annotate-endline-annotate-whole-line is nil annotating a newline will signal an error.

  1. related customizable variable
    • annotate-annotation-column;
    • annotate-annotation-confirm-deletion;
    • annotate-annotation-max-size-not-place-new-line;
    • annotate-annotation-position-policy;
    • annotate-annotation-secondary;
    • annotate-annotation;
    • annotate-endline-annotate-whole-line;
    • annotate-highlight-secondary;
    • annotate-highlight.
2.3.2 C-c C-d

Delete an annotation under point, if such annotation exists.

If annotate-annotation-confirm-deletion is non nil (the default is nil) a confirmation action is asked, using y-or-n-p, to the user before actually remove the annotation.

  1. related customizable variable
    • annotate-annotation-confirm-deletion.
2.3.3 C-c ] (function annotate-goto-next-annotation)

Jump to the next annotation.

2.3.4 C-c [ (function annotate-goto-previous-annotation)

Jump to the previous annotation.

2.3.5 C-c C-s (function annotate-show-annotation-summary)

Show summary window.

A window with a list of annotated files together with their annotations is shown. If annotate-summary-ask-query is non nil (default is t) then a prompt is shown where the user can insert a query to filter the annotation database, see "Query Language" below.

The summary window allow editing and removing of annotation using the provided buttons.

The annotation text can be pressed to and will open the annotated file, placing the cursor at the point where the corresponding annotated text appears.

  1. related customizable variable
    • annotate-summary-ask-query.

3 Exporting

Annotations can be exported annotate-export-annotations as commented unified diffs, like this:


Alternatively, they can be integrated annotate-integrate-annotations as comments into the current buffer, like this:


  1. related customizable variable
    • annotate-integrate-marker
    • annotate-diff-export-options
    • annotate-integrate-highlight
    • annotate-fallback-comment

4 Importing

An annotation database file can be imported using the command annotate-import-annotations.

When importing, overlapping annotations will be merged in a single annotation with the new annotated text that maximizes the portion of text annotated, e.g.

The quick brown fox ← text
 ^^^^^^^^           ← first annotation
      ********      ← second annotation
 +++++++++++++      ← merged annotation

The text of the merged annotation is the concatenated text of the two annotations.

Note that importing a database will modify permanently the file bound to the variable annotate-file. If unsure of the results, backup that file before importing.

  1. related customizable variable
    • annotate-database-confirm-import.

5 Alternative visualization of annotations

For typographically difficult scenarios (or just because you prefer it), such as variable-width fonts or overlay-heavy modes, the default visualization system that renders the annotation into the buffer could not properly works.

In this case the users can switch to a "pop-up" style annotation setting to a non-nil value the variable annotate-use-echo-area.

When such variable's value is not null, moving the mouse pointer over the annotated text will temporary show the annotation.

The actual visuals of this "pop-up" can be different depending of your system's setup (see this pull request for a couple of examples.

Moreover if annotate-use-echo-area and annotate-print-annotation-under-cursor value both non null, placing the cursor over an annotated text region will print the annotation's text in the minibuffer prefixed by the value of customizable variable annotate-print-annotation-under-cursor-prefix.

Another alternative way to show annotations is provided by the command: annotate-summary-of-file-from-current-pos.

Calling this command will show a summary window that prints all the annotations related to annotated text that appears (in the active buffer) beyond the current cursor position.

  1. related customizable variable
    • annotate-use-echo-area
    • annotate-print-annotation-under-cursor
    • annotate-print-annotation-under-cursor-prefix
    • annotate-summary-of-file-from-current-pos.

6 Other commands

6.1 annotate-switch-db

This command will ask the user for a new annotation database files, load it and refresh all the annotations contained in each buffer where annotate minor mode is active.

See the docstring for more information and this thread for a possible workflow where this command could be useful.

7 More documentation

Please check M-x customize-group RET annotate as there is extensive documentation for each customizable variable.


8.1 Known bugs

  • Annotations in org-mode source blocks will be underlined, but the annotations don't show up. This is likely a fundamental incompatibility with the way source blocks are highlighted and the way annotations are displayed.
  • Because of a limitation in the Emacs display routines scroll-down-line could get stuck on a annotated line. So no fix can be provided by the authors of annotate.el, a possible workaround is to call the command with a numeric prefix equals to one plus the number of annotation text lines below the annotated text.

    For example:

    foo bar baz

    needs a prefix of 2: C-u 2 M-x scroll-down-line

    But note that:

    foo bar baz   annotation

    Needs no prefix.

  • Deleting the first character of an annotated text will remove the annotation (this turned out to be useful, though).

8.2 Report bugs

To report bugs please, point your browser to the issue tracker.

9 Query Language

The summary window can shows results filtered by criteria specified with a very simple query language, the basis syntax for that language is shown below:

[file-mask] [(and | or) [not] regex-note [(and | or) [not] regexp-note ...]]


is a regular expression that should match the path of file the annotation refers to;
and, or, not
you guess? Classics logical operators;
the text of annotation must match this regular expression.

9.1 Examples

lisp$ and TODO

matches the text TODO in all lisp files

Parenthesis can be used for the expression related to the text of annotation, like this:

lisp$ and (TODO or important)

the same as above but checks also for string `important'


matches all the annotation that refers to file in the directory /home/foo

/home/foo/ and not minor

matches all the annotation that refers to file in the directory /home/foo and that not contains the text minor.

.* and "not"

the quotation mark (") can be used to escape strings.

As a shortcut, an empty query will match everything (just press return at prompt).

10 FAQ

Sometimes the package does not respect the customizable variable's value of annotate-annotation-position-policy, is this a bug?

No it is not, when a line which is using a non default font is annotated the software force the :new-line policy, that is the annotation will be displayed on a new line regardless of the value of the variable mentioned in the question.

This is necessary to prevent the annotation to be pushed beyond the window limits if an huge font is used by the annotated text.


This package is released under the MIT license, see file LICENSE

Old versions

annotate-1.7.2.tar.lz2022-Sep-16 646 KiB
annotate-1.7.1.tar.lz2022-Aug-09 646 KiB
annotate-1.7.0.tar.lz2022-Jul-07 646 KiB
annotate-1.6.0.tar.lz2022-Jun-03 644 KiB
annotate-1.5.4.tar.lz2022-Apr-28 644 KiB
annotate-1.5.3.tar.lz2022-Apr-08 644 KiB
annotate-1.5.2.tar.lz2022-Apr-07 643 KiB
annotate-1.5.1.tar.lz2022-Feb-25 643 KiB
annotate-1.5.0.tar.lz2022-Feb-04 643 KiB


2022-09-21 v1.8.0 cage

This version allows printing of the annotation in the minibuffer when the cursor is placed over an annotated text region.

To activate this feature set to non nil the values of these two customizable variables:

  • annotate-use-echo-area
  • annotate-print-annotation-under-cursor
2022-08-02 v1.7.2 cage

This version removed an error signalled when closing an annotated indirect buffer. Instead, when an annotated indirect buffer is killed annotate-mode will clone it into a new regular buffer so that the user can decide to save it in a file or discard it completely.

Thanks JuanManuelM!

2022-08-02 v1.7.1 cage
This version fix a bug that prevented saving some annotations when Emacs was closed.
2022-05-26 v1.7.0 cage
This version no more sets the buffer as modified when the only changes made by the user to such buffer are related to annotations (for example, creating a new annotation or deleting an existing one).
2022-05-26 v1.6.0 cage
This version allows users to instruct the program to generate an annotation database for each annotated file, instead of using a central database that contains all the annotations.
2022-04-23 v1.5.4 cage
This version restored redrawing of annotation when the window is resized.
2022-01-26 v1.5.3 cage
This version fixed the email maintainer list that was previously confusing GNU ELPA building scripts.
2022-01-26 v1.5.2 cage
This version fixed a bug that prevented an annotation to be actually deleted when the only action on the buffer was a single call of the command `annotate-delete-annotation'. Also, again thanks to the help of an Emacs maintainer, the code was simplified and cleaned, and a few of docstring was improved too.
2022-01-26 v1.5.1 cage
This version refactored a lot of code thanks to the suggestions of Emacs maintainer. Several unused variables were removed and some portion of the code was simplified.
2022-01-26 v1.5.0 cage
This version add a new command to import a database file.
2021-09-30 v1.4.3 cage

This is a bugfix release.

The program would keep asking to confirmation for deleting a database file even if such file does not actually exists on the file system.

When the only action on a buffer was deleting an annotation, the buffer was not marked as modified; as a consequence, the deletion would not happens on the database (the database entry for the annotation to be deleted would not be removed from the file) and, when visiting the file, the annotation would be shown again.

2021-09-24 v1.4.2 cage
This version added a new command to delete the annotation under cursor.
2021-05-27 V1.3.1 cage

Bugfix release:

  • The button "[replace]" to edit an annotation from the summary window was not working at all;
  • In certain cases the summary window was rendering wrong text's fragment instead of the text of the annotation.

Many thanks to "glvno" for reporting the aforementioned bugs and testing the patches!

2021-05-07 V1.3.0 cage

This version added a procedure to prevent an empty database to be saved on the user's disk.

Moreover if an empty annotations database is going to overwrite an existing stale database file on disk the file is deleted instead.

Before deleting the old database file a confirmation message is printed on the minibuffer if the custom variable 'annotate-database-confirm-deletion' is non nil (default: t).

2021-05-05 V1.2.1 Bastian Bechtold, cage
This version fixes a bug that prevented command like 'comment-region' to works properly when annotate-mode was active.
2021-04-27 V1.2 Bastian Bechtold, cage
New feature. When the customizable variable `annotate-endline-annotate-whole-line' is not nil (default t), and

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