Emacs Hydra for Fun and Profit

I first learned about Emacs Hydra in early 2015, and I didn't really understand why it would be useful, but it seemed neat, so I dug in. In short, Hydra provides a transient form of modal editing in which keys are rebound to various actions. It turns out this is a very cool abstraction, even if it can take a few moments to wrap your head around the utility. Examples are helpful.

Managing Window Configurations

I recently wanted to replace elscreen due to some minor incompatabilities with multi-term. I shopped around on MELPA for a replacement, and found winring, which was lightweight and fast, but lacked elscreen's fast navigation between window configurations. Hydra is born for this.

Here is a very basic hydra that provides window management via the excellent winring package:

(defhydra hydra-winring (:color blue :hint nil)
_p_: Previous configuration
_n_: Next configuration
_k_: Kill current configuration
_c_: Create new configuration
  ("p" winring-prev-configuration :color red)
  ("n" winring-next-configuration :color red)
  ("k" winring-delete-configuration)
  ("c" winring-new-configuration)
  ("q" nil "cancel"))
(global-set-key (kbd "C-z") 'hydra-winring/body)

Controlling Bongo

This approach works particularly well with the mplayer backend, since it supports seeking within tracks, which also highlights the utility of overriding the hydra color on a per-command basis.

(defhydra hydra-bongo (:color blue :hint nil)
Bongo control
_l_: library     _p_: pause/resume     _s_: stop
_b_: back 10s                        ^^_f_: fwd 10s
_B_: back 60s                        ^^_F_: fwd
  ("b" bongo-seek-backward-10 :color red)
  ("f" bongo-seek-forward-10  :color red)
  ("B" bongo-seek-backward-60 :color red)
  ("F" bongo-seek-forward-60  :color red)
  ("l" bongo)
  ("p" bongo-pause/resume)
  ("s" bongo-stop)
  ("q" nil "cancel"))
(global-set-key (kbd "C-c b")   'hydra-bongo/body)

Controlling Spotify

This same idea extends well to other media players, like Spotify:

(defhydra hydra-spotify (:color blue :hint nil)
Spotify control
_c_: current     _p_: pause/resume     _s_: stop
_b_: back track                      ^^_f_: fwd track
  ("p" spotify-playpause)
  ("c" spotify-current :color red)
  ("s" spotify-pause)
  ("f" spotify-next :color red)
  ("b" spotify-previous :color red)
  ("q" nil "cancel"))
(global-set-key (kbd "C-c s")   'hydra-spotify/body)

Moving Between Windows

C-x o is the standard key sequence to move between windows, and works well for two windows. But when you move to three or four, it's a bit cumbersome to type over and over. Here's a hydra hack to make C-o behave more efficiently in contexts with more than two windows:

(defhydra hydra-window (:color red :hint nil)
  "[o]: other window"
  ("o" other-window)
  ("q" nil "cancel"))
(defun other-window-and-hydra ()
  (other-window 1)
(global-set-key (kbd "C-x o") 'other-window-and-hydra)

I know that when I first ran across hydra, it wasn't clear to me how it would be useful. Now, I can't imagine my workflow without it. Give it a shot!

Previous Post Next Post