Skip to content

Structural Editingλ︎

Structural Editing is a way to navigate and refactor your code without breaking parenthesis or other characters that define the structure of your code: () [] {} "".

You can quickly jump between the start and end of expressions. It is easy to move expressions around, pull code into expressions or push code out of expressions too.

Smartparens - writing structural textλ︎

Spacemacs uses smart parens to help you write structural code really fast and also move expressions around.

Space Space sp-cheat-sheet lists all the smartparens commands available and we will cover the most common commands in this section.

Smartparens is not just for lisps

Smartparens supports structural editing for all languages in Spacemacs, event closing & matching for markup languages such as tags in HTML. Smartparens is a newer implementation of the classic paredit package.

Lisp mode - manipulating structural textλ︎

Spacemacs includes an Evil lisp-state, SPC k . for refactoring Lisp base languages like Clojure. In this lisp-state you can use single character commands to move symbols and expressions around without risking unmatched parenthesis or other structure characters.

The lisp-state uses smartparens commands, so its a great way to learn structural editing.

The common commands I use are

Lisp state SPC k Description
s / S slurp forwards / backwards - pull in code from the right / left
b / B barf forwards / backwards - push out code to the right / left
d x delete expression
r raise expression - replace parent expression with current expression

Spacemacs - Lisp State for Structural Editing

Enable Vim support for Structural editingλ︎

, T s toggles evil safe structural editing in all languages that support using evil-cleverparens. This package is included in the Clojure layer, but by default this mode is not activated.

Safe Structural editing in Vim normal state respects structural editing, meaning the standard vim commands can be used for cutting and deleting text without breaking Clojure or Lisp code structures. 🆂 symbol is displayed in the mode-line when evil safe structural editing is enabled.

Spacemacs - Clojure - Safe Structural Editing mode enabled

Enable for all clojure buffers by adding the following function in dotspacemacs/user-config


To enable evil safe structural editing for all supported modes:


Evil Cleverparents for Evil state

ensures Vim Normal commands respect the structure of the language, i.e. will not delete parents that contain code.