I just found this post with vim (https://stackoverflow.com/questions/704130/can-i-transpose-a-file-in-vim) and i just wanted to do the same thing with elisp by creating a little script to reordenate all the characters from a buffer text into a vertical position.

As the post said, the original buffer might be:


and it would become:





I write this little emacs script to first read each buffer lines in a list (removing spaces), and after using a zip function to transpose each characters between lists, and at the end iterate my list to print it in x columns.

(require 'subr-x)
(defun read-buffer-lines (buf)
  (let ((lines '()))
    (with-current-buffer buf
        (goto-char (point-min))
        (while (not (eobp))
          (if (not (string-equal "" (buffer-substring (point) (point-at-eol))))
               (delete " " (delete "" (split-string
                                       (string-trim (buffer-substring (point) (point-at-eol)))
            (beginning-of-line 2))
        (erase-buffer) ;; clean buffer
        (nreverse lines)

(defun zip_list (lst)
  (let ((res))
    (while (-none? 'null lst)
      (setq res (cons (mapcar 'car lst) res))
      (setq lst (mapcar 'cdr lst)))
    (nreverse res)

(let* ((buf "*scratch*")
       (a (zip_list (read-buffer-lines buf))))
  (with-current-buffer buf
    (while a
        (insert (mapconcat 'identity (car a) ""))
        (setq a (cdr a))))))
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why would you save excursion and erase buffer? :) Where would Emacs have to put the mouse after the buffer is erased? Other than that: there's an easier way to split the contents of the buffer into lines: (split-string (buffer-string) "\n"). I wouldn't use a list of list to model a matrix (which you want to transpose). A vector of vectors would've made the task a lot easier. \$\endgroup\$
    – wvxvw
    Dec 4, 2017 at 13:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ agree. good point. \$\endgroup\$
    – papachan
    Dec 4, 2017 at 19:43

1 Answer 1


Few general points about your code:

  1. (while condition &body) form already treats &body as an implicit progn. There's no reason to wrap it in a progn.
  2. insert accepts multiple arguments. So, you could write (insert (mapconcat ...) "\n") instead of calling (insert ...) followed by (newline).
  3. Traditionally, Lisp functions use - when the name of the function consists of multiple words, so, it would be better to call zip-list, not zip_list.
  4. (let (res) ...) is exactly the same as (let ((res)) ...) but shorter.
  5. (setq ...) can handle multiple assignments, they are executed in order they are written, so (setq a b c a) will assign b to c. No reason to write (setq a b) (setq c a).
  6. split-string has argument OMIT-NULLS that controls whether empty strings are included in the results. It would be better to rely on this argument than to post-process the results.
  7. As mentioned in the comments, there's an easier, more idiomatic way to obtain all lines of text from the buffer: (split-string (buffer-string) "\n").

Finally, unless only for the sake of an exercise in writing the zip-list function, the transpose operation calls for something like vector, not a list. Below is a possible alternative which uses vectors to perform this operation:

(defun wvxvw/transpose-buffer ()
  (let* ((lines (split-string (buffer-string) "\n"))
          (cl-loop for line in lines
                   maximize (max (length line))))
         (src (cl-coerce lines 'vector))
         (dst (cl-loop with matrix = (make-vector max-length nil)
                       with len = (length src)
                       for i below max-length do
                       (aset matrix i (make-vector len ?\ ))
                       finally (cl-return matrix))))
    (cl-loop for i upfrom 0
             for line across src do
             (cl-loop for j upfrom 0
                      for c across line do
                      (aset (aref dst j) i c)))
    (cl-loop for line across dst do
             (insert (cl-coerce line 'string) "\n"))))
  • \$\begingroup\$ nice work ! i just tried it and it work like a charm ! thank you for all your suggestions. there are very useful for me. \$\endgroup\$
    – papachan
    Dec 4, 2017 at 19:43

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