Nice new emacs package – dumb-jump.el

I really like the new emacs package I just found on Hacker news, dumb jump. Even if I use some “specialized” plugins like Jedi or emacs-ycmd, ggtags supposed to be “open a random repo in a language I don’t use regularly, and navigate effectively”. ggtags have failed me at this and dumb-jump seems promising.

Why is it better than ctags/ggtags?

So far dumb-jump works quickly and accurately on a few repos I tried it. I got upset a few times by weird errors of ctags/ggtags.

No additional per OS configuration (assuming that you use ag anyway)

I switch between Mac/Linux and inconsistent ggtags/ctags configuration annoys me. The same .ctags and gtags.conf files do not work between OSes. This seems to be not a problem for dumb-jump

Reuses ag configuration

I use ag anyway, since it’s the best “grep” alternative and it can always fall-back to grep. Dumb jump lets me reuse my configuration.

Don’t have to rebuild ctags

I don’t have to think about rebuilding ctags. It’s especially relevant when I want to jump to code I just written. I don’t have to re-generate ctags after every function I just wrote.

Easier to debug and tweak, since it uses familiar tools

Since dump-jump is built on two things I know well – elisp and regular expressions. It is much easier to navigate elisp, since I know debugger and language well. Debugging ctags/ggtags required me to learn tools I didn’t use in years The fact that dumb-jump uses familiar and “simple” tools it opens room for customizations like adapting regex to your custom Scala setup at your company.

Example debugging session

When I noticed that some completion of dumb-jump does not work well I have much easier debugging experience than ctags. After following those steps I will have an idea where the problem is:

  • If dumb-jump-go fails, search the same string with helm-projectile-ag.
  • If helm-projectile-ag fails, see helm-ag--last-command and make it from command line.
  • If it fails, try it with plain ag without all the flags.
  • If it fails, try it with alternative tool like grep or ack.

My configuration

Do not ask about saving files

Dumb jump asks about saving files. I personally like to not have to save files, but commit often using git. You can tell emacs to save all files before calling dumb jump, or focus out (if you care only about dumb jump remove the focus out).

(defun synchronize-like-intellij () (interactive) (save-some-buffers t))
(add-hook 'focus-out-hook 'synchronize-like-intellij)
(advice-add 'dumb-jump-go :before #'synchronize-like-intellij)

Dynamically configure ag flags passed to dumb jumb.

Through Emacs advice system you can tweak ag command before calling dumb jump and ag. What’s more, you can reuse flags between your helm-projectile-ag and dumb-jump-go. You can treat it as more powerful alternative to .dumbjump and .agignore.

(setq my-ag-ignored-patterns '("*.bak" "*.out" "*.csv" "*.pyc" "*.pdf" "*.png"))
(setq my-ag-flags (mapconcat  (lambda (ext) (concat "--ignore " ext)) my-ag-ignored-patterns " "))

(setq my-helm-ag-base-ag (concat "ag --nocolor --nogroup -W 100 " my-ag-flags " "))
(setq my-dumb-jump-base-ag (concat "ag " my-ag-flags " "))

(defun my-tweak-ag-per-project (&rest not-used-args)
  "Tweak the ag flags based on current file name"
  (let ((my-ag-project-flags (if (s-contains-p "/dotfiles/" (my-buffer-file-name))
      (setq helm-ag-base-command (concat my-helm-ag-base-ag my-ag-project-flags))
      (setq dumb-jump-ag-cmd (concat my-dumb-jump-base-ag my-ag-project-flags))

(advice-add 'helm-projectile-ag :before #'my-tweak-ag-per-project)
(advice-add 'dumb-jump-go :before #'my-tweak-ag-per-project)

Slightly unrelated plug – Equivalent of IntelliJ Show Usages

Since the HN post mentions IntelliJ and ag – I was missing ability of helm-projectile-ag to search “symbol at point”. I wrote an elisp that does it, but it’s a bit hacky:

(defun insert-symbol-at-point ()
  (if (> (length cached-symbol-at-point) 0)
      (insert cached-symbol-at-point))
  (remove-hook 'post-command-hook 'insert-symbol-at-point)

(defun helm-projectile-ag-symbol-at-point ()
  "Search for number at point using helm-projectile-ag"
  (setq cached-symbol-at-point (thing-at-point `symbol))
  (add-hook 'post-command-hook 'insert-symbol-at-point)

(global-set-key (kbd "C-s") 'helm-projectile-ag-symbol-at-point)
(global-set-key (kbd "C-S-f") 'helm-projectile-ag)

Things that could be improved

TODO Bug: Sometimes jumps to comments

Emacs have generalized function checking if you are in the comment, syntax-ppss. It could be a good idea to implement it on top of it.

TODO Adapt to scala and java

I think that adapting regex from should work.

TODO It would be nice to use helm

For example, I like to be able to call helm-resume to switch to other completion, if i went to wrong place.

TODO Better sorting after adding helm

I have been toying with an idea of better sorting completions returned by ag/tags/projectile. I plan to implement smarter sorting for helm one day. It could work with ag,dumb-jump, helm-projectile-find-file, completions, etc.

Comparison hierarchy

The comparison would be hierarchical, with the following rules precedence:

  • 1. Compare by file extension

    Firstly show files with the same extension as currently visited file. Demote some “junk” extensions like .csv towards the bottom of the list. Define some order for remaining extensions (e.g. how often they occur together on all github repos). Provide way of jumping to the next extension group in the helm buffer.

  • 2. Compare by longest common path

    Find the lowest common ancestor of current file, and file returned by ag.

  • 3. Compare by path length

    Less nested paths are shown on the top.

TODO Possible generalization

dumb-jump runs additional regular expressions on result of your ag command. Such concept does not have to be unique to jumping to definition. I can’t think of good example where it could be useful, but I’ll update this post if I find something.

TODO More advanced fall-back hierarchy than just grep.


I think the following fallback hierarchy would be better:

  • ag
  • ack
  • pt
  • gitgrep -P
  • gitgrep
  • grep -P
  • grep


Flag -P lets you reuse same flavour of regex as ag, but it’s not available on all systems. ack is almost as good as ag (some people prefer ack, I tried both and I prefer ag).


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