Configure the style of OCaml comments in Emacs

Tuareg, the mode for OCaml code in Emacs, has been updated last year to change how comments are working and apply a different style. I am not a big fan of the new style and will try to explain how to change it.

As an example, I am using this snippet of code, select it all and use M-; to comment it.

let f () =
  let a = 1 in
  let b = 2 in
  a, b

The old comment style was like this, with each line commented individually:

(* let f () = *)
(*   let a = 1 in *)
(*   let b = 2 in *)
(*   a, b *)

It has been changed to this style, with only one comment for the whole block and a prefix on each line:

(* let f () =
 *   let a = 1 in
 *   let b = 2 in
 *   a, b *)

The new behaviors comes from this line in tuareg:

(setq-local comment-style 'multi-line)

comment-style default value is 'indent. Which corresponds to the old comment style described previously. Other styles are available but won't be described here. Look for them in C-h v RET comment-style RET.

I don't mind to have one comment for a whole block. It makes it easier for other editors to handle. It is less noise. But I don't like that all lines are prefixed with a *. Because other editors have to be configured to remove those extra characters automatically. Because they have to be removed by hand if a few lines are moved away from the comment. And they are not good for accessibility.

So how to keep using only one comment but without prefix? The answer is in the comment-continue variable. The documentation is accessible as C-h v RET comment-continue RET.

Continuation string to insert for multiline comments. This string will be added at the beginning of each line except the very first one when commenting a region with a commenting style that allows comments to span several lines. It should generally have the same length as ‘comment-start’ in order to preserve indentation. If it is nil a value will be automatically derived from ‘comment-start’ by replacing its first character with a space.

To remove the prefix the content of comment-continue should be updated from " * " to " ".

To do so, the Emacs configuration has to be updated. I think it's better to update this behavior only while editing a file in tuareg mode and so I put the configuration in a tuareg hook.

(add-hook 'tuareg-mode-hook
          (lambda () (setq-local comment-continue "   ")))

Now if I comment my snippet I get the expected result:

(* let f () =
     let a = 1 in
     let b = 2 in
     a, b *)

If you just want to go back to the old behavior, the configuration is:

(add-hook 'tuareg-mode-hook
          (lambda () (setq-local comment-style 'indent)))
Louis Roché 2018-04-22 Sun 00:00 Emacs 25.1.1 (Org mode 9.2.1)