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Is there a way to make longlines mode the default for just the *compilation* buffer?

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Just commenting to note that longlines mode will be deprecated in favour of visual-line-mode in the upcoming Emacs 24.4 release. (visual-line-mode was added in version 23.1.) – legoscia Apr 12 '13 at 12:43
    
Dandy! Any word on plans to make visual-line-mode work properly? – Aaron Miller Apr 17 '13 at 18:53

There sure is; you add to the compilation-mode-hook, which is called any time you enter compilation mode, a function which sets longlines-mode. Add the following to your ~/.emacs, or some other such suitable place:

  (defun compilation-mode-longlines-hook ()
    "Set longlines-mode when entering compilation mode."
    (longlines-mode t))

  (add-hook 'compilation-mode-hook 'compilation-mode-longlines-hook)
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