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emacs - GNU project Emacs
emacs [ command-line switches ] [ files ... ]
GNU Emacs is a version of Emacs, written by the author of the original
(PDP-10) Emacs, Richard Stallman.
The primary documentation of GNU Emacs is in the GNU Emacs Manual,
which you can read using Info, either from Emacs or as a standalone
program. Please look there for complete and up-to-date documentation.
This man page is updated only when someone volunteers to do so; the
Emacs maintainers’ priority goal is to minimize the amount of time this
man page takes away from other more useful projects.
The user functionality of GNU Emacs encompasses everything other Emacs
editors do, and it is easily extensible since its editing commands are
written in Lisp.
Emacs has an extensive interactive help facility, but the facility
assumes that you know how to manipulate Emacs windows and buffers.
CTRL-h or F1 enters the Help facility. Help Tutorial (CTRL-h t) starts
an interactive tutorial which can teach beginners the fundamentals of
Emacs in a few minutes. Help Apropos (CTRL-h a) helps you find a
command given its functionality, Help Character (CTRL-h c) describes a
given character’s effect, and Help Function (CTRL-h f) describes a
given Lisp function specified by name.
Emacs’s Undo can undo several steps of modification to your buffers, so
it is easy to recover from editing mistakes.
GNU Emacs’s many special packages handle mail reading (RMail) and
sending (Mail), outline editing (Outline), compiling (Compile), running
subshells within Emacs windows (Shell), running a Lisp read-eval-print
loop (Lisp-Interaction-Mode), automated psychotherapy (Doctor), and
There is an extensive reference manual, but users of other Emacses
should have little trouble adapting even without a copy. Users new to
Emacs will be able to use basic features fairly rapidly by studying the
tutorial and using the self-documentation features.
The following options are of general interest:
file Edit file.
--file file, --find-file file, --visit file
The same as specifying file directly as an argument.
+number Go to the line specified by number (do not insert a
space between the "+" sign and the number). This
applies only to the next file specified.
Go to the specified line and column.
Do not load an init file.
Do not load the site-wide startup file.
Do not load a saved desktop.
Do not use shared memory.
Equivalent to "-q --no-site-file --no-splash".
Do not display a splash screen during start-up.
Enable Emacs Lisp debugger during the processing of the
user init file ~/.emacs. This is useful for debugging
problems in the init file.
-u user, --user user
Load user’s init file.
-t file, --terminal file
Use specified file as the terminal instead of using
stdin/stdout. This must be the first argument specified
in the command line.
Enable multibyte mode (enabled by default).
Enable unibyte mode.
Display Emacs version information and exit.
--help Display this help and exit.
The following options are lisp-oriented (these options are processed in
the order encountered):
-f function, --funcall function
Execute the lisp function function.
-l file, --load file
Load the lisp code in the file file.
--eval expr, --execute expr
Evaluate the Lisp expression expr.
The following options are useful when running Emacs as a batch editor:
--batch Edit in batch mode. The editor will send messages to
stderr. This option must be the first in the argument
list. You must use -l and -f options to specify files
to execute and functions to call.
Run file as an Emacs Lisp script.
Insert contents of file into the current buffer.
--kill Exit Emacs while in batch mode.
-L dir, --directory dir
Add dir to the list of directories Emacs searches for
Using Emacs with X
Emacs has been tailored to work well with the X window system. If you
run Emacs from under X windows, it will create its own X window to
display in. You will probably want to start the editor as a background
process so that you can continue using your original window.
Emacs can be started with the following X switches:
Specify the name which should be assigned to the initial
Emacs window. This controls looking up X resources as
well as the window title.
-T name, --title name
Specify the title for the initial X window.
-r, -rv, --reverse-video
Display the Emacs window in reverse video.
-fn font, --font font
Set the Emacs window’s font to that specified by font.
You will find the various X fonts in the
/usr/lib/X11/fonts directory. Note that Emacs will only
accept fixed width fonts. Under the X11 Release 4 font-
naming conventions, any font with the value "m" or "c"
in the eleventh field of the font name is a fixed width
font. Furthermore, fonts whose name are of the form
widthxheight are generally fixed width, as is the font
fixed. See xlsfonts(1) for more information.
When you specify a font, be sure to put a space between
the switch and the font name.
Set additional X resources.
Override color mode for character terminals; mode
defaults to ‘auto’, and can also be ‘never’, ‘auto’,
‘always’, or a mode name like ‘ansi8’.
-bw pixels, --border-width pixels
Set the Emacs window’s border width to the number of
pixels specified by pixels. Defaults to one pixel on
each side of the window.
-ib pixels, --internal-border pixels
Set the window’s internal border width to the number of
pixels specified by pixels. Defaults to one pixel of
padding on each side of the window.
-g geometry, --geometry geometry
Set the Emacs window’s width, height, and position as
specified. The geometry specification is in the
standard X format; see X(7) for more information. The
width and height are specified in characters; the
default is 80 by 24. See the Emacs manual, section
"Options for Window Size and Position", for information
on how window sizes interact with selecting or
deselecting the tool bar and menu bar.
-lsp pixels, --line-spacing pixels
Additional space to put between lines.
Enable vertical scrollbars.
Make the first frame as high as the screen.
Make the first frame fullscreen.
Make the first frame as wide as the screen.
-fg color, --foreground-color color
On color displays, set the color of the text.
Use the command M-x list-colors-display for a list of
valid color names.
-bg color, --background-color color
On color displays, set the color of the window’s
-bd color, --border-color color
On color displays, set the color of the window’s border.
-cr color, --cursor-color color
On color displays, set the color of the window’s text
-ms color, --mouse-color color
On color displays, set the color of the window’s mouse
-d displayname, --display displayname
Create the Emacs window on the display specified by
displayname. Must be the first option specified in the
Do not use picture of gnu for Emacs icon.
Start Emacs in iconified state.
Disable blinking cursor.
Tell Emacs not to use its special interface to X. If
you use this switch when invoking Emacs from an xterm(1)
window, display is done in that window.
This option disables many display features; use it for
You can set X default values for your Emacs windows in your .Xresources
file (see xrdb(1)). Use the following format:
where value specifies the default value of keyword. Emacs lets you set
default values for the following keywords:
background (class Background)
For color displays, sets the window’s background color.
bitmapIcon (class BitmapIcon)
If bitmapIcon’s value is set to on, the window will
iconify into the "kitchen sink."
borderColor (class BorderColor)
For color displays, sets the color of the window’s
borderWidth (class BorderWidth)
Sets the window’s border width in pixels.
cursorColor (class Foreground)
For color displays, sets the color of the window’s text
cursorBlink (class CursorBlink)
Specifies whether to make the cursor blink. The default
is on. Use off or false to turn cursor blinking off.
font (class Font)
Sets the window’s text font.
foreground (class Foreground)
For color displays, sets the window’s text color.
fullscreen (class Fullscreen)
The desired fullscreen size. The value can be one of
fullboth, fullwidth, or fullheight, which correspond to
the command-line options ‘-fs’, ‘-fw’, and ‘-fh’,
respectively. Note that this applies to the initial
geometry (class Geometry)
Sets the geometry of the Emacs window (as described
iconName (class Title)
Sets the icon name for the Emacs window icon.
internalBorder (class BorderWidth)
Sets the window’s internal border width in pixels.
lineSpacing (class LineSpacing)
Additional space ("leading") between lines, in pixels.
menuBar (class MenuBar)
Gives frames menu bars if on; don’t have menu bars if
off. See the Emacs manual, sections "Lucid Resources"
and "LessTif Resources", for how to control the
appearance of the menu bar if you have one.
minibuffer (class Minibuffer)
If none, don’t make a minibuffer in this frame. It will
use a separate minibuffer frame instead.
paneFont (class Font)
Font name for menu pane titles, in non-toolkit versions
pointerColor (class Foreground)
For color displays, sets the color of the window’s mouse
privateColormap (class PrivateColormap)
If on, use a private color map, in the case where the
"default visual" of class PseudoColor and Emacs is using
reverseVideo (class ReverseVideo)
If reverseVideo’s value is set to on, the window will be
displayed in reverse video.
screenGamma (class ScreenGamma)
Gamma correction for colors, equivalent to the frame
scrollBarWidth (class ScrollBarWidth)
The scroll bar width in pixels, equivalent to the frame
selectionFont (class SelectionFont)
Font name for pop-up menu items, in non-toolkit versions
of Emacs. (For toolkit versions, see the Emacs manual,
sections "Lucid Resources" and "LessTif Resources".)
selectionTimeout (class SelectionTimeout)
Number of milliseconds to wait for a selection reply. A
value of 0 means wait as long as necessary.
synchronous (class Synchronous)
Run Emacs in synchronous mode if on. Synchronous mode
is useful for debugging X problems.
title (class Title)
Sets the title of the Emacs window.
toolBar (class ToolBar)
Number of lines to reserve for the tool bar.
useXIM (class UseXIM)
Turns off use of X input methods (XIM) if false or off.
verticalScrollBars (class ScrollBars)
Gives frames scroll bars if on; suppresses scroll bars
visualClass (class VisualClass)
Specify the "visual" that X should use. This tells X
how to handle colors. The value should start with one
of TrueColor, PseudoColor, DirectColor, StaticColor,
GrayScale, and StaticGray, followed by -depth, where
depth is the number of color planes.
If you try to set color values while using a black and white display,
the window’s characteristics will default as follows: the foreground
color will be set to black, the background color will be set to white,
the border color will be set to grey, and the text and mouse cursors
will be set to black.
Using the Mouse
The following lists some of the mouse button bindings for the Emacs
window under X11.
MOUSE BUTTON FUNCTION
left Set point.
middle Paste text.
right Cut text into X cut buffer.
SHIFT-middle Cut text into X cut buffer.
SHIFT-right Paste text.
CTRL-middle Cut text into X cut buffer and kill it.
CTRL-right Select this window, then split it into
two windows. Same as typing CTRL-x 2.
CTRL-SHIFT-left X buffer menu — hold the buttons and
keys down, wait for menu to appear,
select buffer, and release. Move mouse
out of menu and release to cancel.
CTRL-SHIFT-middle X help menu — pop up index card menu
for Emacs help.
CTRL-SHIFT-right Select window with mouse, and delete
all other windows. Same as typing
You can order printed copies of the GNU Emacs Manual from the Free
Software Foundation, which develops GNU software. See the file ORDERS
for ordering information.
Your local Emacs maintainer might also have copies available. As with
all software and publications from FSF, everyone is permitted to make
and distribute copies of the Emacs manual. The TeX source to the
manual is also included in the Emacs source distribution.
/usr/share/info — files for the Info documentation browser. The
complete text of the Emacs reference manual is included in a convenient
tree structured form. Also includes the Emacs Lisp Reference Manual,
useful to anyone wishing to write programs in the Emacs Lisp extension
/usr/share/emacs/$VERSION/lisp — Lisp source files and compiled files
that define most editing commands. Some are preloaded; others are
autoloaded from this directory when used.
/usr/lib/emacs/$VERSION/$ARCH — various programs that are used with GNU
/usr/share/emacs/$VERSION/etc — various files of information.
/usr/share/emacs/$VERSION/etc/DOC.* — contains the documentation
strings for the Lisp primitives and preloaded Lisp functions of GNU
Emacs. They are stored here to reduce the size of Emacs proper.
/usr/share/emacs/$VERSION/etc/SERVICE lists people offering various
services to assist users of GNU Emacs, including education,
troubleshooting, porting and customization.
There is a mailing list, firstname.lastname@example.org, for reporting Emacs
bugs and fixes. But before reporting something as a bug, please try to
be sure that it really is a bug, not a misunderstanding or a deliberate
feature. We ask you to read the section ‘‘Reporting Emacs Bugs’’ near
the end of the reference manual (or Info system) for hints on how and
when to report bugs. Also, include the version number of the Emacs you
are running in every bug report that you send in. Bugs tend actually
to be fixed if they can be isolated, so it is in your interest to
report them in such a way that they can be easily reproduced.
Do not expect a personal answer to a bug report. The purpose of
reporting bugs is to get them fixed for everyone in the next release,
if possible. For personal assistance, look in the SERVICE file (see
above) for a list of people who offer it.
Please do not send anything but bug reports to this mailing list. For
more information about Emacs mailing lists, see the file
Emacs is free; anyone may redistribute copies of Emacs to anyone under
the terms stated in the Emacs General Public License, a copy of which
accompanies each copy of Emacs and which also appears in the reference
Copies of Emacs may sometimes be received packaged with distributions
of Unix systems, but it is never included in the scope of any license
covering those systems. Such inclusion violates the terms on which
distribution is permitted. In fact, the primary purpose of the General
Public License is to prohibit anyone from attaching any other
restrictions to redistribution of Emacs.
Richard Stallman encourages you to improve and extend Emacs, and urges
that you contribute your extensions to the GNU library. Eventually GNU
(Gnu’s Not Unix) will be a complete replacement for Unix. Everyone
will be free to use, copy, study and change the GNU system.
emacsclient(1), etags(1), X(7), xlsfonts(1), xterm(1), xrdb(1)
Emacs was written by Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation.
Joachim Martillo and Robert Krawitz added the X features.
Copyright (C) 1995, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005,
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this
document provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are
preserved on all copies.
Permission is granted to copy and distribute modified versions of this
document under the conditions for verbatim copying, provided that the
entire resulting derived work is distributed under the terms of a
permission notice identical to this one.
Permission is granted to copy and distribute translations of this
document into another language, under the above conditions for modified
versions, except that this permission notice may be stated in a
translation approved by the Free Software Foundation.