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,
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 fundamen-
tals 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 (Doc-
tor), and much more.
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 fea-
tures 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 encoun-
-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 Lisp files.
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 win-
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 conven-
tions, 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 xls-
fonts(1) for more information.
When you specify a font, be sure to put a space between the switch and the
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 geom-
etry specification is in the standard X format; see X(7) for more informa-
tion. The width and height are specified in characters; the default is 80
by 24. See the Emacs manual, section "Options for Window Size and Posi-
tion", for information on how window sizes interact with selecting or dese-
lecting 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 background.
-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 cursor.
-ms color, --mouse-color color
On color displays, set the color of the window's mouse cursor.
-d displayname, --display displayname
Create the Emacs window on the display specified by displayname. Must be
the first option specified in the command line.
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 win-
This option disables many display features; use it for debugging Emacs.
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
borderColor (class BorderColor)
For color displays, sets the color of the window's border.
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 cursor.
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 frame only.
geometry (class Geometry)
Sets the geometry of the Emacs window (as described above).
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 con-
trol 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 of Emacs.
pointerColor (class Foreground)
For color displays, sets the color of the window's mouse cursor.
privateColormap (class PrivateColormap)
If on, use a private color map, in the case where the "default visual" of
class PseudoColor and Emacs is using it.
reverseVideo (class ReverseVideo)
If reverseVideo's value is set to on, the window will be displayed in
screenGamma (class ScreenGamma)
Gamma correction for colors, equivalent to the frame parameter
scrollBarWidth (class ScrollBarWidth)
The scroll bar width in pixels, equivalent to the frame parameter
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
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 debug-
ging 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 if off.
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 charac-
teristics will default as follows: the foreground color will be set to black, the back-
ground 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/local/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 language.
/usr/local/share/emacs/$VERSION/lisp -- Lisp source files and compiled files that define
most editing commands. Some are preloaded; others are autoloaded from this directory when
/usr/local/libexec/emacs/$VERSION/$ARCH -- various programs that are used with GNU Emacs.
/usr/local/share/emacs/$VERSION/etc -- various files of information.
/usr/local/share/emacs/$VERSION/etc/DOC.* -- contains the documentation strings for the
Lisp primitives and preloaded Lisp functions of GNU Emacs. They are stored here to reduce
the size of Emacs proper.
/usr/local/share/emacs/$VERSION/etc/SERVICE lists people offering various services to
assist users of GNU Emacs, including education, troubleshooting, porting and customiza-
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 iso-
lated, so it is in your interest to report them in such a way that they can be easily
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 /usr/local/share/emacs/$VERSION/etc/MAILINGLISTS.
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 manual.
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 sys-
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 dis-
tributed 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.
GNU Emacs 23.1 2007 April 13 EMACS(1)