Note: a full explanation can be found in the GitHub wiki.
Purpose ("window-purpose" on MELPA) provides a new window management system for Emacs, which gives you a better control over where Emacs displays buffers.
With Purpose, each buffer has a configurable "purpose" and each window
can interactivaly be dedicated to a certain "purpose". When you dedicate
a window (C-c , d), Purpose makes sure that this window will be used
only for buffers which have the same purpose as the buffer that is
currently displayed in that window. The purpose of a buffer can be
customized via the variables
purpose-use-default-configuration (see the
Supported Emacs Versions
Purpose is tested with Emacs versions 24.3, 24.4 and 24.5. Backward-compatibility for earlier versions might be added in the future - if you want such support, contact me.
Manually: M-x purpose-mode
In your init file:
(require 'window-purpose) (purpose-mode)
Manually: M-x customize-group purpose. Look at:
- "Purpose User Mode Purposes": recognize purpose according to major mode
- "Purpose User Name Purposes": recognize purpose according to buffer name (for exact names)
- "Purpose User Regexp Purposes": recognize purpose according to buffer name (for name patterns)
- "Purpose Use Default Configuration": toggle default configuration on/off
In init file:
(add-to-list 'purpose-user-mode-purposes '(<major-mode> . <purpose>)) (add-to-list 'purpose-user-name-purposes '(<name> . <purpose>)) (add-to-list 'purpose-user-regexp-purposes '(<pattern> . <purpose>)) (setq purpose-use-default-configuration t) ; not really necessary, default is t (purpose-compile-user-configuration) ; activates your changes
|C-c , b||
|C-u C-x b||
|C-c , d||
|C-c , D||
|C-c , 1||
Example: Simple Python Layout
How to get a simple and persistent layout for coding in Python that looks like this:
step 1: configuration
(add-to-list 'purpose-user-mode-purposes '(python-mode . py)) (add-to-list 'purpose-user-mode-purposes '(inferior-python-mode . py-repl)) (purpose-compile-user-configuration)
step 2: change window layout
If you have a previously saved layout, you can load it with
purpose-load-window-layout and skip step 2 and step 3.
- open a Python file
- C-c , d (
purpose-toggle-window-purpose-dedicated) so window is dedicated ("[py]" in the status bar will change to "[py!]")
- C-x 1 (
- C-x 2 (
- C-c C-z (
- C-c , d so window is dedicated
- C-x o (
other-window) to select the python file's window
- C-x ^ (
enlarge-window) until you like the sizes of the windows
step 3: save window layout
Dedicating a window limits which buffers will be displayed in it. There are two types of window dedication: buffer-dedication and purpose-dedication.
purpose-toggle-window-buffer-dedicated to dedicate a window to its buffer.
This window will not display any other buffer while it is buffer-dedicated. A
"#" in the mode-line next to the window's purpose indicates that the window is
purpose-toggle-window-purpose-dedicated to dedicate a window to its
purpose. This window will only display buffers with the same purpose. A "!" in
the mode-line next to the window's purpose indicates that the window is
You can delete all non-dedicated windows by using
When switching buffers, Purpose will display the new buffer in the correct window, according to the current configuration.
switch-to-buffer to switch to any buffer. The buffer will be displayed
according to the current purpose-configuration.
purpose-switch-buffer-with-purpose to switch to another buffer with the
same purpose as the current buffer.
purpose-switch-buffer-with-some-purpose to select a purpose and then
switch to a buffer with that purpose.
switch-buffer-without-purpose to switch to any buffer. The buffer will be
displayed using Emacs' original behavior. This is useful when you want to change
the window layout.
purpose-set-window-purpose to switch the purpose of the current window. If
there is a buffer with the chosen purpose, that buffer will be displayed in the
current window. Otherwise, a dummy buffer will be created and used.
Purpose lets you save, load and reset the window layout.
purpose-save-window-layout to save the current window layout. The layout
will be saved in a directory of your choice, in a file named
purpose-load-window-layout to load a window layout. The available layouts
are located the directories specified in customizable variable
purpose-save-window-layout-file to save the current window layout directly to
a file of your choice.
purpose-load-window-layout-file to load a window layout directly from a file
of your choice.
purpose-reset-window-layout to reset the window layout to the latest
layout that you loaded.
In addition to window layouts, Purpose also lets save, load and reset the frame
layout. A "frame layout" consists of the window layouts of multiple frames.
All of the window layout commands have frame layout equivalents, e.g.
purpose-load-frame-layout is equivalent to
purpose-preferred-prompt, you can choose whether you want Purpose to use
IDO or Helm when it needs information from the user. By default, when both IDO
and Helm are enabled, Purpose prefers IDO.
Changing purpose configuration
Purpose lets you define your own purposes. You can do so by using the variables
purpose-user-regexp-purposes. You can also deactivate the default purpose
configuration if it bothers you, by setting
Changing display rules
If you want, you can the rules of how certain buffers are displayed. To do so,
use the variable
purpose-special-action-sequences. Let's explain this with an
example. The following code makes all help buffers appear in a separate
frame. This means you will get a "popup" frame for help buffers.
(setq pop-up-frames t) ; allows emacs to popup new frames ;; give help buffers the 'popup-frame purpose (add-to-list 'purpose-user-mode-purposes '(help-mode . popup-frame)) (purpose-compile-user-configuration) ;; new rules for buffers with the 'popup-frame purpose (add-to-list 'purpose-special-action-sequences '(popup-frame purpose-display-reuse-window-buffer purpose-display-reuse-window-purpose purpose-display-pop-up-frame))
Respect purposes when killing a buffer
When killing a visible buffer, Emacs has to decide which buffer to show instead.
purpose-x-kill extension will make Emacs consider the purpoes of
the window that needs to show a new buffer. If the window is purpose-dedicated,
the killed buffer is replaced with another buffer with the same purpose. If there
are no buffers with the same purpose as the killed buffer, the window is deleted.
To enable the
(require 'window-purpose-x) (purpose-x-kill-setup)
Location of Layout Files
Window layout and frame layout files are stored in the directories specified by
purpose-layout-dirs. By default, its value is
("~/.emacs.d/layouts/"). To store
layouts in a different location, simply change the value of this variable.
Using Purpose with other packages
See Integration With Other Packages for information about how some packages relate to Purpose.