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Emacs tools for ROS
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rosemacs 0.4.13 Oct 16, 2018
slime_wrapper 0.4.13 Oct 16, 2018
.gitignore Added mention of problem with Debian slime to readme Jul 20, 2016


This is a collection of packages to work on ROS-based software from Emacs.

Supported are the versions of Emacs >= 24.3. For older versions please use the older-than-emacs24.3 branch.

The repo contains a rosemacs package, which provides functions for starting a roscore, monitoring ROS nodes etc (with corresponding Emacs key bindings). And, in addition to that, it has a number of packages to simplify development of roslisp-based packages. Among them is a wrapper for Slime (Lisp interactive development environment) called slime_wrapper, a contrib for Slime to work with ROS slime_ros, and a Slime REPL called roslisp_repl, configured to start slime, slime_ros and setup roslisp.

This document only gives you instructions on installation. For other information consult the official wiki pages of the packages: rosemacs for non Lisp programmers and roslisp_repl otherwise.

Not a Common Lisp programmer

If you don't work with Common Lisp and just use Emacs for C++ or Python or Java or Lisp dialects other than Common Lisp or whatever else, you just need to add the following lines to your Emacs initialization file (init.el or similar):

(add-to-list 'load-path "/opt/ros/DISTRO/share/emacs/site-lisp")
(require 'rosemacs-config)

where DISTRO is the name of your ROS distribution, e.g. indigo.

Common Lisp programmer

Currently, we are using an alternative branch of slime, which has not been merged into master yet. The version we use is distributed with the ROS Debian packages. Unfortunately, that means that our ROS Debian package of slime (ros-indigo-slime-wrapper) and official Debian of slime (slime) can collide.

It is strongly recommended to only use the ROS Debian package of slime, i.e.: sudo apt-get purge slime if you installed one before.

For users

If you work with roslisp, all you need to do is to start roslisp_repl in the terminal.

If you want to start the REPL from inside of your Emacs process, add the following to your Emacs init script:

(require 'slime-config "PATH_TO_SLIME_ROS/slime-config.el")

where PATH_TO_SLIME_ROS is what rospack find slime_ros gives you, e.g. "/opt/ros/indigo/share/slime_ros", or "YOUR_CATKIN_WS/src/ros_emacs_utils/slime_ros" if you're installing from source. After that line you can add the usual Slime customization commands, like setting the inferior-lisp-program or turning off the slime-startup-animation etc.

Then you need to run

$ rosrun slime_ros slime_ros_init

which will create .sbclrc-ros in your home directory and add an entry into your .sbclrs to load .sbclrc-ros.

Once set up, you can start the REPL from your Emacs by pressing M-x slime, which means holding the Alt key and pressing x and then typing slime .

For developers

There is one detail to take into account when compiling ros_emacs_utils from source: in order for the code to work you not only need to run catkin_make on the packages, but also install them (catkin_make install).

Why do we need to catkin_make install? (Skip the next two paragraphs if you don't care.)

All the packages have their Emacs Lisp part contained in a single or multiple *.el files. During installation of the packages those files are being copied into YOUR_INSTALL_DIR/share/emacs/site-lisp. Therefore, you need to tell Emacs in the initialization script to add that directory to the Emacs load-path in a recursive way. That is done in rosemacs-config.el.

In addition to the Emacs Lisp part, all the packages except rosemacs have a Common Lisp part, and all the *.lisp files are being copied into YOUR_INSTALL_DIR/share/common-lisp/source, this replicates the Debian approach to installing Emacs Lisp and Common Lisp files. Therefore, you need to tell your Common Lisp compiler, actually linker, i.e. ASDF, to search for systems in that directory. That is done in .sbclrc, or, more correctly, in .sbclrc-ros. As you can see, right now only SBCL is supported. The original file can be found in your slime_ros ROS package under the name sbclrc-ros. When starting the roslisp_repl executable, slime_ros_init is called, which in its turn copies sbclrc-ros into the home directory, and adds a necessary entry into .sbclrc. Check the slime_ros_init executable from slime_ros package for more info.

System requirements

  • Emacs24.3+
  • For Common Lisp developers: SBCL as the preferred compiler


  • Q: Why doesn't my roslisp_repl start properly / find rosemacs?
  • A: Probably because you didn't install the ros_emacs_utils packages, e.g. catkin_make install them. Just follow the directions in the error pop up winodw (or echo buffer) of your Emacs.
  • Q: It says component "swank" cannot be found.
  • A: There might be something wrong in your .sbclrc or .sbclrc-ros. Try calling rosrun slime_ros slime_ros_init if you haven't done that yet. (When starting REPL through roslisp_repl the script is called automatically.)
  • Q: It still doesn't work!
  • A: Please file a bug report on Github.
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