Manage the external elisp bits and pieces you depend upon
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Short Story: el-get allows you to install and manage elisp code for Emacs. It supports lots of differents types of sources and is able to 'install' them, 'update' them and 'remove' them, but more importantly it will 'init' them for you.

That means it will require the 'features' you need, load the necessary files, set the 'Info' paths so that C-h i shows the new documentation you now depend on, and finally call your own :post-init function for you to setup the extension. Or call it a package.

Status and Version Numbers

Current el-get status is stable, ready for daily use and packed with extra features that make life easier. There are some more things we could do, as always, but they will be about smoothing things further.

Latest released version

el-get version 2.1 is available, with a boatload of features, including autoloads support, byte-compiling in an external "clean room" Emacs instance, custom support, lazy initialisation support (defering all init functions to eval-after-load), and multi repositories ELPA support.

Version numbering

Version String are now inspired by how Emacs itself numbers its versions. First is the major version number, then a dot, then the minor version number. The minor version number is 0 when still developping the next major version. So 3.0 is a developer release while 3.1 will be the next stable release.

Please note that this versioning policy has been picked while backing 1.2~dev, so 1.0 was a "stable" release in fact. Ah, history.

How to Install it?

Here’s the 'lazy installer':

;; So the idea is that you copy/paste this code into your *scratch* buffer,
;; hit C-j, and you have a working el-get.
 (lambda (s)

You have to type C-j with the cursor at the end of the last line, but still on the line. 'C-j runs the command eval-print-last-sexp', so it will evaluate the code you’re looking at, and that will git clone el-get at the 'right place'.

Note that you can add this elisp code into your emacs init file directly, as the installer code will detect if el-get is already installed. Notice that doing so directly will require internet access to start emacs. You can avoid this with the following snippet instead:

(add-to-list 'load-path "~/.emacs.d/el-get/el-get")

(unless (require 'el-get nil t)
   (lambda (s)

See next section for details about how to setup you emacs so that it’s able to benefit from el-get automatically.

Basic usage

Now that el-get is installed, simply use M-x el-get-install and pick whatever package you need. Arrange to have el-get part of your setup, so that at next emacs startup the installed packages are initialized. Here’s how to:

(add-to-list 'load-path "~/.emacs.d/el-get/el-get")

(unless (require 'el-get nil t)
   (lambda (s)

(el-get 'sync)

That’s the basic setup.

Advanced setup with local recipes

Of course, my emacs setup is managed in a private git repository. Some people on #emacs are using git submodules (or was it straight import) for managing external repositories in there, but all I can say is that I frown on this idea. I want an easy canonical list of packages I depend on to run emacs, and I want this documentation to be usable as-is. Enters el-get!

(add-to-list 'load-path "~/.emacs.d/el-get/el-get")
(require 'el-get)

;; local sources
(setq el-get-sources
      '((:name magit
	       :after (lambda () (global-set-key (kbd "C-x C-z") 'magit-status)))

	(:name asciidoc
	       :type elpa
	       :after (lambda ()
			(autoload 'doc-mode "doc-mode" nil t)
			(add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.adoc$" . doc-mode))
			(add-hook 'doc-mode-hook '(lambda ()
						    (require 'asciidoc)))))

	(:name lisppaste        :type elpa)
        (:name dictionary-el    :type apt-get)
        (:name emacs-goodies-el :type apt-get)))

(setq my-packages
       '(cssh el-get switch-window vkill google-maps nxhtml xcscope yasnippet)
       (mapcar 'el-get-source-name el-get-sources)))

(el-get 'sync my-packages)

So now you have a pretty good documentation of the packages you want installed, where to get them, and how to install them. For the advanced methods (such as elpa or apt-get), you basically just need the package name. When relying on a bare git repository, you need to give some more information, such as the URL to clone and the build steps if any. Then also what features to require and maybe where to find the texinfo documentation of the package, for automatic inclusion into your local Info menu.

The good news is that not only you now have a solid readable description of all that in a central place, but this very description is all (el-get) needs to do its magic. This command will check that each and every package is installed on your system (in el-get-dir) and if that’s not the case, it will actually install it. Then, it will init the packages: that means caring about the load-path, the Info-directory-list (and dir texinfo menu building) the loading of the emacs-lisp files, and finally it will require the features.

How to use it?

You see that el-get-sources example up there? It finishes with a single (el-get) call. That’s it. It will 'install' new sources on the list and only 'init' already installed ones.

The status of each package is tracked into ~/.emacs.d/el-get/.status.el (by default) and can get the values required, installed or removed.

Sync or async?

Most often you want el-get-install and el-get-build to stay out of the way and be 'asynchronous', so that you can continue using Emacs while your new package is getting ready. But imagine you’re starting up Emacs after a git pull on the other computer (after a commute, say), and there’s some newer packages for this instance to consider installing.

Now you want a synchronous install, right?

So, by default (el-get) is asynchronous, but you can ask for it to be sync, or to still be asynchronous but to wait until it finished before to give control back:

(el-get 'sync)
(el-get 'wait)

You even get a progress report!


See the documentation of the el-get-sources variable for details. Please note that el-get-sources is another source location for recipes, adding to your el-get-recipe-path.

Note that you can also give a mix of packages symbols, inline recipes and source lists to el-get as arguments, and completely bypass the el-get-sources variable.

(el-get 'sync 'package 'name 'list-of-packages-names-or-symbol)

It is still recommended to (setq el-get-sources '(list of packages)) then use (el-get 'sync), so that commands such as el-get-update know which packages to update.


Some sources are contributed to el-get directly, so that you only have to put in the el-get-sources the name of the package you want to install.

Should you need some local specific setup, you can do that by providing a partial sources missing the :type property: your local properties will get merged into the recipes one.

Also, the variable el-get-recipe-path allows you to maintain local recipes in case you either dislike the default one or are crafting some new one not commited to the main repository yet. But please do consider sending them over!

We do not intend to provide recipes for advanced types such as apt-get and elpa because there’s so little to win here, and maintaining a package list would take too much time.

Build Commands

Avoid using make install, which will usually move files into a "system location." In our case, you probably just want your package foo to be all installed into ~/.emacs.d/el-get/foo, right? So, no make install.

Byte Compiling

el-get will 'byte compile' the elisp for the package when its source definition includes a :compile property set to the list of files to byte compile (or to a single file), or all the .el files found in the package when there’s no :build command.


el-get offers a variety of specific hooks (read the source), and two general purposes hooks facilities: el-get-post-install-hooks and el-get-post-update-hooks, called with the package name as argument.

Some more commands?

Yes, ok.

M-x el-get-list-packages

Opens a buffer listing all known packages (those for which you have a recipe). The listing includes the package name, its status (one of "available", "installed", "removed" or "required") and the package description. The description is a free form text and has not been provided for all recipes. Please also note that el-get-emacswiki-refresh will create recipes omitting the description as of now.

M-x el-get-describe

Prompt for a package name, with completion, then open an *Help* window with details about the selected package. Those include current status, website, description, installation method, full recipe, and buttons to easily install, update or remove the package.

M-x el-get-sync

Synchronously install any "required" package and init any "installed" one.

M-x el-get-cd

Will prompt for an installed package name, with completion, then open its directory with dired.

M-x el-get-install

Will prompt for a package name, with completion, then install it. It will only propose packages that are not already installed. Any package that you have a recipe for is a candidate.

Please note that when installing a package that is not in your
+el-get-sources+ or your +el-get+ call means that it will not be
initialized for you automatically at emacs startup.  You get a +WARNING+
message when that's the case.
C-h e runs the command view-echo-area-messages.
M-x el-get-update

Will prompt for an installed package name, with completion, then update it. This will run the build commands and init the package again.

M-x el-get-self-update

Update only one package, el-get itself.

M-x el-get-update-all

Will update all packages used in el-get-sources. Beware that using this function can lead to hours of settings review: more often than not updating a package requires some adjustments to your setup. Updating all of them at once will require reviewing almost all your setup.

M-x el-get-remove

Will prompt for an installed package name, with completion, then remove it. Depending on the type of the package, this often means simply deleting the directory where the source package lies. Sometime we have to use external tools instead (apt-get, e.g.). No effort is made to unload the features.

M-x el-get-find-recipe-file

Will prompt for the name of a package, with completion, then find-file its recipe file.

M-x el-get-make-recipes

Will prompt for an existing directory where to output all your 'new' recipe files: one file for each entry in el-get-sources that is not just a symbol and that is not found anywhere in el-get-recipe-path.

M-x el-get-emacswiki-refresh

Will launch a subprocess that connects to EmacsWiki and fetch from there the list of elisp scripts hosted. Then produce a recipe file per script, and store that in the given directory, which default to ~/.emacs.d/el-get/el-get/recipes/emacswiki/ if you didn’t change el-get-dir.

Useful functions

el-get-package-types-alist (statuses &rest types)

Return an alist of package names that are of given types. Only consider packages whose status is `member' of STATUSES, which defaults to installed, required and removed.

ELISP> (el-get-package-types-alist "installed" 'cvs 'emacswiki)
((emacs-w3m . cvs)
 (rect-mark . emacswiki)
 (icomplete+ . emacswiki)
 (php-mode-improved . emacswiki)
 (rainbow-delimiters . emacswiki)
 (goto-last-change . emacswiki)
 (emacs-goodies-el . cvs))
el-get-extra-packages (&rest packages)

Return installed or required packages that are not in given package list.

ELISP> (el-get-extra-packages dim-packages)
((verbiste "installed")
 (package "installed"))


TODO: explain the symlinks in ~/.emacs.d/el-get. For now, read the source and try it out.

Extending it

Please see the documentation for the el-get-methods and provide a patch!

Adding bzr support for example was only about writing 2 functions, mostly using copy paste. Here’s the patch:

Upgrade Notes

Upgrading to 3.0

Please remind that 3.0 is a development branch. A change has been included so that el-get-sources is now only another source for recipes, and (el-get '...) will now only install and initialize known "required" and "installed" packages.

The documentation has been updated to detail the new setup.

If you have packages that have been installed in the past but you no longer want in your setup, here’s how to get them out of the way:

M-: (el-get-save-package-status "package-name-here" "removed")

Upgrading to 1.1

Package Status

el-get will now save some package status information into the file el-get-status-file, it’s a property list of the package symbol and its status. The status is set to "required" when you enter el-get-install and is changed to installed upon successful completion of the installation, including the build.

Now, if you el-get-install an already installed package, this is an error. If the status is "required", a previous install failed, you have to el-get-remove the package before continuing. If the status is "installed", well, the package is known installed.

To reinit the status file you might need to execute the following code:

 (mapc (lambda (p) (el-get-save-package-status p "installed"))