Emacs incremental completion and selection narrowing framework
Emacs Lisp Other
Latest commit 319292c Feb 25, 2017 @thierryvolpiatto thierryvolpiatto Remove read-only property in *mark-ring (#1697).
* helm-ring.el (helm-mark-ring-line-string-at-pos): Do it.
(helm-global-mark-ring-format-buffer):              Do it.
Failed to load latest commit information.
.github Simplify issue template. Aug 28, 2016
images Move gif file to new dir images and update readme file. Feb 5, 2017
.gitignore Add ID to .gitignore May 24, 2015
COPYING Add full GPLv3 license. Mar 18, 2012
Makefile * Makefile: Sort files list (#874). Feb 16, 2015
README.md Update README. Feb 18, 2017
emacs-helm.sh Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-adaptive.el Ensure to not addition timestamp with freq. Feb 23, 2017
helm-apt.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-bookmark.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-buffers.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-color.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-command.el Fail silently when user exit M-x with empty string. Feb 9, 2017
helm-config.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-core-pkg.el Update pkg files. Feb 8, 2017
helm-dabbrev.el Fix dabbrev delimiter. Feb 24, 2017
helm-easymenu.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-elisp-package.el Fix paren error in previous commit. Feb 3, 2017
helm-elisp.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-elscreen.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-eshell.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-eval.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-external.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-files.el Allow customizing dired commands allowed to go to first real cand (#910 Feb 14, 2017
helm-font.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-grep.el Fix AG pipe command line for RG. Feb 3, 2017
helm-help.el Update global help message. Feb 24, 2017
helm-id-utils.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-imenu.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-info.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-lib.el Allow a numeric value for :multiline slot (#1686). Feb 9, 2017
helm-locate.el Highlight basename of candidate when -b is detected at end of pattern. Jan 12, 2017
helm-man.el Add comments, no code change (#1681). Feb 2, 2017
helm-misc.el Revert changes for helm-minibuffer-history. Jan 28, 2017
helm-mode.el Allow marking candidates in crm-complete (#1692). Feb 16, 2017
helm-multi-match.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-net.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-org.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-pkg.el Update pkg files. Feb 8, 2017
helm-regexp.el Fix issue when jumping from grep-mode moccur-mode buffers. Jan 26, 2017
helm-ring.el Remove read-only property in *mark-ring (#1697). Feb 25, 2017
helm-semantic.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-source.el Allow a numeric value for :multiline slot (#1686). Feb 9, 2017
helm-sys.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-tags.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-types.el Update copyrights. Jan 1, 2017
helm-utils.el Fix paren error in previous commit. Jan 27, 2017
helm.el Update global help message. Feb 24, 2017


License GPL 3 MELPA MELPA Stable



Maintainance of Helm is a lot of work that I do freely on my sparse time,

please Donate to help this project,

or Support via Gratipay

or with Bitcoins


Table of Contents


Helm is an Emacs framework for incremental completions and narrowing selections. It helps to rapidly complete file names, buffer names, or any other Emacs interactions requiring selecting an item from a list of possible choices.

Helm is a fork of anything.el, which was originally written by Tamas Patrovic and can be considered to be its successor. Helm cleans the legacy code that is leaner, modular, and unchained from constraints of backward compatibility.


Helm requires Emacs-24.4 or later versions.

Helm installs async package as a dependency when Helm is installed using MELPA.

Helm installation from the git source repository does not include async. The async package is recommended for smooth asynchronous file and dired operations in Helm.

Getting Started

Quick install from git

  1. Clone the helm repository to some directory:

    $ git clone https://github.com/emacs-helm/helm.git /path/to/helm/directory
  2. Clone the async repository to some directory (facultative)

    $ git clone https://github.com/jwiegley/emacs-async.git /path/to/async/directory
  3. Run make from the helm directory.

  4. Add to .emacs.el (or equivalent):

    ;; If async is installed
    (add-to-list 'load-path "/path/to/async/directory")
    (add-to-list 'load-path "/path/to/helm/directory")
    (require 'helm-config)

NOTE: Installing helm using git and make is the safest way.

To quickly run helm, launch this script from helm directory:


Also use the same script above for bug reporting.

NOTE: This script does not work on Windows systems.

Install from Emacs packaging system

Helm can also be installed from MELPA repository at http://melpa.org/. You will find the instructions to install packages from MELPA here.

No further configuration is necessary to run helm other than perhaps a one-line entry in the Emacs init file:

(require 'helm-config)

WARNING: Helm upgrades from MELPA repository encountered errors because of the way package.el fetched and compiled updates for existing packages. To get around these errors, Helm adds Async as a dependency package install. Async forces compilation in a clean environment, which solves those compilation errors. Since async has other benefits as well, both for Helm and other packages, we recommend installing async even for Helm installs using git. See FAQ for details.

Note: Restart Emacs for Helm updates from MELPA repositories to take effect.

Note to Linux Distributions Maintainers

Only the extensions in the github emacs-helm repository are supported.

Debian and Ubuntu

Users of Debian 9 or later or Ubuntu 16.04 or later may simply apt-get install elpa-helm (or apt-get install elpa-helm-core; see below).

Installing just the helm-core package

helm-core package is available on MELPA for third party packages that depend on helm libraries. These packages should require helm as follows:

 (require 'helm)

Requiring helm builds and runs helm code necessary for multiple regexp and fuzzy matching. See helm wiki for details.

Warning about alternate installation methods

Installation methods that circumvent helm-config are known to fail if the careful safeguards are not implemented in the hacks.


For minimal helm configuration, run the start-up script ./emacs-helm.sh and then see the file /tmp/helm-cfg.el.

The full configuration I (the helm maintainer) use is here.

Also see helm customizable variables with the customize interface.

Enabling helm-mode will enable helm for many features of emacs requiring completions, see below how to enable helm-mode.

Basic usage

M-x helm-M-x RET helm- lists helm commands ready for narrowing and selecting.

To bind to M-x:

(global-set-key (kbd "M-x") 'helm-M-x)


In any helm session (after helm-M-x or helm- command)

C-h m pops a general info buffer about helm

C-c ? pops a special info buffer of the current helm command

Not all helm commands have specialized info buffers. Look for C-c ? in the mode-line. C-h m is shown for any command that does not have a specialized info buffer.

Use these embedded Info screens first before reporting bugs.

M-x helm-mode to enable helm completion for common Emacs commands. Note that the helm functionality enabled through helm-mode comes from a generic implementation and does not include all helm features available through equivalent helm-specific commands. See FAQ about M-x and C-x C-f.

To make helm-mode start with Emacs init file:

(helm-mode 1)

To discover helm commands, look at helm menu item in Emacs menu.

Another way to discover helm commands: run the shell script: ./emacs-helm.sh and then look in the scratch buffer. emacs-helm.sh accepts emacs command line options. emacs-helm.sh -h opens an Info screen with more details.

Advanced usage

Helm contains many features, some of which are easier to follow visually. Here is a demo of helm-buffers-list used with helm-moccur. Demo starts with Eval: START in the minibuffer.


  • Regexp *C selects the C buffers. *Tcl in the demo selects TCL buffers, then with *C switches back to C buffers.
  • For buffers containing the string "crash", the demo adds a space, then the pattern @crash.
  • Matching buffers are then handed over to helm-moccur - moccur with its own Helm interface. The demo shows switching to a single file, kexec.c. Multiple selections can be made with C-SPC. M-a selects all.
  • Adding characters to the pattern gradually filters (narrows) the available candidates. By adding memory, the buffers shown now include those buffers with "crash" and "memory".

With more pattern matching, candidates are narrowed down from the initial 253 buffers to 12 as shown in the modeline.

Helm guide and Helm Wiki provide additional details.

Matching methods

Helm support by default multi pattern matching, it is the standard way of matching in helm. E.g You can use a pattern like "foo bar" to match a line containing "foo" and "bar" or "bar" and "foo". Each pattern can be a regexp.

In addition helm support fuzzy matching.

Creating custom helm sources

An example:

(helm :sources (helm-build-sync-source "test"
                 :candidates '(foo foa fob bar baz)
                 :fuzzy-match t)
      :buffer "*helm test*")

The candidates list may be replaced by a function that produces a list. See (helm wiki) for details.

Helm Applications

These are popular applications developed using helm completion and narrowing framework. They are available for individual installs through the Emacs package manager. This list is not exhaustive.

  • helm-mode: turns on helm completions for most standard emacs completions. Helm provides even more optimized helm completions for some commands in helm-mode. Prefer these natively optimized versions over the ones in helm-mode.

  • helm-find-files: one command that handles all the files related commands (bind to C-x C-f).

  • helm-buffers-list: provides enhanced buffers listing.

  • helm-browse-project: handles project files and buffers; defaults to current directory; works with helm-find-files; recommended with helm-ls-git, helm-ls-hg and helm-ls-svn for a better handling of version control files. Each time a project under version control is visited it is added to helm-browse-project-history and can be visted with helm-projects-history.

  • helm-dabbrev: enhanced dabbrev implementation with helm completion; does not use emacs code.

  • helm-moccur: enhanced occur for one or more buffers; launch from helm-buffers-list or current-buffer.

  • helm-M-x: enhanced execute-extended-command (bind it to M-x).

  • helm-imenu and helm-imenu-in-all-buffers: provide imenus for current or all buffers.

  • helm-etags-select: enhanced etags with helm-completion; usable everywhere with helm-find-files.

  • helm-apropos: enhanced apropos for functions and variables that C-h commands provide.

  • Grep: launch from any helm file commands; supports back-ends grep, ack-grep, git-grep, ag and custom implementation of pt.

  • helm-gid: Helm interface for gid from id-utils.

  • helm-show-kill-ring: A helm browser for kill ring.

  • helm-all-mark-rings: A helm browser for mark ring; retrieves last positions in buffers.

  • helm-filtered-bookmarks: enhanced browser for bookmarks.

  • helm-list-elisp-packages: enhanced browser for elisp package management.

Recommended Helm extensions

Warning Helm development has sparked quite a few extensions, many of which duplicate features already included in helm. Some of these packages (about 20 at last count in the MELPA repository) are either deprecated or unmaintained. Moreover, many remain out-of-sync with helm core development cycles causing incompatibilities. To avoid helm problems or unstable emacs, please look for comparable features within helm and emacs-helm before installing such extensions.

Known issues

The Helm project has a current unresolved issue list. Please feel free to fix any of them; send a pull request.


The Helm project maintains a list of contributors.

Bugs & Improvements

The Helm Team welcomes bug reports and suggestions. Note that not all bugs when using Helm are due to Helm. Because of the way Helm interacts with many Emacs features, bugs may be related to Emacs itself.

One way to ascertain that the bugs are helm-related, recreate the error either by using Emacs -Q or by running the included package script ./emacs-helm.sh located in the helm directory.

Helm comes now with a template for filling bugs, when reporting issues, be sure to fill all sections and to run helm from a minimal install as described above to reproduce your bug.

Getting help

Helm Wiki and emacs-helm Google group are two readily available locations.

The Helm Team