Emacs incremental completion and selection narrowing framework
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Latest commit b390c5f Oct 22, 2016 @thierryvolpiatto thierryvolpiatto Simplify splitting helm-pattern.
* helm-multi-match.el (helm-mm-space-regexp): Now a defconst.
(helm-mm-split-pattern): Remove hack.
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.github Simplify issue template. Aug 28, 2016
doc Delete now unneeded .gif file. Jul 22, 2015
.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 Remove unneeded dot in readme. Sep 24, 2016
emacs-helm.sh Another copyright fix. Mar 7, 2016
helm-adaptive.el Remove helm-attributes in helm-adaptive. Jul 11, 2016
helm-apt.el Fix helm-apt action. Aug 28, 2016
helm-bookmark.el Fix setting up mail buffer when ccing. Sep 25, 2016
helm-buffers.el Avoid repetitives calls to helm-get-current-source. Sep 5, 2016
helm-color.el Require helm-elisp in helm-colors (#1613). Sep 26, 2016
helm-command.el Allow matching only part of candidate in helm-comp-read (#1582). Aug 16, 2016
helm-config.el Disable usage of helm-persistent-action-use-special-display. Aug 30, 2016
helm-core-pkg.el Update *pkg.el files. Oct 16, 2016
helm-dabbrev.el Fix some docstrings. May 21, 2016
helm-easymenu.el Fix copyrights. Mar 5, 2016
helm-elisp-package.el Allow forcing deletion of packages. Aug 21, 2016
helm-elisp.el Allow displaying marked faces in helm-apropos (#1613). Sep 26, 2016
helm-elscreen.el Fix copyrights. Mar 5, 2016
helm-eshell.el Fix error at compile time in previous commit (#1591). Aug 28, 2016
helm-eval.el Fix copyrights. Mar 5, 2016
helm-external.el Refactorize helm-open-file-externally and friends. Mar 28, 2016
helm-files.el Prevent error with follow-mode in HFF. Sep 20, 2016
helm-font.el Give a buffer name to helm ucs buffer. Apr 7, 2016
helm-grep.el Fix docstring according to last changes. Oct 20, 2016
helm-help.el Update help for packages. Jul 24, 2016
helm-id-utils.el Add multi match support in GID and update grep help. Apr 2, 2016
helm-imenu.el Finally get rid of flashing mode-line (#1579, #1593). Sep 29, 2016
helm-info.el Stop requiring helm-plugin. Jul 12, 2016
helm-lib.el Allow undoing and redoing yank. Oct 18, 2016
helm-locate.el Allow undoing and redoing yank. Oct 18, 2016
helm-man.el Change all helm buffer window name to lowercase, for consistency. #1513 May 20, 2016
helm-misc.el Fix last sources not built with helm-source. Aug 12, 2016
helm-mode.el Move functions from helm to helm-lib and require accordingly. Sep 4, 2016
helm-multi-match.el Simplify splitting helm-pattern. Oct 22, 2016
helm-net.el Don't use follow in wikipedia suggest. Aug 25, 2016
helm-org.el Fix action tag for helm-org. Oct 16, 2016
helm-pkg.el Update *pkg.el files. Oct 16, 2016
helm-regexp.el Allow undoing and redoing yank. Oct 18, 2016
helm-ring.el Remove last obsoletes defadvices. Sep 8, 2016
helm-semantic.el Use default in semantic-or-imenu. May 30, 2016
helm-source.el Use correct argument `candidate-transformer` Oct 20, 2016
helm-sys.el Forget to rename variable in helm-sys too. Oct 10, 2016
helm-tags.el Allow undoing and redoing yank. Oct 18, 2016
helm-types.el Prevent follow-mode in bookmarks. Sep 6, 2016
helm-utils.el Save point in helm-yank-point in helm-goto-line. Oct 17, 2016
helm.el Reorder, no code change. Oct 21, 2016


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

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 (e.g M-x, C-x C-f, etc...). 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. For example, helm-M-x has more features than helm completion through M-x.

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.

Getting help

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

The Helm Team