Live browser JavaScript, CSS, and HTML interaction
Emacs Lisp JavaScript Other
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Skewer: live web development with Emacs

Provides live interaction with JavaScript, CSS, and HTML in a web browser. Expressions are sent on-the-fly from an editing buffer to be evaluated in the browser, just like Emacs does with an inferior Lisp process in Lisp modes.

Skewer is available from MELPA, which will install the dependencies for you. This package and its dependencies are pure Elisp, meaning setup is a breeze, the whole thing is highly portable, and it works with many browsers.


Skewer requires Emacs 24.3 or later.


Quick version

If Skewer was installed from MELPA, skip to step 3.

  1. Put this repository directory in your load-path
  2. Load skewer-mode.el
  3. M-x run-skewer to attach a browser to Emacs
  4. From a js2-mode buffer with skewer-mode minor mode enabled, send forms to the browser to evaluate

The function skewer-setup can be used to configure all of mode hooks (previously this was the default). This can also be done manually like so,

(add-hook 'js2-mode-hook 'skewer-mode)
(add-hook 'css-mode-hook 'skewer-css-mode)
(add-hook 'html-mode-hook 'skewer-html-mode)

The keybindings for evaluating expressions in the browser are just like the Lisp modes. These are provided by the minor mode skewer-mode.

  • C-x C-e: Evaluate the form before the point and display the result in the minibuffer. If given a prefix argument, insert the result into the current buffer.
  • C-M-x: Evaluate the top-level form around the point.
  • C-c C-k: Load the current buffer.
  • C-c C-z: Select the REPL buffer.

The result of the expression is echoed in the minibuffer.

Additionally, css-mode and html-mode get similar sets of bindings for modifying the CSS rules and HTML on the current page.


  • C-x C-e: Load the declaration at the point.
  • C-M-x: Load the entire rule around the point.
  • C-c C-k: Load the current buffer as a stylesheet.


  • C-M-x: Load the HTML tag immediately around the point.

Note: run-skewer uses browse-url to launch the browser. This may require further setup depending on your operating system and personal preferences.

Multiple browsers and browser tabs can be attached to Emacs at once. JavaScript forms are sent to all attached clients simultaneously, and each will echo back the result individually. Use list-skewer-clients to see a list of all currently attached clients.

Sometimes Skewer's long polls from the browser will timeout after a number of hours of inactivity. If you find the browser disconnected from Emacs for any reason, use the browser's console to call skewer() to reconnect. This avoids a page reload, which would lose any fragile browser state you might care about.

Manual version

To skewer your own document rather than the provided blank one,

  1. Load the dependencies
  2. Load skewer-mode.el
  3. Start the HTTP server (httpd-start)
  4. Include "http://localhost:8080/skewer" as a script (see example.html and check your httpd-port)
  5. Visit the document from your browser

Skewer fully supports CORS so the document need not be hosted by Emacs itself. A Greasemonkey userscript is provided, Skewer Everything, for injecting Skewer into any arbitrary page you're visiting without needing to modify the page on the host. More information below.

Don't copy skewer.js anywhere or use it directly. Emacs hosts this script itself, manipulating it in memory before it reaches the browser. Always access it through the servlet on the Emacs webserver as /skewer.

Browser Support

Skewer is known to work properly with Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, and IE8+. Except for CSS and HTML, Skewer will work in IE7 when document.querySelector and JSON are polyfilled. If you find any other JavaScript-supported browser that doesn't work with Skewer, please report it.


A REPL into the browser can be created with M-x skewer-repl, or C-c C-z. This should work like a console within the browser. Messages can be logged to this REPL with skewer.log() (like console.log()).

Results of expressions evaluated in the REPL are printed more verbosely than in the minibuffer, when possible. This may help in debugging.

Skewering with CORS

Skewer supports Cross-origin Resource Sharing (CORS). This means you can Skewer a document hosted from any server without needing any special changes on that server, except for including /skewer as a script in that document.

If you don't control the server from which you want to skewer pages -- such that you can't add the Skewer's script -- the provided Greasemonkey userscript (.user.js) can be used to inject it into any page you visit. Note that this userscript will assume you're running the Skewer server at http://localhost:8080/ (simple-httpd's default port). If this isn't true, you need to edit the top of the userscript.

The script isn't actually injected until you switch the toggle in the top-right corner, the red/green triangle.

Alternatively, the following bookmarklet will load skewer on demand:

javascript:(function(){var d=document;var s=d.createElement('script');s.src='http://localhost:8080/skewer';d.body.appendChild(s);})()

With a browser plugin like Custom Javascript for Websites, you can use the bookmarklet to auto-skewer specific domains, saving you a mouse click on each reload.


Also provided are some functions for loading libraries from the bower infrastructure on the fly. This is accessed with skewer-bower-load. For example, I often find it useful to load jQuery when skewering a page that doesn't have jQuery installed.

Note: to use this bower does not need to be installed, only git. It's just the bower infrastructure being used. Unfortunately this infrastructure is a mess right now; many packages are in some sort of broken state -- missing dependencies, missing metadata, broken metadata, or an invalid repository URL. Some of this is due to under-specification of the metadata by the bower project.


I wanted something like swank-js but without all the painful setup. Having already written an Emacs web server I was halfway there. It took relatively little code to accomplish.

I also didn't want to rely a browser-specific feature, like MozRepl or WebKit's remote debugger (kite).

The name refers to the idea that Emacs is skewering the browser from server-side.