Emacs Prelude is an enhanced Emacs configuration that should make your experience with Emacs both more pleasant and more powerful.
Emacs Lisp
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Emacs Prelude


Emacs is probably the best text editor in the world. However, the process of coming up with a useful Emacs configuration is long and difficult. It's this process that separates you from truly taking advantage of Emacs's power. I like to refer to this process as the Prelude. The Emacs Prelude has the goal to ease the initial Emacs setup process and to provide you with a much more powerful and productive experience than that you get out of the box. By using Emacs Prelude you're basically getting a "Get me out of the Prelude, I just want to use Emacs" card.

Emacs Prelude is compatible ONLY with GNU Emacs 24. While Emacs 24 is not yet officially released it's a rock solid piece of software more than suitable for everyday work. There is no good excuse not to use Emacs 24!

Emacs Prelude is not the only reusable Emacs config out there - the Emacs Starter Kit is fairly popular and there is the Emacs Dev Kit that I used to maintain. I've decided to abandon the Emacs Dev Kit for the Emacs Prelude for two reasons - the unfortunate choice a name (too similar to Emacs Starter Kit) and the totally new philosophy I have in store for the Prelude (easy to update, easy to personalize, easy to extend, highly modular, highly comprehensible).

Getting Emacs 24

Obviously to use the Emacs Prelude you have to install Emacs 24 first. Here's a few tips on doing so:


Obtaining Emacs 24 on OS X is really simple. There are two popular ways to do it. The first is to simply download a pretest (or a nightly build) from Emacs for OSX. My personal recommendation would be to get the latest pretest (which is ironically the first pretest as well) from here.

That was really easy, right?

The second easy way to obtain Emacs 24 is via homebrew. Just type the following incantation in your shell and you're done:

$ brew install emacs --cocoa --use-git-head --HEAD
$ cp -r /usr/local/Cellar/emacs/HEAD/Emacs.app /Applications/

The second step is optional, but it's recommended if you like to start Emacs from the launchpad or from Spotlight. Personally I prefer to start Emacs in daemon mode (emacs --daemon), so that I could share a single Emacs instance between several Emacs clients (emacsclient -c/t).

That's all folk! You may now proceed to the configuration section.


Given that Linux is more or less the home os of Emacs it presents us with the most installation options. Of course, we can build Emacs from source on every distribution out there, but I rarely bother to do so. Using the distribution's package manager is a better idea for many reasons - you don't need to install a build chain and lots of dev libraries, you get updated versions when they are released and you get automated dependency manager, just to name a few.

That said, few distributions include in their primary repositories builds of Emacs 24. Luckily there are some unofficial repos that come to the rescue.

Debian/Ubuntu users should look no further than the amazing emacs-snapshot APT repo. You'll find installation instructions there for all the relevant Debian and Ubuntu versions out there. High quality, highly recommended builds!

Gentoo users have even less to do, since Emacs 24 can be obtained via the emacs-vcs package in portage, as noted in the official Emacs on Gentoo page.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to find prebuilt Emacs 24 packages for any of the RPM distros (Fedora, SUSE, Mandriva, etc). Since, I'm Debian user I have to admit that I didn't look that far, but the source installation is not particularly hard and is always an option.


There are several ways to obtain precompiled Emacs 24 binaries if you're a Windows users. The most popular are EmacsW32, Emacs for Windows and of course the official Emacs Windows builds. I've ,personally, never used any builds other than the official ones. The unofficial builds usually include installers and various patches that might be of use to some users.

Since I rarely use Windows I cannot give you any more advice on the choice of a binary vendor.

Enhanced programming experience

The following list will be expanded greatly in the future.

Additional programming languages support

  • Clojure
  • CoffeeScript
  • Haskell

Additional markup languages support

  • Markdown
  • Sass
  • Haml
  • Yaml
  • LaTeX

Enhanced configuration

  • C
  • Common Lisp
  • Ruby
  • Scheme

Enhanced productivity

Bundled packages

  • auctex (LaTeX editing)
  • clojure-mode
  • coffee-mode
  • deft (note taking)
  • gist (snippet sharing on github.com)
  • haml-mode
  • haskell-mode
  • magit (enhanced git integration)
  • markdown-mode
  • paredit
  • projectile (project management mode)
  • sass-mode
  • scss-mode
  • yaml-mode
  • yari (ri frontend)
  • yasnippet


git clone git://github.com/bbatsov/emacs-prelude.git path/to/local/repo
ln -s path/to/local/repo ~/.emacs.d


Nothing fancy here. Just start Emacs as usual. Personally I run Emacs in daemon mode:

emacs --daemon

Afterwards I connect to the server with either a terminal or a GUI client like this:

emacsclient -t
emacsclient -c


If you'd like to change some of the setting in Prelude (or simply add more) the proper way to do so would be to create Emacs Lisp files under the personal directory in ~/.emacs.d. They will be loaded automatically be Prelude on startup.

Avoid modifying the Prelude config itself - this will make it hard for you to receive automatic updates in the future.

Caveats & Pitfall

No arrow navigation in editor buffers

This is not a bug - it's a feature! I firmly believe that the one true way to use Emacs is by using it the way it was intended to be used (as far as navigation is concerned at least). That's why I've disabled all movement commands with arrows - to prevent you from being tempted to use them.

What is this terrible default theme?

It's called Zenburn and I (and lots of hackers around) the world find it pretty neat (I also happen to be the maintainer of its Emacs port). I find the default theme pretty tiresome for the eyes, that's why I took that "controversial" decision to replace it. You can, of course, easily go back to the default (or select another theme entirely).

Known issues

None so far.

Bugs & Improvements

Bug reports and suggestions for improvements are always welcome. github pull requests are even better! ;-)

I'd like to include a nice variety of Emacs 24 themes into Prelude - so if you've developed (or simply found) one - give me a shout and I'll take a look at it.