Prelude is an enhanced Emacs 24 configuration that should make your experience with Emacs both more pleasant and more powerful.
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Emacs Prelude

Prelude is an Emacs distribution that aims to enhance the default Emacs experience. Prelude alters a lot of the default settings, bundles a plethora of additional packages and adds its own core library to the mix. The final product offers an easy to use Emacs configuration for Emacs newcomers and lots of additional power for Emacs power users.

Prelude is compatible ONLY with GNU Emacs 24.x. In general you're advised to always run Prelude with the latest Emacs - currently 24.3.

Fast Forward

Assuming you're using an Unix-like OS (*BSD, GNU/Linux, OS X, Solaris, etc), you already have Emacs 24 installed, as well as git & curl you can skip the whole manual and just type in your favorite shell the following command:

curl -L | sh

You can now power up your Emacs, sit back and enjoy Prelude, forgetting about the rest of this manual.

There are two environment variables you can use to control the source repository and the installation directory. To change the installation directory:

export PRELUDE_INSTALL_DIR="$HOME/.emacs.d" && curl -L | sh

To change the source repository:

export PRELUDE_URL="" && curl -L | sh

Note that the installer will back up any existing .emacs file or .emacs.d since it will unpack Prelude's code in .emacs.d. If you're doing a manual install make sure you don't have a .emacs file or back up your existing .emacs.d directory manually.

Don't forget to adjust your prelude-modules.el file once the installation is done. By default most of the modules that ship with Prelude are not loaded.

Installing Emacs 24

Obviously to use the Emacs Prelude you have to install Emacs 24 first. Have a look at the WikEmacs articles on installing Emacs.



You can install Emacs Prelude via the command line with either curl or wget. Naturally git is also required.

Via Curl

If you're using curl type the following command:

curl -L | sh

Via Wget

If you're using wget type:

wget --no-check-certificate -O - | sh


git clone git:// path/to/local/repo
ln -s path/to/local/repo ~/.emacs.d
cd ~/.emacs.d

You'd do well to replace ~/.emacs.d with the value of user-emacs-directory for your OS. You can check the value by doing C-h v user-emacs-directory inside Emacs.

Updating Prelude

The update procedure is fairly straightforward:

cd path/to/prelude/installation
git pull

The path/to/prelude/installation is usually ~/.emacs.d (at least on Unix systems).

Alternatively you can run M-x prelude-update from Emacs itself.

It's generally a good idea to stop Emacs before you do the update. The next time Prelude starts it will install any new dependencies (if there are such).

Enabling additional modules

By default most of the modules that ship with Prelude are not loaded.

;;; Uncomment the modules you'd like to use and restart Prelude afterwards

(require 'prelude-c)
;; (require 'prelude-clojure)
;; (require 'prelude-coffee)
;; (require 'prelude-common-lisp)
;; (require 'prelude-css)
(require 'prelude-emacs-lisp)
(require 'prelude-erc)
;; (require 'prelude-erlang)
;; (require 'prelude-haskell)
(require 'prelude-js)
;; (require 'prelude-latex)
(require 'prelude-lisp)
;; (require 'prelude-markdown)
;; (require 'prelude-mediawiki)
(require 'prelude-org)
(require 'prelude-perl)
;; (require 'prelude-python)
;; (require 'prelude-ruby)
;; (require 'prelude-scala)
(require 'prelude-scheme)
;; (require 'prelude-scss)
;; (require 'prelude-web)
(require 'prelude-xml)

You'll need to adjust your prelude-modules.el file once the installation is done. If you are doing a manual install then you first need to copy the prelude-modules.el available in the sample directory to the root of path/to/prelude/installation and then adjust that one.

After you've uncommented a module you should either restart Emacs or evaluate the module require expression with C-x C-e.


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

You'd probably do well to put a few aliases in your .zshrc (or .bashrc):

alias e=emacsclient -t
alias ec=emacsclient -c
alias vim=emacsclient -t
alias vi=emacsclient -t

The last two aliases are helpful if you're used to editing files from the command line using vi(m).

Getting to know Prelude

Certainly the best way to understand how Prelude enhances the default Emacs experience is to peruse Prelude's source code (which is obviously written in Emacs Lisp). Understanding the code is not necessary of course. Prelude includes a prelude-mode minor Emacs mode which collects some of the additional functionality added by Prelude. It also adds an additional keymap that binds many of those extensions to keybindings.



Keybinding Description
C-M-h Kill the previous word(backward-kill-word). (as in Bash/Zsh)
C-x \ align-regexp
C-+ Increase font size(text-scale-increase).
C-- Decrease font size(text-scale-decrease).
C-x O Go back to previous window (the inverse of other-window (C-x o)).
C-^ Join two lines into one(prelude-top-join-line).
C-x p Start proced (manage processes from Emacs; works only in Linux).
C-x m Start eshell.
C-x M-m Start your default shell.
C-x C-m Alias for M-x.
C-h A Run apropos (search in all Emacs symbols).
M-/ Run hippie-expand (a replacement for the default dabbrev-expand).
C-x C-b Open ibuffer (a replacement for the default buffer-list).
F11 Make the window full screen.
F12 Toggle the Emacs menu bar.
C-x g Open Magit's status buffer.
C-= Run expand-region (incremental text selection).
C-a Run prelude-move-beginning-of-line. Read this for details.

Prelude Mode

Keybinding Description
C-c o Open the currently visited file with an external program.
C-c g Search in Google for the thing under point (or an interactive query).
C-c y Search in YouTube for the thing under point (or an interactive query).
C-S-RET or M-o Insert an empty line above the current line and indent it properly
S-RET or M-O Insert an empty line and indent it properly (as in most IDEs).
C-S-up Move the current line up.
C-S-down Move the current line down.
C-c n Fix indentation in buffer and strip whitespace.
C-c f Open recently visited file.
C-M-\ Indent region (if selected) or the entire buffer.
C-c u Open URL in your default browser.
C-c e Eval a bit of Emacs Lisp code and replace it with its result.
C-c s Swap two active windows.
C-c d Duplicate the current line (or region).
C-c M-d Duplicate and comment the current line (or region).
C-c r Rename the currently visited file and buffer.
C-c t Open a terminal emulator (ansi-term).
C-c k Kill all open buffers except the one you're currently in.
C-c h Open Helm (a useful means of navigating your buffers and project files).
C-c + Increment integer at point.
C-c - Decrement integer at point.
Super-r Recent files
Super-x Expand region
Super-j Join lines
Super-k Kill whole line
Super-m Magit status
Super-o Open line above current line

OSX modifier keys

Prelude does not mess by default with the standard mapping of Command (to Super) and Option (to Meta).

If you want to swap them add this to your personal config:

(setq mac-command-modifier 'meta)
(setq mac-option-modifier 'super)

You can also temporarily swap them with C-c w (M-x prelude-swap-meta-and-super).


Here's a list of functionality provided by Projectile:

Keybinding Description
C-c p f Display a list of all files in the project. With a prefix argument it will clear the cache first.
C-c p d Display a list of all directories in the project. With a prefix argument it will clear the cache first.
C-c p T Display a list of all test files(specs, features, etc) in the project.
C-c p g Run grep on the files in the project.
C-c p b Display a list of all project buffers currently open.
C-c p o Runs multi-occur on all project buffers currently open.
C-c p r Runs interactive query-replace on all files in the projects.
C-c p i Invalidates the project cache (if existing).
C-c p R Regenerates the projects TAGS file.
C-c p k Kills all project buffers.
C-c p D Opens the root of the project in dired.
C-c p e Shows a list of recently visited project files.
C-c p a Runs ack on the project. Requires the presence of ack-and-a-half.
C-c p c Runs a standard compilation command for your type of project.
C-c p p Runs a standard test command for your type of project.
C-c p z Adds the currently visited to the cache.
C-c p s Display a list of known projects you can switch to.

Prelude adds some extra keybindings:

Keybinding Command
Super-f Find file in project
Super-d Find directory in project
Super-g Run grep on project
Super-p Switch projects

If you ever forget any of Projectile's keybindings just do a:

C-c p C-h


Keybinding Description
jj Jump to the beginning of a word(ace-jump-word-mode)
jk Jump to a character(ace-jump-char-mode)
jl Jump to the beginning of a line(ace-jump-line-mode)
JJ Jump back to previous buffer(prelude-switch-to-previous-buffer)
uu View edits as a tree(undo-tree-visualize)
Disabling key-chords

In some cases you may not want to have a key-chord that is defined by prelude, in which case you can disable the binding in your personal.el file by setting its command to nil. For example, to disable the jj key-chord add the following line:

(key-chord-define-global "jj" nil)

If you're an evil-mode user you'll probably do well to disable key-chord-mode altogether:

(key-chord-mode -1)

Automatic package installation

The default Prelude installation comes with a bare minimum of functionality. It will however install add-ons for various programming languages and frameworks on demand. For instance - if you try to open a .clj file clojure-mode, nrepl.el and prelude's enhanced Lisp configuration will be installed automatically for you.

You can, of course, install anything you wish manually as well.

Color Themes

Emacs 24 ships with a new theming facility that effectively renders the old color-theme package obsolete. Emacs 24 provides a dozen of built-in themes you can use out-of-the-box by invoking the M-x load-theme command.

Zenburn is the default color theme in Prelude, but you can change it at your discretion. Why Zenburn? I (and lots of hackers around the world) find it pretty neat for some reason. Personally 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).

To disable Zenburn just put in your personal config the following line:

(disable-theme 'zenburn)

Or you can use another theme altogether by adding something like:

(load-theme 'solarized-dark t)

P.S. Solarized is not available by default - you'll have to install it from MELPA first (M-x package-install RET solarized-theme).


Fork the official Prelude repo and add your own touch to it. You're advised to avoid changing stuff outside of the personal folder to avoid having to deal with git merge conflicts in the future.

If you'd like to add some auto installation of packages in your personal config use the following code:

(prelude-require-packages '(some-package some-other-package))

If you require just a single package you can also use:

(prelude-require-package 'some-package)

Disabling whitespace-mode

Although whitespace-mode is awesome some people might find it too intrusive. You can disable it in your personal config with the following bit of code:

(setq prelude-whitespace nil)

If you like whitespace-mode but prefer it to not automatically cleanup your file on save, you can disable that behavior by setting prelude-clean-whitespace-on-save to nil in your config file with:

(setq prelude-clean-whitespace-on-save nil)

The prelude-clean-whitespace-on-save setting can also be set on a per-file or directory basis by using a file variable or a .dir-locals.el file.

Disable flyspell-mode

If you're not fond of spellchecking on the fly:

(setq prelude-flyspell nil)

Caveats & Pitfalls

Problems with flyspell-mode

Prelude makes heavy use of the flyspell-mode package for spell checking of various things. The proper operation of flyspell depends on the presence of the aspell program and an en dictionary on your system. You can install aspell and the dictionary on OS X with homebrew like this:

brew install aspell --with-lang=en

On Linux distros - just use your distro's package manager.

Ugly colors in the terminal Emacs version

If your Emacs looks considerably uglier in a terminal (compared to the GUI version) try adding this to your .bashrc or .zshrc:

export TERM=xterm-256color

Source the .bashrc file and start Emacs again.

MELPA error on initial startup

If you get some http connection error related to the MELPA repo just do a manual M-x package-refresh-contents and restart Emacs afterwards.

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 (and keys like page up, page down, etc) - to prevent you from being tempted to use them.

If you'd still like to use the arrow keys just invoke M-x guru-mode to enable them for the duration of your current Emacs session or add the following snippet to your personal Emacs customization to enable them permanently:

(setq prelude-guru nil)

Customized C-a behavior

Prelude overrides C-a to behave as described here. If you don't like that simply add this to your personal config:

(global-set-key [remap move-beginning-of-line]

Poor ido matching performance on large datasets

Prelude swaps the default ido flex matching with the more powerful ido-flx.

The sorting algorithm flx uses is more complex, but yields better results.

On slower machines, it may be necessary to lower flx-ido-threshhold to ensure a smooth experience.

(setq flx-ido-threshhold 1000)

You can always disable the improved sorting algorithm all together like this:

(flx-ido-mode -1)

Windows compatibility

While everything in Prelude should work fine in Windows, I test it only with Linux & OSX, so there are Windows related problems from time to time. This situation will probably improve over time.

Share the knowledge

WikEmacs collects useful resources for working with GNU Emacs. Please, take the time to peruse and improve them as you accumulate knowledge about Emacs. Prelude makes this especially easy, since it bundles MediaWiki support + the settings required to access WikEmacs right away.

Known issues

Check out the project's issue list a list of unresolved issues. By the way - feel free to fix any of them and send me a pull request. :-)


Support is available via the Prelude Google Group


Here's a list of all the people who have contributed to the development of Emacs Prelude.

Bugs & Improvements

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