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Emacs Live Logo

Energy starts surging through your fingertips. Sparks fly, making
the shadows grow and flicker ominously around you. You arch your
back and open your eyes as if for the first time. The text appears
more vibrant and colourful than you remember. Your fingers dance on
the keyboard commanding the cursor with a joyful precision and

You lean back and marvel as a shimmering swirl of syntactic and
semantic structures project out of the screen and intertwine with a
fractal beauty. You watch as meaning recursively unfolds into deeper
meaning live in front of your eyes. You feel a deep and lasting
synchronicity form as the boundaries between you and your Emacs
wash away. You and your Emacs Live.

M-x start-hacking.

Emacs Live

An opinionated set of defaults for getting started with a specific focus on live coding with Overtone and Quil. However, it's not just a one trick pony. It also happens to be:

  • a jolly good generic Clojure hacking config
  • a nice structured approach to organising your Emacs config
  • modular in that functionality is organised by discrete packs
  • a decent starting point for live coding in general
  • a goldmine of config snippets to plunder and add to your own config

So, wherever you are in the multiverse, Emacs Live is ready to join you in battle against the evil friction of poor text editor workflows.

"Power of the horse, full force!"
             The Space Stallions.

Requires Emacs 24.4

Emacs Live is only compatible with Emacs 24.4 and above.

Easy Install

If you're the kind of shoot-from-the-hip brogrammer that doesn't mind executing random scripts from the interwebs, then the easiest way to install Emacs Live is to run the following which will safely preserve any Emacs configs you already have:

bash <(curl -fksSL

Note: you should always read through random scripts before executing them!

Getting Started

The (only ever-so-slightly) more involved way to install is to follow these steps:

  1. Move aside ~/.emacs, ~/.emacs.el or ~/.emacs.d if they currently exist.
  2. Download the zip bundle (or clone the repository with git) and move and rename to ~/.emacs.d
  3. Launch Emacs version 24+
  4. Live code your hat off!

Clojure Hacking

If you wish to hack with Clojure projects such as Overtone and Quil you'll need to install Leiningen 2 and you're ready to roll.

Make sure you create a profile in ~/.lein/profiles.clj. It should contain the following:

{:user {:plugins [[cider/cider-nrepl "0.12.0"]
                  [refactor-nrepl    "2.2.0"]]}}

Now you're ready to start a repl in a Clojure project with lein repl and connect to it from Emacs with M-x cider-connect (supplying the host and the correct port) for full Emacs REPL/autocompletion joy.


Screenshot 1

Screenshot 2


Here's a video showing the config in use: Quick Intro to Live Programming with Overtone

Live Packs

Emacs Live is powered by a number of special packs. Packs are directories which are used to store isolated sets of functionality and configuration. These may be symlinks or git submodules depending on how you choose to store and manage your dot emacs.

Pack Structure

Each pack consists of three components: the init.el, config dir and lib dir. The init.el file is loaded first and it is here that you can run arbitrary elisp. However, it is recommended that you organise your pack by placing library code in the lib dir and individual config files in the config dir. Emacs Live provides helper fns to make it easy for you to load config files and for you to add lib dirs to your load path. See the section on helper fns below.

Shipped Packs

Emacs live ships with a few packs:


A set of defaults to create a clutter free, friendly and more dynamic Emacs foundation. Also adds fuzzy matching autocomplete functionality for most of the Emacs minibuffer actions - such as finding files, calling functions and switching buffers.


Colour highlighting in two flavours - cyberpunk and gandalf. Use color-theme-cyberpunk and color-theme-gandalf to switch between the two themes. Currently cyberpunk has seen more love - patch requests accepted for appropriate improvements to Gandalf.


A set of goodies to get you hacking Clojure like a pro.

  • Clojure Mode (with fancy (λ [a] (+ a 5)) and ƒ(+ % 5) prettifications)
  • cider (for communicating with nREPL servers)
  • Auto completion (configured to work with nREPL for inline auto completion of documentation)
  • Tailor-made colour theme
  • Fancy highlighting of sexps on eval
  • Rainbow parens and delimiters (to allow you to easily navigate a sea of parens)


A number of extra language modes for your joy. Languages include:

  • Markdown
  • Yaml
  • Ruby
  • SuperCollider
  • JavaScript
  • Extempore
  • GLSL Shaders


A boost of fantastic functionality for your live-coding fingertips. Highlights include:

  • The amazing undo-tree (live-code with confidence!)
  • Textmate-like snippets
  • Refheap mode for pasting snippets to
  • Github Gist support
  • Quick jump mode for accessing previous locations
  • Ace jump mode for jumping directly to any symbol on the screen with 2 or three keystrokes.

Loading Packs

By default, Emacs live will load the packs in the following order:

  1. foundation-pack
  2. colour-pack
  3. lang-pack
  4. power-pack
  5. git-pack
  6. org-pack
  7. clojure-pack
  8. bindings-pack

However, you may create a ~/.emacs-live.el file to override this behaviour. Simply set the var live-packs to a list of symbols representing the packs you'd like to load up (the order will be honoured). For example to only load the foundation and colour packs:

(live-use-packs '(stable/foundation-pack stable/colour-pack))

If just you wish to load your own packs after the default packs then simply use live-add-packs:

(live-add-packs '(~/.live-packs/yourname-pack))

Packs are expected to reside in ~/.emacs.d/packs/ unless you specify them with absolute paths in which case the absolute path with be honoured.

Creating your own Packs

Emacs Live provides a couple of useful helper fns which you can use within your own live packs:

  • live-pack-lib-dir this returns the path of the lib dir for the current pack
  • live-load-config-file loads a config file located in the config dir of the current pack

It is recommended that you place your own personal packs in an external directory. See the user/template-pack's README for more information.

Mailing List

I'm very happy to hear any feedback regarding this config. The idea is for you to use it to get started and give you a platform to start editing it and turning it into something personal.

Please make any comments on the Emacs Live mailing list: