Manage the external elisp bits and pieces upon which you depend!
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El-Get allows you to install and manage elisp code for Emacs. It supports lots of differents types of sources and is able to install them, update them and remove them, but more importantly it will init them for you. That means it will require the features you need, load the necessary files, set the Info paths so that C-h i shows the new documentation you now depend on, and finally call your own initialisation code for you to setup the extension. Or call it a package.


There are many methods to keep track of your emacs setup. You can manage it all in a private git repository, you can set up git submodules or directly import external repositories. You can manually retrieve the various packages you wish to track and ensure they are installed on any machine you apply your configuration to.

All of these systems require some degree of manual maintenance, especially if you have packages from various types of locations: github, emacswiki, GNU ELPA or Marmalade, privately hosted pages, git, bzr, CVS, the list goes on.

El-Get is designed to simplify this process and allow access to all the various methods of obtaining packages from a single interface. Every package has a recipe that allows you to locate the original source, and that can be updated if the package is moved.

Whether you are using one machine or many, El-Get provides you with a simple interface to your list of installed packages, and the tools to keep them up to date.

El-Get, ELPA and package.el

Emacs 24 ships with package.el which allows for easy installation of Emacs Lisp extensions for Emacs, and supports several servers where to find a list of packaged extension.

Rather than ask authors or contributors to clean-up and package existing software, the El-Get approach is to take bits and pieces as they exist today and still empower Emacs users in a way that those random electrons are easy to use.

That's why El-Get supports package.el as one of its methods to fetch Emacs Lisp Extensions.

Technical differences also include the ability for El-Get to run OS commands (such as make or ginstall-info) so as to better cope with the diversity found in the wild, allowing for automatic inclusion of Info pages for packages providing some.


El-Get is easy to install. The only requirements to do so successfully are Emacs, git and a connection to the internet that allows you to git clone repositories.

If you do not already have git on your system, you can install it through your package manager if you are using Linux or by downloading it from the Git Homepage.

Stable Branch

To install El-Get you can use the lazy-installer. This will not load it on startup or otherwise affect future usage of Emacs. If you wish to ensure that El-Get will be available in future Emacs session please use the code provided in Basic Setup. Using the code below will require an internet connection even if El-Get is already installed, that's why it's adviced to use it for first time installation, not for embedding into your .emacs (or your user-init-file).

;; So the idea is that you copy/paste this code into your *scratch* buffer,
;; hit C-j, and you have a working el-get.
 (lambda (s)
   (goto-char (point-max))

Evaluating this code after copying it into your *scratch* buffer by typing C-j or M-x eval-print-last-exp will retrieve the El-Get installation script. This script will then use git to clone El-Get and install it to the default location (~/.emacs.d/el-get/el-get).

Master Branch

The lazy installer above targets the current stable release. If you would rather use the current development version you must clone the master branch by ensuring the variable el-get-master-branch exists.

;; So the idea is that you copy/paste this code into your *scratch* buffer,
;; hit C-j, and you have a working developper edition of el-get.
 (lambda (s)
   (let (el-get-master-branch)
     (goto-char (point-max))

Upgrading from 3.1 to 4.1

The development of El-Get 4.1 took a long time, and as a result a lot of recipes have change in non compatible ways: some sources switched from SVN to git, some revisited their hosting choice, etc.

As a result, lots of recipe should be reinstalled when upgrading. The easiest way here might well be to just backup your el-get-dir directory and start-up fresh with the new El-Get code:

M-x el-get-self-update
mkdir ~/.emacs.d/el-get
mv ~/.emacs.d/el-get ~/.emacs.d/el-get-backup-3.stable

That code sample assumes that el-get-dir is set to its default value, that is ~/.emacs.d/el-get.


Basic Setup

If you wish to ensure that El-Get is available when you load Emacs you can place the following elisp code in your init file. It will detect if el-get is already installed and install it if necessary.

The addition of (el-get 'sync) in the code blocks below ensures that any currently installed packages will be initialized and any required packages will be installed.

Calling the el-get function is covered in details in the full Info manual.

Here is the basic setup to add to your user-init-file (.emacs):

(add-to-list 'load-path "~/.emacs.d/el-get/el-get")

(unless (require 'el-get nil t)
   (lambda (s)
     (goto-char (point-max))

(el-get 'sync)

And for those who prefer the master branch, please use the code below

(add-to-list 'load-path "~/.emacs.d/el-get/el-get")

(unless (require 'el-get nil t)
   (lambda (s)
     (let (el-get-master-branch)
       (goto-char (point-max))

(el-get 'sync)

Package Setup

The easiest way to setup a given package is to add its initialization code to a file named init-<package>.el with <package> replaced with the package name. This file needs to be placed in the directory el-get-user-package-directory (defaults to nil, you have to set a value for it, like for example ~/.emacs.d/el-get-init-files/).

El-Get will then load that file at package initialization time. See the full Info documentation for more details and possibilities.


El-Get requires very little interaction with your init file when managing packages. Basic Usage explains how to manage your packages without ever having to touch your init file again (meaning, once El-Get is installed). Please refer to the Info documentation provided with El-Get if you think you need to edit your init file (when sharing the same setup between several machines for example).

Basic usage

Adding and removing packages

  • M-x el-get-install

    Will prompt for a package name, with completion, then install it. It will only propose packages that are not already installed. Any package that you have a recipe for is a candidate.

  • M-x el-get-remove

    Will prompt for an installed package name, with completion, then remove it. Depending on the type of the package, this often means simply deleting the directory where the source package lies. Sometime we have to use external tools instead (e.g. apt-get). No effort is made to unload the features.

  • M-x el-get-reinstall

    This is just a shortcut for el-get-remove followed by el-get-install of the same package. It is primarily useful when a package has changed types, so the normal el-get-update process will not work correctly.

Keeping up to date

  • M-x el-get-self-update

    Update only one package, el-get itself.

  • M-x el-get-update

    Will prompt for an installed package name, with completion, then update it. This will run the build commands and init the package again.

  • M-x el-get-update-all

    Will update all packages that have the installed status in your status file. Before the update you will be prompted for confirmation that you wish to proceed.

    Beware that using this function can lead to hours of settings review: more often than not updating a package requires some adjustments to your setup. Updating all of them at once will require reviewing almost all your setup.

  • M-x el-get-reload

    Reload the given package files. Happens automatically at update time too.

Viewing available recipes

  • M-x el-get-list-packages

    Opens a buffer listing all known packages (those for which you have a recipe). The listing includes the package name, its status (one of available, installed, removed or required) and the package description. The description is a free form text and has not been provided for all recipes.

  • M-x el-get-describe

    Prompt for a package name, with completion, then open an *Help* window with details about the selected package. Those include current status, website, description, installation method, full recipe, and buttons to easily install, update or remove the package.

  • M-x el-get-find-recipe-file

    Will prompt for the name of a package, with completion, then find-file its recipe file. If the recipe does not exist, it will create a new recipe file with the appropriate name.


Enjoy El-get, enjoy Emacs, have fun with Emacs Lisp, and simplify your Emacs Setup today!