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A GNU Emacs library to ensure environment variables inside Emacs look the same as in the user's shell.


Ever find that a command works in your shell, but not in Emacs?

This happens a lot on OS X, where an Emacs instance launched as a GUI app inherits a default minimal set of environment variables that are probably not the ones you see in a terminal window.

This library solves this problem by copying important environment variables from the user's shell: it works by asking your shell to print out the variables of interest, then copying them into the Emacs environment.


If the path printed by evaluating (getenv "SHELL") in Emacs points at bash or zsh, this should work fine.

At a minimum, this package assumes that your shell is at least UNIX-y: if (getenv "SHELL") evaluates to something like ".../cmdproxy.exe", this package probably isn't for you.

Further, if you use a non-POSIX-standard shell such as tcsh or fish, your shell will be asked to execute sh as a subshell in order to print out the variables in a format which can be reliably parsed. sh must be a POSIX-compliant shell in this case.

Note that shell variables which have not been exported as environment variables (e.g. using the "export" keyword) may not be visible to `exec-path-from-shell'.


Installable packages are available via MELPA: do M-x package-install RET exec-path-from-shell RET.

Alternatively, download the latest release or clone the repository, and install exec-path-from-shell.el with M-x package-install-file.


Add the following to your init.el (after calling package-initialize):

(when (memq window-system '(mac ns x))

This sets $MANPATH, $PATH and exec-path from your shell, but only when executed in a GUI frame on OS X and Linux.

You can copy values of other environment variables by customizing exec-path-from-shell-variables before invoking exec-path-from-shell-initialize, or by calling exec-path-from-shell-copy-env, e.g.:

(exec-path-from-shell-copy-env "PYTHONPATH")

This function may also be called interactively.

Setting up your shell startup files correctly

Note that your shell will inherit Emacs's environment variables when it is run by exec-path-from-shell -- to avoid surprises your config files should therefore set the environment variables to their exact desired final values, i.e. don't do this:

export PATH=/usr/local/bin:$PATH

but instead do this:

export PATH=/usr/local/bin:/usr/bin:/bin

You should also set your environment variables so that they are available to both interactive and non-interactive shells. In practical terms, for most people this means setting them in ~/.profile, ~/.bash_profile, ~/.zshenv instead of ~/.bashrc and ~/.zshrc. By default, exec-path-from-shell checks for this mistake, at the cost of some execution time. If your config files are set up properly, you can set exec-path-from-shell-arguments appropriately (often to nil) before calling exec-path-from-shell-initialize to avoid this overhead.

To learn more about how popular shells load start-up files, read this helpful article.

Making exec-path-from-shell faster

  • Invoking the shell has a non-trivial overhead. Don't call exec-path-from-shell-copy-env repeatedly, since each invocation starts a shell. Instead, set exec-path-from-shell-variables to the full list of vars you want, and call exec-path-from-shell-initialize once.
  • Non-interactive shells start up faster. Follow the steps in the section above so that you can run your shell without -i and still get the right environment variable settings. When "-i" is then removed from exec-path-from-shell-arguments, this package becomes more efficient.

Further help

  • C-h f exec-path-from-shell-initialize
  • C-h f exec-path-from-shell-copy-env

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Make Emacs use the $PATH set up by the user's shell



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