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This is a minor mode that runs within dired, it emulates many of ranger's features. This minor mode shows a stack of parent directories, and updates the parent buffers, while you're navigating the file system. The preview window takes some of the ideas from Peep-Dired, to display previews for the selected files, in the primary dired buffer.


Once you have setup Melpa you can use the package-install command, to install Ranger. The package name is ranger.


Ranger mode active

Ranger Mode Active

Ranger mode showing an image

Ranger Mode with Image


Ranger screencast

Ranger Mode Screencast


  • Preview the selected file / directory
  • Multi-column display of parent directories
  • History log and prompt to navigate through history
  • Toggle the file preview, between literal (raw) or fully formatted
  • Indirectly scroll through previewed files
  • Show images in the preview window
  • Fit images to the window when previewing (requires image-dired)
  • Quick and persistent sorting across folders
  • Quick access to the shell
  • Mouse support
  • Emacs bookmarks support
  • Create bindings to go up / down the next directory
  • Minimal ranger mode (deer-mode)
  • Copy / paste functionality
  • Persistent flags showing recently copied items


  • Preview PDF and document viewing
  • Improved navigation within archive files
  • Set up tabs and navigate between them
  • Work with flattened subdirs and tree

Window conventions for Ranger

Ranger mode with preview enabled

Ranger Mode with Preview

Ranger has the ability to show parent directories, for the current working directory, and a preview of the currently selected file or folder.

In this package, the parent windows denote any window to the left of the active ranger window. These represent the selected file or folder's immediate parent directory. And to the left of the parent window, any number of grandparent windows, if the ranger-parent-depth variable is greater than 1. If you navigate to the root directory, then the parent window will disappear. The parent window is not expected to be interacted with, however [ and ] will navigate up and down the parent directories. <Mouse-1> can also be used to quickly navigate to a file / folder in the parent window.

The active window is designated as the ranger or primary window. Most file activities are performed here. h navigates up to the parent directory, and l opens the selected file or directory. When a file is opened in ranger, then the ranger interface closes, and the window configuration reverts to its previous state.

The window on the right side is designated as the preview window. It shows the contents of the selected file or directory. The preview window is open by default, but it can be opened or closed by pressing: i. It's default state is set with the ranger-preview-file variable. Selected files are previewed literally (raw) without any formatting, by default. To toggle between a fully formatted or a literal preview, press: zi. To preview images, and the contents of archive files, then the literal preview needs to be disabled. The default literal state, is set with the ranger-show-literal variable.

Ranger Key Bindings

Basic Commands

Key Binding Description
? show basic commands in the minibuffer
du show selected files, file size
q / ZZ close tab or disable (quit) ranger
Q / ZQ disable (quit) ranger
C-r refresh ranger buffer


Key Binding Description
k/up up
j/down down
h/-/left to parent directory
l/RET/right to selected directory / open file
gg to top
G to bottom
< to previous directory
> to next directory
gh to home directory
C-b scroll ranger window full page up
C-f scroll ranger window full page down
K/C-u scroll ranger window half page up
J/C-d scroll ranger window half page down
C-k scroll preview window up
C-j scroll preview window down
[ previous parent directory
] next parent directory
;M-{ previous marked file / directory
;M-} next marked file / directory

Search for a File / Directory

Key Binding Description
f search for file / directory

Copy, Rename/Move or Delete

When the copy command is called by pressing ;C, and only a single file or directory is selected. Then a you'll be asked to enter a new name. However when it's called with multiple marked files / directories, then a you'll be asked for the path to the target directory.

Key Binding Description
;C copy the current/marked file(s) / dir(s)
R rename/move the current/marked file(s) / dir(s)
D delete the current/marked file(s) / dir(s)
;d flag current file/dir for deletion, and select next
;x delete flagged file(s) / dir(s)


Key Binding Description
I insert subdirectory from selected folder
gk move to prev subdirectory
gj move to next subdirectory


Key Binding Description
t toggle mark on current file / directory
;m/C-SPC/TAB mark current file / dir, and select next
;u unmark current file / dir, and select next
;U unmark all files
v invert all marks
" mark files (regexp)


Key Binding Description
on name
oN name (reverse)
oe extension
oE extension (reverse)
os size
oS size (reverse)
ot modified date/time
oT modified date/time (reverse)
oc created date/time
oC created date/time (reverse)
zd sort directories first or last

Toggles / Settings

Key Binding Description
i toggle the preview window
zh toggle hidden files (e.g. dotfiles)
zi toggle literal / full-text previews
zf toggle image full-size / fit to window
zP toggle between full ranger / deer-mode
zp toggle file details in deer-mode
z- reduce number of parent windows
z+ increase number of parent windows


Key Binding Description
! run shell command on file
;& run async shell command on file
S eshell popup window

Writable Dired Mode

WDired mode changes the file listings buffer to editable text. This makes it easier to rename multiple files. Depending on the width of the Emacs frame. It might be useful to toggle off the preview window, by pressing: i. Before starting WDired mode. This leaves more room for editing the file names.

Key Binding Description
C-c C-e start WDired mode
C-c C-c/C-x C-s finish, rename changed file names, exit WDired mode
C-c C-k/C-c ESC abort, reverting any changes
C-x C-q exit, ask to save/revert modified file names


Key Binding Description
;+/+ create directory
;=/= diff: current file and asks for 2nd file
;g revert current buffer, with file on disk
;k kill (hide) marked lines, C-r to unhide


Key Binding Description
mouse-1 move to selected directory, or open file and quit ranger
mouse-3 move to parent directory

Coming from dired

Ranger works as a replacement to dired, but there are a couple of things you need to know:

  • If you don't like seeing the windows with the parent folders. Then you can use the minimal ranger mode, it's called deer (see the next section).
  • When you open a file, then the ranger session gets finalized. If you want to restore it after closing the file, just open ranger again (it will remember the exact path, where you were before).

Minimal Ranger Mode (deer)

Ranger can be used in a single window, without the preview or parent windows. This is called deer-mode, and it's based on the zsh module that's developed by Vifon. This allows for using all the functionality that's built-in to ranger, without having to modify any other buffer windows. To toggle between ranger and deer, press: zP.

Deer mode (minimal ranger mode) Deer Mode

Setting as Default Directory Handler

Ranger can be used as the default directory handler when Emacs identifies that a directory has been opened. To make deer the default handler, set the override minor mode ranger-override-dired-mode to t. Setting it to nil, disables this feature, and opens the standard dired buffer.

(ranger-override-dired-mode t)

Bookmark Navigation

Ranger makes use of the built-in bookmarks functionality in Emacs. By creating bookmarks with the name ranger-?, where ? can be any single key. This allows for fast navigation, to predefined directories, that are persistent across sessions. A new mark can be set with m, and can be accessed with the tilde key (below Esc) or with the single quote key. A prompt of all directory bookmarks can be accessed by pressing: B.

Key Binding Description
`/' go to bookmark
m set bookmark
um delete bookmark
B show the bookmarks prompt

Tab and History Usage

Ranger offers tabs to allow for quick navigation between temporary working directories. These do not persist across sessions, but are useful when navigating to multiple paths in the file system. In addition to tabs, the file navigation history, of the current ranger session, is also saved. This allows for traversal to recently accessed directories. By default, ranger shows the file name of the buffer as a tab. This can be adjusted by modifying the ranger-tabs-style variable.

Key Binding Description
gn create a new tab
gT go to previous tab
gt go to next tab
gc close current tab
uq restore the last closed tab
zz search through history
H history back
L history next

Copy and Paste Functionality

Ranger utilizes a copy ring, to save a persistent fileset, that can be moved or copied to a target directory. This is consistent with the way the ranger file manager manages file movement. yy specifies to copy the marked or currently hovered files. Additionally a flag denoted as "P" will visually indicate what files are marked for copying. dd likewise specifies that the files will be moved instead of copied. Files marked for movement, are flagged with "M".

Using the universal prefix <C-u> prior to this binding will update the selected files to the current copy register. To check the files in the current copy ring, press p?.

To paste the files / directories most recently added to the copy ring, use pp, or to overwrite existing files, use po.

Key Binding Description
yy mark files to copy
dd mark files to move
pp paste files in copy ring
po paste files in copy ring and overwrite existing
p? show the copy contents

Selected File Actions

There are additional features that allow for opening a file or directory, while maintaining the previously selected window, before ranger is initiated. These keys will open the current file or all the marked files as described below. In the case of running this in deer, the deer window will not close and a new split / frame will be added as described. This allows the creation of an additional deer window, if the currently selected file, also is a directory for dual pane usage.

Key Binding Description
ws exit ranger and open selected file in horizontal split
wv exit ranger and open selected file in vertical split
wf exit ranger and open selected file in new frame
we open the selected file in external app

File Sorting and Listing

Ranger uses dired's default sorting mechanism, but it also adds some additional functionality. The default listing switches that are supplied to dired can be adjusted using the ranger-listing-switches parameter. Once they are set, then all ranger windows will show these parameters.

Additionally, the dired buffer is modified to sort directories to the top. If this is not the desired functionality, then the user can change ranger-listing-dir-first.

The o key provides sorting options for the current buffer. In cases when the variable ranger-persistent-sort is set, then this sorting method is used for all other ranger buffers.

Troubleshooting and Package Workarounds

Ranger.el needs to control all window placements, when it's open. This ensures that the parent / primary / preview windows are placed properly, and updated upon file movement. As such, there are some known issues with certain packages when they attempt to control the window placements while ranger is initialized.


This package defaults to opening a helm window with all available bindings in one-window. This causes conflicts with ranger, but there is a workaround.

(setq helm-descbinds-window-style 'same-window)


Most parameters can be toggled on and off, and stay within the current Emacs session. Any settings that are desired on startup should be set below.

Buffer Management

When disabling/closing the ranger session, then you can choose to kill the buffers that were opened while browsing the directories.

(setq ranger-cleanup-on-disable t)

Or you can choose to kill the buffers, after you move to another entry in the dired buffer.

(setq ranger-cleanup-eagerly t)

Directory Listing

Hidden files (e.g. dotfiles) can be shown or hidden by pressing zh. To show them when ranger starts, set the following variable to t.

(setq ranger-show-hidden t)

Window Decoration and Appearance


The header-line in dired is modified, to make it's appearance more consistent with the real ranger. To disable this feature, set the following variable to nil.

(setq ranger-modify-header t)

The primary ranger windows header-line, can be customized, by calling a function that outputs a string.

(setq ranger-header-func 'ranger-header-line)

The same thing can be done to the parent and preview windows header-lines.

(setq ranger-parent-header-func 'ranger-parent-header-line)
(setq ranger-preview-header-func 'ranger-preview-header-line)

The cursor can be hidden, for a more seamless user experience. Only the cursor line will be shown. This feature can be disabled, for themes that don't have a visible cursor line.

(setq ranger-hide-cursor nil)


Certain window display options are defined with a delay, for a better user experience. The options below can be customized, to adjust the time it takes to display the preview and the footer information.

(setq ranger-footer-delay 0.2)
(setq ranger-preview-delay 0.040)

Parent Window Options

The number of (grand/grand/.../)parent windows, that are displayed to the left of the primary ranger window, can be adjusted by pressing: z- or z+. They can also be changed by setting with the variable below.

(setq ranger-parent-depth 2)

You can set the size of the parent windows as a fraction of the frame size.

(setq ranger-width-parents 0.12)

When the number of parent windows are increased, then their max width can be set, as a fraction of the frame size. This prevents them from filling up the entire frame with parent windows.

(setq ranger-max-parent-width 0.12)

Preview Window Options

Ranger can be set to preview the selected file / directory on startup. The preview window can also be opened or closed by pressing: i.

(setq ranger-preview-file t)

You can choose to show previews literally when ranger starts. The preview can also be toggled between literal and fully formated, by pressing: zi.

(setq ranger-show-literal t)

You can set the size of the preview window, as a fraction of the frame size.

(setq ranger-width-preview 0.55)

Exclude Files From Being Previewed

By Extension

To exclude certain files (e.g. videos) from being previewed. Add their file extension to the excluded extensions list.

(setq ranger-excluded-extensions '("mkv" "iso" "mp4"))
By Size

Files that are larger than the max file size (in MB) variable, won't be previewed.

(setq ranger-max-preview-size 10)
Binary Files

Binary files will not be previewed, if this variable is set to t.

(setq ranger-dont-show-binary t)