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Because the Emacs defaults are not so great sometimes.

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Backtype Emacs Config

This kit's based on technomancy's emacs-starter-kit, found at


  1. Get the latest emacs from here.
  2. Move the directory containing this file to ~/.emacs.d (If you already have a directory at ~/.emacs.d move it out of the way and put this there instead.)
  3. If ~/.emacs exists, delete it!
  4. Launch Emacs!

Load Failures

When you first load this config, you'll get a bunch of errors. Fix them by running

M-x package-list-packages

and hitting i by each of the following lines:

  • browse-kill-ring 1.3.1 installed Interactively insert items from kill-ring -- coding: utf-8 --
  • clojure-mode 1.10.0 installed Major mode for Clojure code
  • clojure-test-mode 1.5.6 installed Minor mode for Clojure tests
  • ecb 2.40 installed Emacs Code Browser
  • find-file-in-project 2.1 installed Find files in a project quickly.
  • idle-highlight 1.0 installed Highlight the word the point is on
  • inf-ruby 2.2.1 installed Run a ruby process in a buffer
  • magit 1.0.0 installed Control Git from Emacs.
  • org 20110809 installed Outline-based notes management and organizer
  • rinari 2.1 installed Rinari Is Not A Rails IDE
  • ruby-compilation 0.7 installed Run a ruby process in a compilation buffer
  • ruby-mode 1.1 installed Major mode for editing Ruby files
  • slime 20100404.1 installed Superior Lisp Interaction Mode for Emacs
  • slime-repl 20100404 installed Read-Eval-Print Loop written in Emacs Lisp
  • swank-clojure 1.1.0 installed Slime adapter for clojure
  • textmate 1 installed TextMate minor mode for Emacs
  • textmate-to-yas 0.13 installed Import Textmate macros into yasnippet syntax
  • yasnippet-bundle 0.6.1 installed Yet another snippet extension (Auto compiled bundle)

Once that's done, hit x to install. This may take a couple of passes.


The init.el file is where everything begins. It's the first file to get loaded. The starter-kit-* files provide what I consider to be better defaults, both for different programming languages and for built-in Emacs features like bindings or registers.

Files that are pending submission to ELPA are bundled with the starter kit under the directory elpa-to-submit/. The understanding is that these are bundled just because nobody's gotten around to turning them into packages, and the bundling of them is temporary. For these libraries, autoloads will be generated and kept in the loaddefs.el file. This allows them to be loaded on demand rather than at startup.

There are also a few files that are meant for code that doesn't belong in the Starter Kit. First, the user-specific-config file is the file named after your user with the extension ".el". In addition, if a directory named after your user exists, it will be added to the load-path, and any elisp files in it will be loaded. Finally, the Starter Kit will look for a file named after the current hostname ending in ".el" which will allow host-specific configuration. This is where you should put code that you don't think would be useful to everyone. That will allow you to merge with newer versions of the starter-kit without conflicts.


Libraries from Marmalade installed via package.el are preferred when available since dependencies are handled automatically, and the burden to update them is removed from the user.

There's no vendor/ directory in the starter kit because if an external library is useful enough to be bundled with the starter kit, it should be useful enough to submit to Marmalade so that everyone can use it, not just users of the starter kit.

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