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purcell's emacs configuration plus C/C++ support
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  • You can make this setup more stable
  • I recommend Emacs 24.3.1 or 24.4
  • Tested with Emacs 24.3.1, 24.4, 24.5 on ALL platforms (Linux/Windows/Cygwin/Mac)
  • Check section “About Emacs 23” if you uses Emacs 23.4
  • Please read FAQ to disable default Vim key bindings
  • It’s my intentional design that you can NOT install packages from melpa-unstable by default. Experienced users can modify variable melpa-include-packages in “~/.emacs.d/lisp/init-elpa.el” to install packages from melpa-unstable
  • Other issues are covered in FAQ


  • Stable is the first priority
  • I do NOT re-define key bindings, so original key bindings are still there
  • 100% usable in terminal
  • Popular languages are supported (C/C++/Java/Ruby/Perl/Python/C#/Lua/Javascript …)
  • Minimum dependency (For example, network connection is OPTIONAL to install packages)
  • Optimized for cross-platform C++ development


Minimum installation

Most users should follow the section “Install in normal way”.

You need read the section “Install stable version in easiest way” if and only if:

  • You are absolutely newbie, knowing nothing about Linux/Unix
  • You are living in North Korea without internet access

Install in normal way

Please remove the file “~/.emacs.d/init.el” and “~/.emacs”. “~” means the parent directory of your “.emacs.d” directory.

Uninstall any package not installed at “~/.emacs.d”. For example, run “apt-get autoremove emacs-w3m” on Debian/Ubuntu.

All packages should be placed at “~/.emacs.d” from now on.

There are TWO ways to install this setup:

Way 1, download latest setup and extract its content into “~/.emacs.d”, OR run command `cd ~; git clone .emacs.d` in shell.

Way 2, use stable setup, OR run command `cd ~; git clone .emacs.d; cd .emacs.d; git reset –hard stable` in shell.

Ensure that the init.el contained in this repo ends up at ~/.emacs.d/init.el.

Install stable version in easiest way (OPTIONAL)

You don’t need git or network any more. All you need are only two zip files.

Here are the exact steps to follow:

  • Remove the file “~/.emacs”.
  • Download
  • Extract its content into empty directory “~/.emacs.d” (“~” means home directory, the environment variable HOME contains the path of home directory). After extraction, there will be a file named “init.el” in “~/.emacs.d”
  • Download
  • Extract the zip somewhere, say “~/projs/myelpa”.
  • Double check that there is a file named “archive-contents” in the directory “~/projs/myelpa”
  • Uncomment below code in “~/.emacs.d/lisp/init-elpa.el” and start Emacs now!
(setq package-archives '(("myelpa" . "~/projs/myelpa/")))

That’s it. You never need internet in the future because you are using local package repository “~/projs/melpa” now.

You can switch to the online repository like “” or “” by modifying “~/.emacs.d/lisp/init-elpa.el”.

Third party tools (OPTIONAL)


You can install them in any way you like. But “OS package manager” is easier.

“OS package manager” means:

  • apt-cyg at Cygwin
  • homebrew at Mac
  • any package manager at Linux (apt-get at Ubuntu, yum at Redhat, pacman at Arch, emerge at Gentoo …)

Tools List

These tools are OPTIONAL.

Please ignore any related error message. For example, if aspell and hunspell are not installed, you can ignore all the flyspell error messages.

w3m (web browser in console)

  • needed by `w3m` (w3m is emacs package name written in elisp)
  • install through OS package manager
  • please note only emacs with GUI can display image


  • required by `flymake-lua`
  • install through OS package manager

aspell or hunspell

  • needed by `flyspell`
  • hunspell is the alternative of `aspell`. So you need only one of them.
  • install through OS package manager
  • for aspell, you may need its dictionary like aspell-en
  • I force the dictionary to “en_US” in “~/.emacs./lisp/init-spelling.el”. You can modify it.
  • I recommend aspell for programmers

sbcl (lisp environment)

  • needed by lisp `slime`
  • install through OS package manager


  • needed by `web-mode` for real time HTML syntax check
  • install through OS package manager


  • install `node.js` through OS package manager, then `sudo npm install -g csslint`

zip and unzip

  • needed by `org-mode` to export org file to odt file
  • install through OS package manager


  • install `node.js` through OS package manager, then `sudo npm install -g jshint`
  • required by js-mode
  • by default I use js2-mode which does NOT need jshint


  • needed by my clipboard command `copy-to-x-clipboard` and `paste-from-x-clipboard` under Linux
  • install through OS package manager



  • needed by `cpputils-cmake`, `company-clang`
  • install through OS package manager
  • If you use `cpputils-cmake` and `cmake`, `cpputils-cmake` will do all the setup for you. You don’t need read next item! But please spend a few minutes to learn the basics of cmake! There is a one minute step-by-step-guide in README of cpputils-cmake to teach you how to use cmake.
  • If you use `company-clang`, add `(setq company-clang-arguments ‘(“-I/example1/dir” “-I/example2/dir”))` into ~/.emacs.d/init.el


  • needed by `flymake`
  • install through OS package manager

MozRepl (Firefox addon)

  • needed by MozRepl
  • used by Firefox


GNU Global

  • needed by `ggtags.el`
  • it creates index files for code navigation
  • more advanced than ctags, supports references and has better performance
  • install through OS package manager


  • Only one executable `soffice` needed when converting odt file into doc/pdf
  • conversion happens automatically when exporting org-mode to odt
  • The conversion command is in variable `org-export-odt-convert-processes`
  • Install through OS package manager


  • Beautify javascript code
  • Install pip through OS package manager, then `pip install jsbeautifier`


jedi & flake8

  • Required by elpy which is python IDE
  • At least `pip install jedi flake8`. Check elpy website for more tips.

sdcv (console version of StarDict)

Tutorial (OPTIONAL)

Basic tutorial

Step 1, learn OS basics

Read wikipedia in order to know,

  • What is environment variable
  • What is pipe, stdout, stdin

Step 2, read official tutorial at least once

Press “C-h t” (“C” means Ctrl key, “M” means Alt key) to read bundled tutorial.

At minimum you need know:

  • How to move cursor
  • How to read help by pressing “C-h v” and “C-h f”.

Step 3, know org-mode basics

Org-mode is a for notes-keeping and planning. Please watch the Carsten Dominik’s talk. It’s really simple. The only hot key you need remember is “Tab”.

Step 4, solve your first problem

For that problem, you can visit EmacsWiki for the solution. Newbies can ask for help at

Advanced tutorial

See Master Emacs in One Year.


Synchronize setup with Git

Most people should synchronize from my stable setup which is updated every 6 months:

git pull stable

But advanced users can use latest setup:

git pull

If you don’t like my commits, you can revert them:

# always start from the latest related commit
git revert commit-2014-12-01
git revert commit-2014-11-01


Learn basics.

Then use my solution.

Editing Lisp

Please note paredit-mode is enabled when editing Lisp. Search “paredit cheatsheet” to learn its key bindings.

Use smart-mode-line or powerline?

Comment out `(require ‘init-modeline)` in init.el at first.

Key bindings doesn’t work?

Other softwares may intercept the key bindings. For example, someone reported QQ on windows 8 can intercept `M-x`.

My frequently used commands

They are listed at “lisp/init-evil”. I use evil-leader to assign hot keys.

Plugins doesn’t work?

If two plugins conflicts, the more frequently used plugin takes priority.

But I will set up workaround for less used plugin. Check “~/.emacs.d/lisp/init-evil.el” for the list of alternative.

For example, if `which-func-mode` cannot display function name mode-line, you can use `M-x popup-which-function` instead.

`popup-which-function` is mentioned in init-evil.el.

How to use org-mode

Press `M-x org-version`, then read corresponding online manual.

I keep the original status of org-mode. If you find anything doesn’t work out of the box, it’s because you haven’t do the required setup yet.

For example, `org-capture` need your manual setup.

OS X user?

You need remove emacs 22 bundled with freshly installed OSX:

sudo rm -rf /usr/bin/emacs /usr/share/emacs

You need remove the obsolete ctags/etags too:

sudo rm /usr/bin/ctags /usr/bin/etags

To find out the version of your Emacs/Ctags, run below command in shell:

emacs --version
ctags --version

Important packages are locked

Some packages (Evil, Helm, Web-mode …) are so important to my workflow that I locked their versions.

Those packages are placed at “~/.emacs.d/site-lisp”.

They will not be upgraded through ELPA automatically unless you delete corresponding folders at “~/.emacs.d/site-lisp”.

Customize global variables

Some variables are hard coded so you cannot “M-x customize” to modify them.

Here are the steps to change their values:

  • Find the variable description by “M-x customize”
  • For text “Company Clang Insert Arguments”, search “company-clang-insert-argument” in “~/.emacs.d/lisp/”
  • You will find “~/.emacs.d/lisp/init-company.el” and modify company-clang-insert-argument’s value

BTW, please read my comments above the code at first.

Open file with Ido

If you press `C-x C-f` to open a file, Ido will show the completions.

You can keep pressing `C-f` to ignore the completions.


I strongly suggest Cygwin version of Emacs. But native windows version is OK if you declare environment variable HOME which points to a user directory `C:\Users\<username>`. You need extract .emacs.d into the directory HOME points to.

Yasnippet key bindings

Instead of “M-x yas-expand” or press TAB key, you may use press “M-j” in evil-insert-mode.

Install packages from source

Please place the source at “~/.emacs.d/site-lisp” where some samples already exist.

Insert below lines into “~/.emacs.d/init.el”:

;; check the package's README to figure out what's the `require` line!
(require 'cool-package-name)
;; put whatever setup here

Non-English users

Your locale must be UTF-8 compatible. For example, as I type `locale` in shell, I got the output “zh_CN.UTF-8”.

Behind corporate firewall

Type below commmand in shell:

http_proxy= emacs -nw

Government blocks the internet?

People in China, North Korea, Cuba, Iran need goagent. Run command “http_proxy= emacs -nw” in shell after starting goagent server.


If you use Gnus for email (Gmail, for example), check init-gnus.el. Then read my Gnus tutorial.

Cannot download ELPA packages?

Some package cannot be downloaded automatically because of network problem.

You could

  • `M-x list-packages` to manually install it
  • Or `M-x package-refresh-content` and restart Emacs. the package will be installed automatically

NO vi/vim keybindings

By default EVIL (Vim emulation in Emacs) is used. You can comment out line containing “(require ‘init-evil)” in init.el to unload it.

Evil setup

It’s defined in “~/.emacs.d/lisp/init-evil.el”. Press “C-z” to switch between Emacs and Vim key bindings.

Please reading its PDF manual before using evil-mode.

C++ auto-completion doesn’t work?

I assume you are using company-mode. Other packages have similar setup.

At minimum:

  • You need install clang
  • Make sure your code is syntax correct at the beginning
  • assign reasonable value into company-clang-arguments

Here is sample code:

(setq company-clang-arguments '("-I/home/myname/projs/test-cmake" "-I/home/myname/projs/test-cmake/inc"))

In “friendly” Visual C++, you need do similar setup.

Color theme

Preview color theme


Write down the name of color theme (for example, molokai).

Insert below code into “~/.emacs.d/lisp/init-color-theme.el”,

(require 'color-theme-molokai)

“M-x color-theme-select” may not work because of some design flaw in Emacs.

Please note there is NO unified way to enable color theme. You need read color theme’s documentation at first.

My sample code works for most color themes.

Use color theme in terminal

TERM=xterm-256color emacs -nw

Chinese Input Method Editor

Run command `M-x toggle-input-method` to toggle input method.

By default, the word files path is at “~/.eim/py.txt”. I place it out of the emacs root folder in order to protect my privacy.

The path can be changed in “~/.emacs.d/lisp/init-eim.el”.

A sample file can be downloaded HERE. After downloading, rename it to py.txt.

Install Emacs elsewhere

Run below commands:

mkdir -p ~/tmp;
curl | tar xvz -C ~/tmp/emacs-24.3
cd ~/tmp/emacs-24.3;
mkdir -p ~/myemacs/24.3;
rm -rf ~/myemacs/24.3/*;
./configure --prefix=~/myemacs/24.3 --without-gtk --without-gtk3 --without-aqua --without-x --without-xpm --without-png --without-gif --without-alsa --without-tiff --without-jpeg --without-aqua --without-rsvg --without-xft --without-xaw3d --without-xim --without-xpm --without-dbus --without-makeinfo --with-x-toolkit=no --without-sound --without-sync-input --without-pop;make;make install

Feel free to replace 24.3 with other version number.

Directory structure

”~/.emacs.d/init.el” is the main file. It includes all the other *.el files.

”~/.emacs.d/lisp/init-elpa.el” defines how and what packages will be installed from MELPA.

The package manager will extract packages into “~/.emacs.d/elpa/”.

I also manually download and extract some packages into “~/.emacs.d/site-lisp/”. Packages in “~/.emacs.d/site-lisp/” is not visible to the package manager.

My own snippets for Yasnippet is at “~/.emacs.d/snippets”.

Other directories don’t matter.

About Emacs 23

Emacs 23 support was dropped on <2015-04-21>.

The latest Emacs23 compatible version of setup is 1.2!

Here are the steps to use that setup:

Since most third party plugins don’t support Emacs 23 any more. I strongly recommend you upgrading to Emacs 24 instead!

Emacs is portalbe on any platform. So you can install Emacs even when you are not root of the Linux server. Please read previous “Install Emacs at home directory” for HOW.


  • Never turn off any bundled mode if it’s on by default. Future version of Emacs may assume it’s on. Tweak its flag in mode hook instead!
  • Git skills are extremely useful for maintainting your emacs.d. The book Pro Git has everything. Please read the chapters “Git Basics”, “Git Branching”, “Git Tools” at minimum.

Report bug

Check EmacsWiki and my FAQ at first.

File bug report at Don’t email me directly!

Please contact the original developer if you find any bug from third party packages.

Bug report should include details (OS, Emacs version …) plus the output of `emacs –debug-init` at minimum.

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