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Contribution guidelines

Spacemacs is a volunteer effort. We encourage you to pitch in. The community makes Spacemacs what it is. We have a few guidelines, which we ask all contributors to follow.

You can only consider reading the sections relevant to what you are going to do:

Thanks! ❤️ ❤️ ❤️


Asking for help

If you want to ask an usage question, be sure to look first into some places as it may hold the answer:

If your question is not answered there, then please come into our gitter chat to discuss it with us ☺️. We will direct you to a solution, or ask you to open an issue if it is needed.

Reporting issues

Issues have to be reported on our issues tracker. Please:

  • Check that the issue has not already been reported.
  • Check that the issue has not been fixed in the develop version of Spacemacs.
    • This can be achieved by running Spacemacs on the develop branch and trying to reproduce the bug here. You can also check at the source code to see if it has been changed/corrected.
  • Try to use a clear title, and describe your problem with complete sentences. See also How to make a great bug report in the wiki.
  • Include the following information in your issue:
    • The output of SPC h d s (M-m h d s in Emacs style), which gives the versions information about your installation.
    • If relevant, include the mode in which the problem arise (e.g. javascript files, org-mode, etc…).
    • If possible, try to include details on how to reproduce it, like a step by step guide.

Contributing code

Code contributions are welcome. Please read the following sections carefully. In any case, feel free to join us on the gitter chat to ask questions about contributing!

General contribution guidelines


The license is GPLv3 for all parts specific to Spacemacs, this includes:

  • The initialization and core files
  • All the layer files.

For files not belonging to Spacemacs like local packages and libraries, refer to the header file. Those files should not have an empty header, we may not accept code without a proper header file.


Spacemacs is based on conventions, mainly for naming functions, keybindings definition and writing documentation. Please read the file before your first contribution to get to know them.


Submit your contribution against the develop branch. You should not use your master branch to modify Spacemacs, this branch is considered to be read-only.

You may want to read our beginner’s guide for Pull Requests.

PR = Pull-Request

Ideally for simple PRs (most of them):

  • Branch from develop
  • One topic per PR
  • One commit per PR
  • If you have several commits on different topics, close the PR and create one PR per topic
  • If you still have several commits, squash them into only one commit
  • Rebase your PR branch on top of upstream develop before submitting the PR

Those PRs are usually cherry-picked.

For complex PRs (big refactoring, etc):

  • Squash only the commits with uninteresting changes like typos, syntax fixes, etc… and keep the important and isolated steps in different commits.

Those PRs are merged and explicitly not fast-forwarded.

Commit messages

Write commit messages according to adapted Tim Pope’s guidelines:

  • Use present tense and write in the imperative: “Fix bug”, not “fixed bug” or “fixes bug”.
  • Start with a capitalized, short (72 characters or less) summary, followed by a blank line.
  • If necessary, add one or more paragraphs with details, wrapped at 72 characters.
  • Separate paragraphs by blank lines.

This is a model commit message:

Capitalized, short (72 chars or less) summary

More detailed explanatory text, if necessary.  Wrap it to about 72
characters or so.  In some contexts, the first line is treated as the
subject of an email and the rest of the text as the body.  The blank
line separating the summary from the body is critical (unless you omit
the body entirely); tools like rebase can get confused if you run the
two together.

Write your commit message in the imperative: "Fix bug" and not "Fixed bug"
or "Fixes bug."  This convention matches up with commit messages generated
by commands like git merge and git revert.

Further paragraphs come after blank lines.

- Bullet points are okay, too

    - Typically a hyphen or asterisk is used for the bullet, followed by a
      single space, with blank lines in between, but conventions vary here

    - Use a hanging indent

Git Commit and Magit provide Emacs mode for Git commit messages, which helps you to comply to these guidelines.

Contributing a layer

Please read the layers documentation first.

It is recommended to use the configuration-layer/create-layer command in order to create a layer, as it will take care of using the files templates and will also create the file headers correctly.

Contributed configuration layers are stored in the layers/ folder. The layers/ folder also contains categories prefixed with + to put your layers in. For example a layer for a language would go in the layers/+lang/ folder.

Layer with no associated configuration will be rejected. For instance a layer with just a package and a hook can be easily replaced by the usage of the variable dotspacemacs-additional-packages.

File header

The file header for elisp files should look like the following template:

;;; FILENAME --- NAME Layer packages File for Spacemacs
;; Copyright (c) 2012-2016 Sylvain Benner & Contributors
;; URL:
;; This file is not part of GNU Emacs.
;;; License: GPLv3

You should replace FILENAME by the name of the file (e.g. packages.el) and NAME by the name of the layer you are creating, don’t forget to replace YOUR_NAME and YOUR_EMAIL also. Some files already have a template inside core/templates/, so look in there first. Note that if you use configuration-layer/create-layer, spacemacs will prepare files and headers for you, and for free 😄 !

Author of a new layer

In the files header, change the default author name (Sylvain Benner) to your name.

Contributor to an existing layer

If you are contributing to an already existing layer, you should not modify any header file.

Contributing a keybinding

Keybindings are an important part of spacemacs.

First if you want to have some personal keybindings, you can freely bind them inside the SPC o and SPC m o prefixes which are reserved for the user. This can be done from the dotspacemacs/user-config function of your .spacemacs file and don’t require any contribution to Spacemacs.

If you think it worth contributing a new key bindings then be sure to read the file to find the best key bindings, then create a Pull-Request with your changes.

ALWAYS document your new keybindings or keybindings changes inside the relevant documentation file. It should be the layer’s file for layer’s keybindings, or for general Spacemacs key bindings.

Contributing a banner

The startup banner is by default the Spacemacs logo but there are also ASCII banners available in the directory core/banners/.

If you have some ASCII skills you can submit your artwork!

You are free to choose a reasonable height size but the width size should be around 75 characters.

Additional information


Tests live in the tests/ folder, with a folder structure corresponding to the rest of the repository.

To run tests locally, navigate to the relevant subfolder and run make.

Spacemacs uses Travis CI to perform more comprehensive testing, where each testable layer is enabled in turn.

To add tests for a layer, do the following:

  1. Create a subfolder of tests/ corresponding to the layer you want to test.
  2. Write a file called dotspacemacs.el in that folder. It should be a minimal dotfile that enables the layer in question (and other layers it may depend on).
  3. Write a number of files with tests. Please try to separate unit and functional tests. Look at existing tests for clues.
  4. Write a Makefile in that folder. It should define three variables.
    a list of additional files to load before testing (relative to the root Spacemacs folder). This should typically be init.el.
    a list of unit test files in the current folder.
    a list of functional test files in the current folder.

    See existing tests for examples.

    TEST_DIR := $(shell dirname $(realpath $(lastword $(MAKEFILE_LIST))))
    LOAD_FILES = ...
    include ../../
  5. Add the new test to list of tests in travis/


This file is partially based on the Rails Contribution guidelines and Flycheck Contribution guidelines.