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Specifying parent modes (e.g. prog-mode) in :enabled-for-modes and
:disabled-for-modes keys in dotspacemacs-line-numbers catches derived
modes (e.g. c-mode) as well.

Fix bug where an empty :disabled-for-modes and a non-empty :enabled-for-modes
enabled line numbers everywhere, instead of only in modes specified in
:enabled-for-modes. (see #8482)

Add auxiliary function spacemacs/derived-mode-p, similar to derived-mode-p but
takes a major-mode as an argument instead of using the current major-mode.
69 contributors

Users who have contributed to this file

@syl20bnr @TheBB @StreakyCobra @person808 @justbur @xfq @robbyoconnor @bmag @balajisivaraman @mineo @joehillen @nixmaniack
3363 lines (2797 sloc) 176 KB

Spacemacs documentation

Spacemacs documentation

Core Pillars

Four core pillars: Mnemonic, Discoverable, Consistent and “Crowd-Configured”.

If any of these core pillars is violated open an issue and we’ll try our best to fix it.


Key bindings are organized using mnemonic prefixes like b for buffer, p for project, s for search, h for help, etc…


Innovative real-time display of available key bindings. Simple query system to quickly find available layers, packages, and more.


Similar functionalities have the same key binding everywhere thanks to a clearly defined set of conventions. Documentation is mandatory for any layer that ships with Spacemacs.


Community-driven configuration provides curated packages tuned by power users and bugs are fixed quickly.

Highlighted feature

  • Bring the efficiency of modal editing to the powerful Emacs lisp platform. Modal UX is optional and Spacemacs can be used with only Emacs key bindings.
  • Integrate nicely with Evil states (Vim modes).
  • Keep your fingers on the home row for quicker editing with support for QWERTY and BEPO layouts.
  • Minimalistic and nice graphical UI keeps your available screen space for what matters: your text files.
  • Fast boot time: packages and configuration are lazy-loaded as much as possible.
  • Lower the risk of RSI by heavily using the space bar instead of modifiers. If you have issues with your thumbs you can still use Spacemacs using modifiers.
  • Contribute easily your improvements and new configuration layers.
  • Very active and helpful community on Gitter and IRC (via Gitter IRC bridge)


img/spacemacs-python.png Python

Note: Even though screenshots are updated frequently, Spacemacs is evolving quickly and the screenshots may not reflect exactly the current state of the project.

Who can benefit from this?

  • Spacemacs was initially intended to be used by Vim users who want to go to the next level by using Emacs (see guide for Vimmers). But it is now perfectly usable by non Vim users by choosing the emacs editing style.
  • It is also a good fit for people wanting to lower the risk of RSI induced by the default Emacs key bindings. (This is an assumption, there are no official studies to prove this!) If you have issues using your thumbs you can still use the emacs editing style which puts the leader key on a modifier combination.
  • Emacs users wanting to learn a different way to edit files or wanting to learn Vim key bindings or even wanting to mix both editing styles by setting their style to hybrid.
  • Emacs users wanting a simple but deep configuration system that greatly lower the risk of .emacs bankruptcy.
  • Pair-programming users thanks to out of the box support for dynamic switching of editing style. A Vim user and an Emacs user can use the same Spacemacs comfortably.

Update and Rollback

Update Spacemacs repository

There are several methods of updating the core files and layer information for Spacemacs. It is recommended to update the packages first; see the next section.

Automatic Updates

Spacemacs will automatically check for a new version every startup. When it detects that a new version is available an arrow will appear in the modeline. Click it to update Spacemacs. You must restart Emacs after updating. img/powerline-update.png Update Button

Note: If you use the develop branch of Spacemacs, automatic update is disabled—you have to update manually using git.

Updating from the Spacemacs Buffer

Use the button labeled “Update Spacemacs” in the Spacemacs buffer. You will be prompted for the version you would like to use.

Note: If you use the develop branch of Spacemacs, you cannot use this method.

Updating Manually with git

To update manually close Emacs and update the git repository:

$ git pull origin master

Note: The master branch is considered to be immutable in the sense that you must not modify it by adding your own commit. If you do so you will break the automatic update of Spacemacs on the master branch. To fork Spacemacs code you have to use a custom branch that you manage manually.

Update packages

To update the Emacs packages used by Spacemacs press RET (enter) or click on the link [Update Packages] in the startup page under the banner then restart Emacs. If you prefer, you can use the command configuration-layer/update-packages instead of the button.

If anything goes wrong you should be able to rollback the update by pressing RET or clicking on the [Rollback Package Update] link in the startup page and choosing a rollback slot (sorted by date). This button uses the command configuration-layer/rollback.

Configuration layers

This section is an overview of layers. A more extensive introduction to writing configuration layers can be found here (recommended reading!).


Layers help collect related packages together to provide features. For example, the python layer provides auto-completion, syntax checking, and REPL support for python files. This approach helps keep configuration organized and reduces overhead for the user by keeping them from having to think about what packages to install. To install all the python features the user has just to add the python layer to their dotfile.


Configuration is organized in layers. Each layer has the following structure:

  |__ [local]
  | |__ [package 1]
  | |     ...
  | |__ [package n]
  |-- layers.el
  |__ packages.el
  |__ funcs.el
  |__ config.el
  |__ keybindings.el

[] = directory


layers.elThe place to declare additional layers
packages.elThe list of packages and their configuration functions (init, post-init, etc…)
funcs.elAll functions defined in the layer (used in package configuration for instance)
config.elLayer configuration (defines the layer variables default values and setup some config variables)
keybindings.elGeneral key bindings no tied to a specific package configuration

Packages can be:

  • ELPA packages installed from an ELPA compliant repository
  • local packages in a layer’s local folder
  • installed from an online source using quelpa.

Configure packages

With a layer


Packages are declared in a variable called <layer>-packages where <layer> is the name of the layer.


(setq <layer>-packages '(package1 package2 ...)

All packages from all layers are processed in alphabetical order so sometimes you’ll have to use some with-eval-after-load black magic to configure them properly. For instance if package A depends on B then you can configure A with:

(with-eval-after-load 'B ...)

For details on installing packages using quelpa or local packages see LAYERS.


To initialize a package xxx, define a function with this format in packages.el:

(defun <layer>/init-xxx () ...body )

It is common to define the body with the use-package macro.


It is possible to exclude some packages from Spacemacs on a per-layer basis. This is useful when a configuration layer aims to replace a stock package declared in the Spacemacs layer.

To do so add the package names to exclude to the variable <layer>-excluded-packages.


(setq <layer>-excluded-packages '(package1 package2 ...)

Without a layer

Sometimes a layer can be an unnecessary overhead, this is the case if you just want to install a package with very few configuration associated to it. A good example is some niche language where you are only interested in syntax highlighting.

You can install such packages by adding them to the variable dotspacemacs-additional-packages under the dotspacemacs/layers function in your dotfile.

For example, to install llvm-mode and dts-mode:

(defun dotspacemacs/layers ()
  "Configuration Layers declaration..."
   ;; ...
   dotspacemacs-additional-packages '(llvm-mode dts-mode)
   ;; ...

If you want to add some configuration for them then put the configuration in the dotspacemacs/user-config function or consider creating a layer.

Packages synchronization

Spacemacs will only install the packages that are explicitly used by the user. A package is considered to be used if its layer is used (i.e. listed in dotspacemacs-configuration-layers). Any packages that are not used is considered to be orphan and is deleted at the next startup of Emacs.

Types of configuration layers

There are two types of configuration layers:

  • distributed layers (in the layers directory, those layers are contributions shared by the community and merged upstream)
  • private (in the private directory, they are ignored by Git)

Submitting a configuration layer upstream

If you decide to provide a configuration layer, please check the contribution guidelines first in CONTRIBUTING.

Example: Themes Megapack example

This is a simple configuration layer listing a bunch of themes which you can find here.

To install it, just add themes-megapack to your ~/.spacemacs like so:

(setq-default dotspacemacs-configuration-layers '(themes-megapack))

Adding this layer will install around 100 themes; to uninstall them remove the layer from the dotspacemacs-configuration-layers and press SPC f e R.

Managing private configuration layers

Spacemacs’s configuration system is flexible enough to let you manage your private layers in different ways.

Using the private directory

Everything in the private directory is ignored by Git so it is a good place to store private layers. There is a huge drawback to this approach though: your layers are not source controlled.

Using an external Git repository

This is the recommended way to manage your private layers.

The best approach is to store all your private layers into an external Git repository. It is especially a good practice to store them in your dotfiles repository if you have one. Put also your ~/.spacemacs file in it.

Then you are free to symlink your layers into ~/emacs.d/private or let them anywhere you want and reference the parent directory in the variable dotspacemacs-configuration-layer-path of your ~/.spacemacs.

Note that you could also have a dedicated repository for all your private layers and then directly clone this repository in ~/.emacs.d/private.

Using a personal branch

The final main way to manage your private layers is to push them in a personal branch that you keep up to date with upstream master or develop.

Tips for writing layers

Please refer to this introduction for some tips on writing layers, and how to best make them fit with the Spacemacs philosophy and loading strategy.

Dotfile Configuration

User configuration can be stored in your ~/.spacemacs file.

Dotfile Installation

The very first time Spacemacs starts up, it will ask you several questions and then install the .spacemacs in your HOME directory.

Alternative dotdirectory

A dotdirectory ~/.spacemacs.d/ can be used instead of a dotfile. If you want to use this option, move ~/.spacemacs to ~/.spacemacs.d/init.el.

It is also possible to override the location of ~/.spacemacs.d/ using the environment variable SPACEMACSDIR. Of course you can also use symlinks to change the location of this directory.

Note: ~/.spacemacs will always take priority over ~/.spacemacs.d/init.el, so ~/.spacemacs must not exist for ~/.spacemacs.d/init.el to be used by Spacemacs.

Synchronization of dotfile changes

To apply the modifications made in ~/.spacemacs press SPC f e R. It will re-execute the Spacemacs initialization process.

Note: A synchronization re-executes the functions dotspacemacs/init, dotspacemacs/user-init and dotspacemacs/user-config. Depending on the content of this functions you may encounter some unwanted side effects. For instance if you use a toggle in dotspacemac/user-config to enable some behavior, this behavior will be turned off whenever the dotfile is re-synchronized. To avoid these side-effects it is recommended to either use setq expressions instead of toggle functions, or to use the on or off versions instead (i.e. instead of spacemacs/toggle-<thing>, use spacemacs/toggle-<thing>-on or spacemacs/toggle-<thing>-off).

It is possible to skip the execution of dotspacemacs/user-config with the universal argument (SPC u SPC f e R).

Testing the dotfile

You can use the command SPC SPC dotspacemacs/test-dotfile to check if your ~/.spacemacs looks correct. This will check, among other things, whether the declared layers can be found and that the variables have sensible values. These tests are also run automatically when you synchronize with SPC f e R.

Dotfile Contents

Configuration functions

Three special functions in the ~/.spacemacs file can be used to perform configuration at the beginning and end of Spacemacs loading process:

  • dotspacemacs/layers is called at the very startup of Spacemacs initilialization, this is where you set the Spacemacs distribution and declare layers to be used in your configuration. You can also add or excluded packages of your choice and tweak some behavior of Spacemacs loading.
  • dotspacemacs/init is called at the very startup of Spacemacs initialization before layers configuration. You should not put any user code in there besides modifying the Spacemacs variable values prefixed with dotspacemacs-.
  • dotspacemacs/user-init is called immediately after dotspacemacs/init, before layer configuration. This function is mostly useful for variables that need to be set before packages are loaded.
  • dotspacemacs/user-config is called at the very end of Spacemacs initialization after layers configuration. This is the place where most of your configurations should be done. Unless it is explicitly specified that a variable should be set before a package is loaded, you should place your code here.

Custom variables

Custom variables configuration from M-x customize-group built-in Emacs feature are automatically saved by Emacs at the end of your ~/.spacemacs file.

Declaring Configuration layers

To use a configuration layer, declare it in your dotfile by adding it to the dotspacemacs-configuration-layers variable of your ~/.spacemacs.

Note: In this documentation a used layer is equivalent to a declared layer.

For instance, RMS can add his private configuration layer like this:

(setq-default dotspacemacs-configuration-layers
    ;; other layers
    ;; rms layer added at the end of the list

Official layers shipped with Spacemacs are stored in ~/.emacs.d/layers. The directory ~/.emacs.d/private is a drop-in location for your private layers. It is possible to put layers at the location of your choice provided you tell Spacemacs where to look for them. This is done by setting the list dotspacemacs-configuration-layer-path in your ~/.spacemacs. For instance to add some layers in ~/.myconfig, set the variable like this:

(setq-default dotspacemacs-configuration-layer-path '("~/.myconfig/"))

Setting configuration layers variables

Some configuration layers have configuration variables to enable specific feature. For instance the git layer has several configuration variables, they can be set directly in the dotspacemacs-configuration-layers like this:

(defun dotspacemacs/layers ()
  ;; List of configuration layers to load.
  (setq-default dotspacemacs-configuration-layers
      (git :variables
           git-magit-status-fullscreen t
           git-variable-example nil)

The :variables keyword is a convenience to keep layer configuration close to their declaration. Setting layer variables in the dotspacemacs/user-init function of your dotfile is also a perfectly valid way to configure a layer.

Disabling layer services in other layers

Often layers enable services that other layers can use. For instance if you use the layer auto-completion then every other layers supporting auto-completion will have this feature enabled.

Sometimes you may want to disable a service added by a layer in some specific layers. Say you want to disable auto-completion in org and git layers, you can do it with the following layer declaration.

(defun dotspacemacs/layers ()
  ;; List of configuration layers to load.
  (setq-default dotspacemacs-configuration-layers
    '(org git
      (auto-completion :disabled-for org git))))

You can also use the :enabled-for construct to disable it for all layers except those explicitly identified.

(defun dotspacemacs/layers ()
  ;; List of configuration layers to load.
  (setq-default dotspacemacs-configuration-layers
    '(java python c-c++
      (auto-completion :enabled-for java python))))

Note that :enabled-for may be an empty list.

(defun dotspacemacs/layers ()
  ;; List of configuration layers to load.
  (setq-default dotspacemacs-configuration-layers
    '(java python c-c++
      (auto-completion :enabled-for))))

:enabled-for takes precedence over :disabled-for if both are present.

Selecting/Ignoring packages of a layer

By default a declared layer installs/configures all its associated packages. You may want to select only some of them or ignoring some of them. This is possible with the :packages keyword.

For instance to ignore the neotree and fancy-battery packages from spacemacs-ui-visual layer:

(defun dotspacemacs/layers ()
  ;; List of configuration layers to load.
  (setq-default dotspacemacs-configuration-layers
      (spacemacs-ui-visual :packages (not neotree fancy-battery))))

The opposite would be to ignore all packages except neotree and fancy-battery:

(defun dotspacemacs/layers ()
  ;; List of configuration layers to load.
  (setq-default dotspacemacs-configuration-layers
      (spacemacs-ui-visual :packages neotree fancy-battery)))

Note: Ignoring a package from a layer is different than excluding a package. An excluded packages is completely removed from your configuration whereas an ignored package is ignored only for a given layer but it can remain on your system. It happens that if the given layer is the owner of the package then ignoring this package is the same as excluding it (because the package becomes orphan so it is considered unused by Spacemacs).

Excluding packages

You can exclude packages you don’t want to install with the variable dotspacemacs-excluded-packages (see Configuration layers for more info on packages).

For instance, to disable the rainbow-delimiters package:

(setq-default dotspacemacs-excluded-packages '(rainbow-delimiters))

When you exclude a package, Spacemacs will automatically delete it for you the next time you launch Emacs or at the next dotfile synchronization. All the orphan dependencies are also deleted automatically. Excluding a package effectively remove all references to it in Spacemacs without breaking the rest of the configuration, this is a powerful feature which allows you to quickly remove any feature from Spacemacs.

Note: A few packages are essential for Spacemacs to correctly operate, those packages are protected and cannot be excluded or uninstalled even if they become orphans or are excluded. use-package is an example of a protected package that cannot be removed from Spacemacs.


Editing Styles

Spacemacs comes with several editing styles which can be switched dynamically providing an easier way to do pair programming, for instance between a Vim user and an Emacs user.

Three styles are available:

  • Vim,
  • Emacs,
  • Hybrid (a mix between Vim and Emacs).


Spacemacs behaves like in Vim using Evil mode package to emulate Vim key bindings. This is the default style of Spacemacs; it can be set explicitly by setting the dotspacemacs-editing-style variable to vim in the dotfile.

To bind keys in Vim editing style (insert state):

(define-key evil-insert-state-map (kbd "C-]") 'forward-char)


Spacemacs behaves like in raw Emacs using the Holy mode which configures Evil to make the emacs state the default state everywhere. Set the dotspacemacs-editing-style variable to emacs in the dotfile.

In Emacs style the leader is available on M-m. It is possible to toggle it on and off with SPC t E e and M-m t E e. When off the vim style is enabled.

To bind keys in Emacs editing style (emacs state):

(define-key evil-emacs-state-map (kbd "C-]") 'forward-char)


The hybrid editing style is like the Vim style except that insert state is replaced by a new state called hybrid state. In hybrid state all the Emacs key bindings are available; this is like replacing the insert state with the emacs state but provides an isolated key map evil-hybrid-state-map.

To bind keys in Hybrid editing style (hybrid state):

(define-key evil-hybrid-state-map (kbd "C-]") 'forward-char)

This style can be tweaked to be more like Emacs or more like Vim depending on the user preferences. The following variables are available to change the style configuration:

  • hybrid-mode-default-state The default state when opening a new buffer, default is normal. Set it to emacs for a more emacsy style.
  • hybrid-mode-enable-hjkl-bindings If non nil then packages will configure h j k l key bindings for navigation.
  • hybrid-mode-enable-evilified-state If non nil buffer are evilified when supported, if nil then emacs state is enabled in those buffers instead.

Default configuration is:

(setq-default dotspacemacs-editing-style '(hybrid :variables
                                           hybrid-mode-enable-evilified-state t
                                           hybrid-mode-enable-hjkl-bindings nil
                                           hybrid-mode-default-state 'normal)

To toggle the hybrid style on and off use SPC t E h and M-m t E h. When off the vim style is enabled.


Spacemacs has 10 states:
StateDefault ColorDescription
normalorangelike the normal mode of Vim, used to execute and combine commands
insertgreenlike the insert mode of Vim, used to actually insert text
visualgraylike the visual mode of Vim, used to make text selection
motionpurpleexclusive to Evil, used to navigate read only buffers
emacsblueexclusive to Evil, using this state is like using a regular Emacs without Vim
replacechocolateexclusive to Evil, overwrites the character under point instead of inserting a new one
hybridblueexclusive to Spacemacs, this is like the insert state except that all the emacs key bindings are available
evilifiedlight brownexclusive to Spacemacs, this is an emacs state modified to bring Vim navigation, selection and search.
lisppinkexclusive to Spacemacs, used to navigate Lisp code and modify it (more info)
ieditredexclusive to Spacemacs, used to navigate between multiple regions of text using iedit (more info)
iedit-insertredexclusive to Spacemacs, used to replace multiple regions of text using iedit (more info)

Note: Technically speaking there is also the operator evil state.

Evilified modes

Some buffers are not for editing text and provide their own keybindings for certain operations. These often conflict with Vim bindings. To make such buffers behave more like Vim in a consistent manner, they use a special state called evilified state. In evilified state, a handful of keys work as in Evil, namely /, :, h, j, k, l, n, N, v, V, gg, G, C-f, C-b, C-d, C-e, C-u, C-y and C-z. All other keys work as intended by the underlying mode.

Shadowed keys are moved according to the pattern: aAC-aC-A

For example, if the mode binds a function to n, that is found under C-n in evilified state, since both n and N are reserved, but C-n is not. On the other hand, anything originally bound to k will be found on K, since k is reserved but K is not. If there is a binding on K, that will be moved to C-k.

In addition to this, C-g, being an important escape key in Emacs, is skipped. So anything bound to g originally will be found on C-G, since g, G and C-g are all reserved.

Evil leader

Spacemacs uses a leader key to bind almost all its key bindings.

This leader key is commonly set to ​,​ by Vim users, in Spacemacs the leader key is set on SPC (the space bar, hence the name spacemacs). This key is the most accessible key on a keyboard and it is pressed with the thumb which is a good choice to lower the risk of RSI. It can be customized to any other key using the variable dotspacemacs-leader-key and dotspacemacs-emacs-leader-key.

With Spacemacs there is no need to remap your keyboard modifiers to attempt to reduce the risk of RSI, every command can be executed very easily while you are in normal mode by pressing the SPC leader key, here are a few examples:

  • Save a buffer: SPC f s
  • Save all opened buffers: SPC f S
  • Open (switch) to a buffer with helm: SPC b b

Universal argument

The universal argument C-u is an important command in Emacs but it is also a very handy Vim key binding to scroll up.

Spacemacs binds C-u to scroll-up and changes the universal argument binding to SPC u.

Note: SPC u is not working before helm-M-x (SPC SPC). Instead, call helm-M-x first, select the command you want to run, and press C-u before pressing RETURN. For instance: SPC SPC org-reload C-u RET


Spacemacs defines a wide variety of transient states (temporary overlay maps) where it makes sense. This prevents one from doing repetitive and tedious presses on the SPC key.

When a transient state is active, a documentation is displayed in the minibuffer. Additional information may as well be displayed in the minibuffer.

Auto-highlight-symbol transient state: img/spacemacs-ahs-transient-state.png Text scale transient state:


Differences between Vim, Evil and Spacemacs

  • The ​,​ key does “repeat last f, t, F, or T command in opposite direction in Vim, but in Spacemacs it is the major mode specific leader key by default (which can be set on another key binding in the dotfile).

Send a PR to add the differences you found in this section.

The vim-surround case

There is one obvious visible difference though. It is not between Evil and Vim but between Spacemacs and vim-surround: in visual mode the surround command is on S in vim-surround whereas it is on s in Spacemacs.

This is something that can surprise some Vim users so here are some motivations behind this change:

  • s and c do the same thing in visual state,
  • s is only useful to delete one character and add more than one character which is a very narrow use case
  • c accept motions and can do everything s can do in normal state (note that this is also true for r but r is more useful because it stays in normal state)
  • surround command is just a more powerful command than s.

If you are not convinced, then here is the snippet to revert back to the default Vim + vim-surround setup (add it to your dotspacemacs/user-config function or your ~/.spacemacs):

(evil-define-key 'visual evil-surround-mode-map "s" 'evil-substitute)
(evil-define-key 'visual evil-surround-mode-map "S" 'evil-surround-region)

Evil plugins

Spacemacs ships with the following evil plugins:

evil-argsmotions and text objects for arguments
evil-exchangeport of vim-exchange
evil-indent-textobjectadd text object based on indentation level
evil-matchitport of matchit.vim
evil-nerd-commenterport of nerdcommenter
evil-numberslike C-a and C-x in vim
evil-search-highlight-persistemulation of hlsearch behavior
evil-surroundport of vim-surround
evil-visualstarsearch for current selection with *
NeoTreemimic NERD Tree

Binding keys

Key sequences are bound to commands in Emacs in various keymaps. The most basic map is the global-map. Setting a key binding in the global-map is achieved with the function global-set-key. Example to bind a key to the command forward-char:

(global-set-key (kbd "C-]") 'forward-char)

The kbd macro accepts a string describing a key sequence. The global-map is often shadowed by other maps. For example, evil-mode defines keymaps that target states (or modes in vim terminology). Here is an example that creates the same binding as above but only in insert state (define-key is a built-in function. Evil-mode has its own functions for defining keys).

(define-key evil-insert-state-map (kbd "C-]") 'forward-char)

Perhaps most importantly for Spacemacs is the use of the bind-map package to bind keys behind a leader key. This is where most of the Spacemacs bindings live. Binding keys behind the leader key is achieved with the functions spacemacs/set-leader-keys and spacemacs/set-leader-keys-for-major-mode, example:

(spacemacs/set-leader-keys "C-]" 'forward-char)
(spacemacs/set-leader-keys-for-major-mode 'emacs-lisp-mode "C-]" 'forward-char)

These functions use a macro like kbd to translate the key sequences for you. The second function, spacemacs/set-leader-keys-for-major-mode, binds the key only in the specified mode. The second key binding is active only when the major mode is emacs-lisp.

Finally, one should be aware of prefix keys. Essentially, all keymaps can be nested. Nested keymaps are used extensively in spacemacs, and in vanilla Emacs for that matter. For example, SPC a points to key bindings for “applications”, like SPC a c for calc-dispatch. Nesting bindings is easy.

(spacemacs/declare-prefix "]" "bracket-prefix")
(spacemacs/set-leader-keys "]]" 'double-bracket-command)

The first line declares SPC ] to be a prefix and the second binds the key sequence SPC ]] to the corresponding command. The first line is actually unnecessary to create the prefix, but it will give your new prefix a name that key-discovery tools can use (e.g., which-key).

There is much more to say about bindings keys, but these are the basics. Keys can be bound in your ~/.spacemacs file or in individual layers.

GUI Elements

Spacemacs has a minimalistic and distraction free graphical UI:

Color themes

The official Spacemacs theme is spacemacs-dark and it is the default theme installed when you first started Spacemacs. There are two variants of the theme, a dark one and a light one. Some aspects of these themes can be customized in the function dotspacemacs/user-init of your ~/.spacemacs:

  • the comment background with the boolean spacemacs-theme-comment-bg
  • the height of org section titles with spacemacs-theme-org-height

It is possible to define your default themes in your ~/.spacemacs with the variable dotspacemacs-themes. For instance, to specify spacemacs-light, leuven and zenburn:

(setq-default dotspacemacs-themes '(spacemacs-light leuven zenburn))
Key BindingDescription
SPC T nswitch to next theme listed in dotspacemacs-themes.
SPC T sselect a theme using a helm buffer.

You can see samples of all included themes in this theme gallery from Rob Merrell.


  • You don’t need to explicitly list in a layer the theme packages you are defining in dotspacemacs-themes, Spacemacs is smart enough to remove those packages from the list of orphans.
  • Due to the inner working of themes in Emacs, switching theme during the same session may have some weird side effects. Although these side effects should be pretty rare.
  • In the terminal version of Emacs, color themes will not render correctly as colors are rendered by the terminal and not by emacs. You will probably have to change your terminal color palette. More explanations can be found on emacs-color-theme-solarized webpage.

Hint: If you are an Org user, leuven-theme is amazing ;-)


The default font used by Spacemacs is Source Code Pro by Adobe. It is recommended to install it on your system if you wish to use it.

To change the default font set the variable dotspacemacs-default-font in your .spacemacs file. By default its value is:

(setq-default dotspacemacs-default-font '("Source Code Pro"
                                          :size 13
                                          :weight normal
                                          :width normal
                                          :powerline-scale 1.1))

If the specified font is not found, the fallback one will be used (depends on your system). Also note that changing this value has no effect if you are running Emacs in terminal.

The properties should be pretty straightforward, it is possible to set any valid property of a font-spec:

  • :family Font family or fontset (a string).
  • :width Relative character width. This should be one of the symbols:
    • ultra-condensed
    • extra-condensed
    • condensed
    • semi-condensed
    • normal
    • semi-expanded
    • expanded
    • extra-expanded
    • ultra-expanded
  • :height The height of the font. In the simplest case, this is an integer in units of 1/10 point.
  • :weight Font weight- one of the symbols (from densest to faintest):
    • ultra-bold
    • extra-bold
    • bold
    • semi-bold
    • normal
    • semi-light
    • light
    • extra-light
    • ultra-light
  • :slant Font slant- one of the symbols:
    • italic
    • oblique
    • normal
    • reverse-italic
    • reverse-oblique
  • :size The font size- either a non-negative integer that specifies the pixel size, or a floating-point number that specifies the point size.
  • :adstyle Additional typographic style information for the font, such as ‘sans’. The value should be a string or a symbol.
  • :registry The charset registry and encoding of the font, such as ‘iso8859-1’. The value should be a string or a symbol.
  • :script The script that the font must support (a symbol).

The special property :powerline-scale is Spacemacs specific and it is for quick tweaking of the mode-line height in order to avoid crappy rendering of the separators like on the following screenshot (default value is 1.1).

img/crappy-powerline-separators.png Ugly separators

GUI Toggles

Some graphical UI indicators can be toggled on and off (toggles start with t and T):

Key BindingDescription
SPC t 8highlight any character past the 80th column
SPC t fdisplay the fill column (by default the fill column is set to 80)
SPC t h htoggle highlight of the current line
SPC t h itoggle highlight indentation levels
SPC t h ctoggle highlight indentation current column
SPC t h stoggle syntax highlighting
SPC t itoggle indentation guide at point
SPC t ltoggle truncate lines
SPC t Ltoggle visual lines
SPC t ntoggle line numbers
SPC t vtoggle smooth scrolling
Key BindingDescription
SPC T ~display ~ in the fringe on empty lines
SPC T Ftoggle frame fullscreen
SPC T ftoggle display of the fringe
SPC T mtoggle menu bar
SPC T Mtoggle frame maximize
SPC T ttoggle tool bar
SPC T Ttoggle frame transparency and enter transparency transient state

Note: These toggles are all available via the helm-spacemacs-help interface (press SPC h SPC to display the helm-spacemacs-help buffer).

Global line numbers

Line numbers can be toggled on in all prog-mode and text-mode buffers by setting the dotspacemacs-line-numbers variable in your ~/.spacemacs to t.

(setq-default dotspacemacs-line-numbers t)

If it is set to relative, line numbers are show in a relative way:

(setq-default dotspacemacs-line-numbers 'relative)

dotspacemacs-line-numbers can also be set to a property list for finer control over line numbers activation.

Available properties:

:disabled-for-modeslist of major modes where line numbering is inhibited
:enabled-for-modesdisable for all major modes except those listed. Takes precedence over :disabled-for-modes
:relativeif non-nil, line numbers are relative to the position of the cursor
:size-limit-kbsize limit in kilobytes after which line numbers are not activated


Disable line numbers in dired-mode, doc-view-mode, markdown-mode, org-mode, pdf-view-mode, text-mode as well as buffers over 1Mb:

(setq-default dotspacemacs-lines-numbers '(:relative nil
                                           :disabled-for-modes dired-mode
                                           :size-limit-kb 1000))

Relative line numbers only in c-mode and c++ mode with a size limit of dotspacemacs-large-file-size:

(setq-default dotspacemacs-lines-numbers '(:relative t
                                           :enabled-for-modes c-mode
                                           :size-limit-kb (* dotspacemacs-large-file-size 1000))

Enable line numbers everywhere, except for buffers over 1Mb:

(setq-default dotspacemacs-lines-numbers '(:relative nil
                                           :size-limit-kb 1000))

Enable line numbers only in programming modes, except for c-mode and c++ mode:

(setq-default dotspacemacs-lines-numbers '(:relative nil
                                           :enabled-for-modes prog-mode
                                           :disabled-for-modes c-mode c++-mode
                                           :size-limit-kb (* dotspacemacs-large-file-size 1000))


The mode line is a heavily customized powerline with the following capabilities:

  • show the window number
  • color code for current state
  • show the number of search occurrences via anzu
  • toggle flycheck info
  • toggle battery info
  • toggle minor mode lighters

Reminder of the color codes for the states:

Evil StateColor

Some elements can be dynamically toggled:

Key BindingDescription
SPC t m btoggle the battery status
SPC t m ctoggle the org task clock (available in org layer)
SPC t m mtoggle the minor mode lighters
SPC t m Mtoggle the major mode
SPC t m ntoggle the cat! (if colors layer is declared in your dotfile)
SPC t m ptoggle the point character position
SPC t m ttoggle the time
SPC t m Ttoggle the mode line itself
SPC t m vtoggle the version control info
SPC t m Vtoggle the new version lighter

Powerline font installation for terminal-mode users

Users who run Emacs in terminal mode may need to install the Powerline patched fonts and configure their terminal clients to use them to make the Powerline separators render correctly.

Flycheck integration

When Flycheck minor mode is enabled, a new element appears showing the number of errors, warnings and info.

img/powerline-wave.png Flycheck integration in mode-line

Anzu integration

Anzu shows the number of occurrence when performing a search. Spacemacs integrates nicely the Anzu status by displaying it temporarily when n or N are being pressed. See the 5/6 segment on the screenshot below.

img/powerline-anzu.png Anzu integration in mode-line

Battery status integration

fancy-battery displays the percentage of total charge of the battery as well as the time remaining to charge or discharge completely the battery.

A color code is used for the battery status:

Battery StateColor

Note the these colors may vary depending on your theme.

Powerline separators

It is possible to easily customize the powerline separator by setting the powerline-default-separator variable in your ~./spacemacs and then recompiling the modeline. For instance if you want to set back the separator to the well-known arrow separator add the following snippet to your configuration file:

(defun dotspacemacs/user-config ()
  "This is were you can ultimately override default Spacemacs configuration.
This function is called at the very end of Spacemacs initialization."
  (setq powerline-default-separator 'arrow))

To save you the time to try all the possible separators provided by the powerline, here is an exhaustive set of screenshots:


Minor Modes

Spacemacs uses diminish mode to reduce the size of minor mode indicators:

The minor mode area can be toggled on and off with SPC t m m

Unicode symbols are displayed by default. Setting the variable dotspacemacs-mode-line-unicode-symbols to nil in your ~/.spacemacs will display ASCII characters instead (may be useful in terminal if you cannot set an appropriate font).

The letters displayed in the mode-line correspond to the key bindings used to toggle them.

Some toggle have two flavors: local and global. The global version of the toggle can be reached using the control key.

Key BindingUnicodeASCIIMode
SPC t --centered-cursor mode
SPC t 88toggle highlight of characters for long lines
SPC t C-88global toggle highlight of characters for long lines
SPC t C---global centered cursor
SPC t aaauto-completion
SPC t cccamel case motion with subword mode
noneeevil-org mode
SPC t E eⒺeEeemacs editing style (holy mode)
SPC t E hⒺhEhhybrid editing style (hybrid mode)
SPC t fffill-column-indicator mode
SPC t FFauto-fill mode
SPC t gggolden-ratio mode
SPC t h iⓗihitoggle highlight indentation levels
SPC t h cⓗchctoggle highlight indentation current column
SPC t iiindentation guide
SPC t C-iiglobal indentation guide
SPC t IIaggressive indent mode
SPC t KKwhich-key mode
SPC t ppsmartparens mode
SPC t C-ppglobal smartparens
SPC t sssyntax checking (flycheck)
SPC t SSenabled in spell checking layer (flyspell)
SPC t wwwhitespace mode
SPC t C-wwglobal whitespace
SPC t WWautomatic whitespace cleanup (see dotspacemacs-whitespace-cleanup)
SPC t C-WWautomatic whitespace cleanup globally
SPC t yyyasnippet mode

Customizing the mode-line

Spacemacs uses Spaceline to provide its mode-line. It consists of a number of segments arranged on the left and right sides. These are defined in the variables spaceline-left and spaceline-right. Segments can be defined using spaceline-define-segment, and added to the appropriate location in the left or right hand side variables.

Please see the Spaceline documentation for more information.

Layouts and workspaces

Layouts are window configurations with buffer isolation, each layout can define several workspaces (think of them as sub-layouts) sharing the same list of buffers as their parent layout.


A layout is a window configuration associated with a list of buffers. The list of buffers can be an arbitrarily chosen set of buffers. Spacemacs provides some facilities to create meaningful sets of buffers, for instance the buffers related to a projectile project.

The name of the current layout appears in the mode-line at the far left (first element of the mode-line).

To create a new layout type a layout number that does not exist yet. For instance if you have two layouts currently then type SPC l 3 to create a third layout.

The default layout

The default layout (the layout created at the startup of Emacs) is not displayed in the mode-line but it is possible to display it by setting the variable dotspacemacs-display-default-layout to t.

Its name is “default” by default but it can be changed by setting the variable dotspacemacs-default-layout-name.

The default layout is special because it has a global scope which means that all the opened buffers belong to it. So using only the default layout feels like not using layouts at all.

Project layouts

A project layout is bound to a projectile project. To create a project layout use SPC p l.

The name of the layout is the name of the project root directory.

Custom Layouts

Custom layouts can be defined using the macro spacemacs|define-custom-layout, they are accessible via SPC l o.

By convention the name of a custom layout should start with @.

Example of custom layout definition for ERC buffers:

(spacemacs|define-custom-layout "@ERC"
  :binding "E"
    ;; hook to add all ERC buffers to the layout
    (defun spacemacs-layouts/add-erc-buffer-to-persp ()
      (persp-add-buffer (current-buffer)
    (add-hook 'erc-mode-hook #'spacemacs-layouts/add-erc-buffer-to-persp)
    ;; Start ERC
    (call-interactively 'erc)))

Then use SPC l o E to start ERC inside its own layout. Any new ERC buffer will be part of the custom layout.

Some custom layouts that ship with Spacemacs:

NameKey BindingDescription
@SpacemacseCustom perspective containing all buffers of ~/.emacs.d
@ERCECustom perspective containing all ERC buffers (needs the erc layer enabled)
@RCIRCiCustom perspective containing all RCIRC buffers (needs the rcirc layer enabled)
@OrgoCustom perspective containing all the org-agenda buffers

Save/Load layouts into a file

With SPC l s and SPC l L you can save and load layouts to/from a file.

Note: By default, Spacemacs will automatically save the layouts under the name persp-auto-save.

Setting the variable dotspacemacs-auto-resume-layouts to t will automatically resume the last saved layouts.

Layout key bindings

The key bindings are registered in a transient state. The docstring of the transient state displays the existing layouts and the currently active layout has square brackets. Pressing a layout number will activate it (or create a new one) and exit the transient state. It is possible to just preview a layout with Ctrl-<number>. Pressing TAB will activate the previously selected layout.

Press ? to toggle the full help.

Key BindingDescription
SPC lactivate the transient- state
?toggle the documentation
[0..9]switch to nth layout
[C-0..C-9]switch to nth layout and keep the transient state active
<tab>switch to the latest layout
aadd a buffer to the current layout
Aadd all the buffers from another layout in the current one
bselect a buffer in the current layout
ddelete the current layout and keep its buffers
Ddelete the other layouts and keep their buffers
hgo to default layout
C-hprevious layout in list
lselect/create a layout with helm
Lload layouts from file
C-lnext layout in list
nnext layout in list
Nprevious layout in list
oopen a custom layout
pprevious layout in list
rremove current buffer from layout
Rrename current layout
ssave layouts
tdisplay a buffer without adding it to the current layout
wworkspaces transient state (needs eyebrowse layer enabled)
xkill current layout with its buffers
Xkill other layouts with their buffers


Workspaces are sub-layouts, they allow to define multiple layouts into a given layout, those layouts share the same buffer as the parent layout.

The currently active workspace number is displayed before the window number, for instance “➊|➍” or “1|4” means the fourth window of the first workspace.

Any new layout comes with a default workspace which is the workspace 1.

Switching to a workspace that does not exist in the current layout will create a new one. For instance at startup you can press SPC l w 2 to create the workspace 2 in the default layout.

When created a workspace is anonymous, you can give them a name with SPC l w R.

Workspace key bindings

The key bindings are registered in a transient state. The docstring of the transient state displays the existing workspaces and the currently active workspace has square brackets. Pressing a workspace number will activate it (or create a new one) and exit the transient state. It is possible to just preview a workspace with Ctrl-<number>. Pressing TAB will activate the previously selected workspace.

Press ? to toggle the full help.

Key BindingDescription
SPC l wactivate the transient state
?toggle the documentation
[0..9]switch to nth workspace
[C-0..C-9]switch to nth workspace and keep the transient state active
TABswitch to last active workspace
dclose current workspace
n or lswitch to next workspace
N or p or hswitch to previous workspace
Rset a tag to the current workspace
wswitched to tagged workspace

There are also some handy globally available key bindings related to workspaces:

Key BindingDescription
gtgo to next workspace
gTgo to previous workspace
SPC b Wgo to workspace and window by buffer


Vim key bindings

Spacemacs is based on Vim modal user interface to navigate and edit text. If you are not familiar with the Vim way of editing text you can try the evil-tutor lessons by pressing SPC h T at any time.


Spacemacs uses evil-escape to easily switch between insert state and normal state by quickly pressing the fd keys.

The choice of fd was made to be able to use the same sequence to escape from “everything” in Emacs:

  • escape from all stock evil states to normal state
  • escape from evil-lisp-state to normal state
  • escape from evil-iedit-state to normal state
  • abort evil ex command
  • quit minibuffer
  • abort isearch
  • quit magit buffers
  • quit help buffers
  • quit apropos buffers
  • quit ert buffers
  • quit undo-tree buffer
  • quit paradox
  • quit gist-list menu
  • quit helm-ag-edit
  • hide neotree buffer

If you find yourself in a buffer where the Spacemacs (SPC) or Vim keybindings don’t work you can use this to get back to normal state (for example in SPC SPC customize press fd to make SPC b b work again).

This sequence can be customized in your ~/.spacemacs. Example to set it to jj:

(defun dotspacemacs/user-config ()
  (setq-default evil-escape-key-sequence "jj"))

Note: Although jj or jk are popular choices of vim users, these key sequences are not optimal for Spacemacs. Indeed it is very easy in visual state to press quickly jj and inadvertently escape to normal state.

Executing Vim and Emacs ex/M-x commands

CommandKey Binding
Vim (ex-command):
Emacs (M-x)SPC SPC

The emacs command key SPC (executed after the leader key) can be changed with the variable dotspacemacs-emacs-command-key of your ~/.spacemacs.

Leader key

On top of Vim modes (modes are called states in Spacemacs) there is a special key called the leader key which once pressed gives a whole new keyboard layer. The leader key is by default SPC (space). It is possible to change this key with the variable dotspacemacs-leader-key.

Additional text objects

Additional text objects are defined in Spacemacs:

aan argument
gthe entire buffer
$text between $
*text between *
8text between /* and */
%text between %
\verttext between \vert

Reserved prefix command for user

SPC o and SPC m o are reserved for the user. Setting key bindings behind these is guaranteed to never conflict with Spacemacs default key bindings.

Example: Put (spacemacs/set-leader-keys "oc" 'org-capture) inside dotspacemacs/user-config in your ~/.spacemacs file, to be able to use SPC o c to run org mode capture.


Spacemacs is powered by one of two incremental completion and selection narrowing frameworks: Helm (default) or Ivy. To use Ivy, add the ivy layer to your list of enabled layers. If the ivy layer is not enabled, Helm will be enabled automatically. (Please note that, as Helm is the more mature of the two, some functions may be unavailable if you choose Ivy.)

These completion systems are the central control towers of Spacemacs, they are used to manage buffers, projects, search results, configuration layers, toggles and more…

Mastering your choice of completion system will make you a Spacemacs power user.


Do not hesitate to read the Helm documentation wiki.

C-z and Tab switch

The command bound to C-z is much more useful than the one bound to Tab, so it makes sense to swap them. It’s also recommended here.

Helm focus

If you find yourself unable to return focus to Helm (after a careless mouse-click for example), use SPC w b to return focus to the minibuffer.

Helm transient state

Spacemacs defines a transient state for Helm to make it work like Vim’s Unite plugin.

Initiate the transient state with M-SPC or s-M-SPC while in a Helm buffer.

Key BindingDescription
M-SPC or s-M-SPCinitiate the transient state
qquit transient state
TABswitch to actions page and leave the transient state
1execute action 0
2execute action 1
3execute action 2
4execute action 3
5execute action 4
6execute action 5
7execute action 6
8execute action 7
9execute action 8
0execute action 9
aswitch to actions page
ggo to first candidate
Ggo to last candidate
hgo to previous source
jselect next candidate
kselect previous candidate
lgo to next source
tmark current candidate
Tmark all candidates
vexecute persistent action


If you choose ivy as completion system, make sure to read official manual. In case you don’t want to read everything, at least familiarise with minibuffer key bindings. Some useful key bindings are presented in following table.

Key BindingDescription
C-m or RETcall default action on current candidate
M-oshow the list of valid actions on current candidate (then press any of described keys to execute it)
C-M-mthe same as RET but doesn’t close completion minibuffer
C-M-othe same as M-o but doesn’t close completion minibuffer
~C-‘~use avy to quickly select completion on current page (sometimes faster than using arrows)


Key bindings


A help buffer is displayed each time the SPC key is pressed in normal mode. It lists the available key bindings and their associated commands.

By default the which-key buffer will be displayed quickly after the key has been pressed. You can change the delay by setting the variable dotspacemacs-which-key-delay to your liking (the value is in second).

Helm describe key bindings

It is possible to search for specific key bindings by pressing SPC ?.

To narrow the list to some key bindings using the leader key type a pattern like this regular expression: SPC\ b which would list all buffer related bindings.

Getting help

Describe functions are powerful Emacs introspection commands to get information about functions, variables, modes etc. These commands are bound thusly:

Key BindingDescription
SPC h d bdescribe bindings in a helm buffer
SPC h d cdescribe current character under point
SPC h d ddescribe current expression under point
SPC h d fdescribe a function
SPC h d Fdescribe a face
SPC h d kdescribe a key
SPC h d Kdescribe a keymap
SPC h d lcopy last pressed keys that you can paste in gitter chat
SPC h d mdescribe current modes
SPC h d pdescribe a package (Emacs built-in function)
SPC h d Pdescribe a package (Spacemacs layer information)
SPC h d scopy system information that you can paste in gitter chat
SPC h d tdescribe a theme
SPC h d vdescribe a variable

Other help key bindings:

Key BindingDescription
SPC h SPCdiscover Spacemacs documentation, layers and packages using helm
SPC h isearch in info pages with the symbol at point
SPC h kshow top-level bindings with which-key
SPC h msearch available man pages
SPC h nbrowse emacs news

Navigation key bindings in help-mode:

Key BindingDescription
g b or [go back (same as clicking on [back] button)
g f or ]go forward (same as clicking on [forward] button)
g hgo to help for symbol under point

Reporting an issue:

Key BindingDescription
SPC h IOpen Spacemacs GitHub issue page with pre-filled information
SPC u SPC h IOpen Spacemacs GitHub issue page with pre-filled information - include last pressed keys

Note: If these two bindings are used with the *Backtrace* buffer open, the backtrace is automatically included

Available layers

All layers can be easily discovered via helm-spacemacs-help accessible with SPC h SPC.

The following helm actions are available:

  • default: open the layer
  • 2nd: open the layer packages.el

Available packages in Spacemacs

helm-spacemacs-help also lists all the packages available in Spacemacs. The entry format is (layer) packages. If you type flycheck you’ll be able to see all the layers where flycheck is used.

The following helm actions are available on packages:

  • default: go the package init function

New packages from ELPA repositories

package-list-packages is where you can browse for all available packages in the different Elpa repositories. It is possible to upgrade packages from there but it is not recommended, use the [Update Packages] link on the Spacemacs startup page instead.

Spacemacs uses Paradox instead of package-list-packages to list available ELPA packages. Paradox enhances the package list buffer with better feedbacks, new filters and Github information like the number of stars. Optionally you can also star packages directly in the buffer.

Important Note 1: Installing a new package from Paradox won’t make it persistent. To install a package persistently you have to add it explicitly to a configuration layer.

Important Note 2: Don’t update your packages from Paradox or package-list-packages because they don’t support the rollback feature of Spacemacs.

Key BindingDescription
SPC a klaunch paradox
f kfilter by keywords
f rfilter by regexp
f udisplay only installed package with updates available
hgo left
Hshow help (not accurate)
jgo down
kgo up
lgo right
Lshow last commits
nnext search occurrence
Nprevious search occurrence
oopen package homepage
S Psort by package name
S Ssort by status (installed, available, etc…)
S *sort by Github stars
vvisual state
Vvisual-line state
xexecute (action flags)


helm-spacemacs-help is also a central place to discover the available toggles. To display only the toggles source press C-l (or in Helm transient state you can press just l).

The following helm actions are available on packages:

  • default: toggle on/off

Tips Use SPC h l to resume the last helm session. It is handy to quickly toggle on and off a toggle.



Navigation is performed using the Vi key bindings hjkl.

Key BindingDescription
hmove cursor left
jmove cursor down
kmove cursor up
lmove cursor right
Hmove cursor to the top of the screen
Lmove cursor to the bottom of the screen
SPC j 0go to the beginning of line (and set a mark at the previous location in the line)
SPC j $go to the end of line (and set a mark at the previous location in the line)
SPC t -lock the cursor at the center of the screen

Smooth scrolling

smooth-scrolling prevent the point to jump when it reaches the top or bottom of the screen. It is enabled by default.

On Windows, you may want to disable it. To disable the smooth scrolling set the dotspacemacs-smooth-scrolling variable in your ~/.spacemacs to nil:

(setq-default dotspacemacs-smooth-scrolling nil)

You can also toggle smooth scrolling with SPC t v.

Vim motions with avy

Spacemacs uses the evil integration of avy which enables the invocation of avy during motions.

For instance, it is useful for deleting a set of visual lines from the current line. Try the following sequence in a buffer containing some text: d SPC j l, followed by selecting an avy candidate.

Key BindingDescription
SPC j bgo back to the previous location (before the jump)
SPC j jinitiate avy jump char
SPC j winitiate avy jump word
SPC j linitiate avy jump line

ace-link mode

Similar to avy, ace-link allows one to jump to any link in help-mode and info-mode with two key strokes.

Key BindingDescription
oinitiate ace link mode in help-mode and info-mode

Unimpaired bindings

Spacemacs comes with a built-in port of tpope’s vim-unimpaired.

This plugin provides several pairs of bracket maps using [ to denote previous, and ] as next.

[ SPCInsert space above
] SPCInsert space below
[ bGo to previous buffer
] bGo to next buffer
[ fGo to previous file in directory
] fGo to next file in directory
[ lGo to the previous error
] lGo to the next error
[ hGo to the previous vcs hunk
] hGo to the next vcs hunk
[ qGo to the previous error
] qGo to the next error
[ tGo to the previous frame
] tGo to the next frame
[ wGo to the previous window
] wGo to the next window
[ eMove line up
] eMove line down
[ pPaste above current line
] pPaste below current line
g pSelect pasted text

Jumping, Joining and Splitting

The SPC j prefix is for jumping, joining and splitting.


Key BindingDescription
SPC j 0go to the beginning of line (and set a mark at the previous location in the line)
SPC j $go to the end of line (and set a mark at the previous location in the line)
SPC j bundo a jump (go back to previous location)
SPC j djump to a listing of the current directory
SPC j Djump to a listing of the current directory (other window)
SPC j fjump to the definition of an Emacs Lisp function
SPC j ijump to a definition in buffer (imenu)
SPC j Ijump to a definition in any buffer (imenu)
SPC j jjump to a character in the buffer (works as an evil motion)
SPC j Jjump to a suite of two characters in the buffer (works as an evil motion)
SPC j kjump to next line and indent it using auto-indent rules
SPC j ljump to a line with avy (works as an evil motion)
SPC j qshow the dumb-jump quick look tooltip
SPC j ujump to a URL in the current buffer
SPC j vjump to the definition/declaration of an Emacs Lisp variable
SPC j wjump to a word in the current buffer (works as an evil motion)

Joining and splitting

Key BindingDescription
Jjoin the current line with the next line
SPC j kgo to next line and indent it using auto-indent rules
SPC j nsplit the current line at point, insert a new line and auto-indent
SPC j ssplit a quoted string or s-expression in place
SPC j Ssplit a quoted string or s-expression, insert a new line and auto-indent

Window manipulation

Window manipulation key bindings

Every window has a number displayed at the start of the mode-line and can be quickly accessed using SPC number.

Key BindingDescription
SPC 1go to window number 1
SPC 2go to window number 2
SPC 3go to window number 3
SPC 4go to window number 4
SPC 5go to window number 5
SPC 6go to window number 6
SPC 7go to window number 7
SPC 8go to window number 8
SPC 9go to window number 9
SPC 0go to window number 0

Windows manipulation commands (start with w):

Key BindingDescription
SPC w TABswitch to alternate window in the current frame (switch back and forth)
SPC w =balance split windows
SPC w bforce the focus back to the minibuffer (useful with helm popups)
SPC w cmaximize/minimize a window and center it
SPC w Cmaximize/minimize a window and center it using ace-window
SPC w ddelete a window
SPC u SPC w ddelete a window and its current buffer (does not delete the file)
SPC w Ddelete another window using ace-window
SPC u SPC w Ddelete another window and its current buffer using ace-window
SPC w ttoggle window dedication (dedicated window cannot be reused by a mode)
SPC w ftoggle follow mode
SPC w Fcreate new frame
SPC w hmove to window on the left
SPC w Hmove window to the left
SPC w jmove to window below
SPC w Jmove window to the bottom
SPC w kmove to window above
SPC w Kmove window to the top
SPC w lmove to window on the right
SPC w Lmove window to the right
SPC w mmaximize/minimize a window (maximize is equivalent to delete other windows)
SPC w Mswap windows using ace-window
SPC w ocycle and focus between frames
SPC w p mopen messages buffer in a popup window
SPC w p pclose the current sticky popup window
SPC w rrotate windows forward
SPC w Rrotate windows backward
SPC w s or SPC w -horizontal split
SPC w Shorizontal split and focus new window
SPC w uundo window layout (used to effectively undo a closed window)
SPC w Uredo window layout
SPC w v or SPC w /vertical split
SPC w Vvertical split and focus new window
SPC w wcycle and focus between windows
SPC w Wselect window using ace-window

Window manipulation transient state

A convenient window manipulation transient state allows performing most of the actions listed above. The transient state allows additional actions as well like window resizing.

Key BindingDescription
SPC w .initiate transient state
?display the full documentation in minibuffer
0go to window number 0
1go to window number 1
2go to window number 2
3go to window number 3
4go to window number 4
5go to window number 5
6go to window number 6
7go to window number 7
8go to window number 8
9go to window number 9
/vertical split
-horizontal split
[shrink window horizontally
]enlarge window horizontally
{shrink window vertically
}enlarge window vertically
ddelete window
Ddelete other windows
gtoggle golden-ratio on and off
hgo to window on the left
jgo to window below
kgo to window above
lgo to window on the right
Hmove window to the left
Jmove window to the bottom
Kmove bottom to the top
Lmove window to the right
ofocus other frame
rrotate windows forward
Rrotate windows backward
shorizontal split
Shorizontal split and focus new window
uundo window layout (used to effectively undo a closed window)
Uredo window layout
vvertical split
Vhorizontal split and focus new window
wfocus other window
Any other keyleave the transient state

Golden ratio

If you resize windows like crazy you may want to give a try to golden-ratio.

golden-ratio resizes windows dynamically depending on whether they are selected or not. By default golden-ratio is off.

The mode can be toggled on and off with SPC t g.

Buffers and Files

By default Spacemacs uses helm to open files.

Buffers manipulation key bindings

Buffer manipulation commands (start with b):

Key BindingDescription
SPC TABswitch to alternate buffer in the current window (switch back and forth)
SPC b bswitch to a buffer using helm
SPC b dkill the current buffer (does not delete the visited file)
SPC u SPC b dkill the current buffer and window (does not delete the visited file)
SPC b Dkill a visible buffer using ace-window
SPC u SPC b Dkill a visible buffer and its window using ace-window
SPC b C-dkill buffers using a regular expression
SPC b eerase the content of the buffer (ask for confirmation)
SPC b hopen *spacemacs* home buffer
SPC b nswitch to next buffer avoiding special buffers
SPC b mkill all buffers except the current one
SPC u SPC b mkill all buffers and windows except the current one
SPC b Mkill all buffers matching the regexp
SPC b pswitch to previous buffer avoiding special buffers
SPC b Pcopy clipboard and replace buffer (useful when pasting from a browser)
SPC b Rrevert the current buffer (reload from disk)
SPC b sswitch to the *scratch* buffer (create it if needed)
SPC b wtoggle read-only (writable state)
SPC b Ycopy whole buffer to clipboard (useful when copying to a browser)
z fMake current function or comments visible in buffer as much as possible

Buffers manipulation transient state

A convenient buffer manipulation transient state allows to quickly cycles through the opened buffer and kill them.

Key BindingDescription
SPC b .initiate transient state
Kkill current buffer
ngo to next buffer (avoid special buffers)
Ngo to previous buffer (avoid special buffers)
Any other keyleave the transient state

Special Buffers

Unlike vim, emacs creates many buffers that most people do not need to see. Some examples are *Messages* and *Compile-Log*. Spacemacs tries to automatically ignore buffers that are not useful. However, you may want to change the way Spacemacs marks buffers as useful. For instructions, see the special buffer howto.

Files manipulations key bindings

Files manipulation commands (start with f):

Key BindingDescription
SPC f bgo to file bookmarks
SPC f ccopy current file to a different location
SPC f C dconvert file from unix to dos encoding
SPC f C uconvert file from dos to unix encoding
SPC f Ddelete a file and the associated buffer (ask for confirmation)
SPC f Eopen a file with elevated privileges (sudo edit)
SPC f fopen file with helm
SPC f Ftry to open the file under point helm
SPC f hopen binary file with hexl (a hex editor)
SPC f jjump to the current buffer file in dired
SPC f Jopen a junk file, in mode determined by the file extension provided (defaulting to fundamental mode), using helm (or ivy)
SPC f lopen file literally in fundamental mode
SPC f LLocate a file (using locate)
SPC f oopen a file using the default external program
SPC f Rrename the current file
SPC f ssave a file
SPC f Ssave all files
SPC f ropen a recent file with helm
SPC f ttoggle file tree side bar using NeoTree
SPC f v dadd a directory variable
SPC f v fadd a local variable to the current file
SPC f v padd a local variable to the first line of the current file
SPC f yshow and copy current file absolute path in the minibuffer

Emacs and Spacemacs files

Convenient key bindings are located under the prefix SPC f e to quickly navigate between Emacs and Spacemacs specific files.

Key BindingDescription
SPC f e dopen the spacemacs dotfile (~/.spacemacs)
SPC f e Dopen ediff buffer of ~/.spacemacs and .spacemacs.template
SPC f e fdiscover the FAQ using helm
SPC f e iopen the all mighty init.el
SPC f e llocate an Emacs library
SPC f e Rresync the dotfile with spacemacs
SPC f e vdisplay and copy the spacemacs version

Browsing files with Helm

In vim and hybrid styles, Spacemacs remap the navigation in Helm find-files to keep finger on the home row.

Key BindingDescription
C-hgo up one level (parent directory
C-Hdescribe key (replace C-h)
C-jgo to previous candidate
C-kgo to next candidate
C-lenter current directory


Spacemacs displays the ido minibuffer vertically thanks to the ido-vertical-mode.

Basic ido operations can be done with Ctrl key:

Key BindingDescription
C-<return>open a dired buffer
M-<return>open a dired buffer in terminal
C-ddelete selected file (ask for confirmation)
C-hgo to parent directory
C-jselect next file or directory
C-kselect previous file or directory
C-lopen the selected file
C-nselect next file or directory
C-oopen selected file in other window
C-pselect previous file or directory
C-sopen selected file in a vertically split window
C-topen selected file in a new frame
C-vopen selected file in a horizontally split window
C-S-hgo to previous directory
C-S-j or C-S-nnext history element
C-S-k or C-S-pprevious history element
C-S-lgo to next directory

Ido transient state

Spacemacs defines a transient state for ido.

Initiate the transient state with M-SPC or s-M-SPC while in an ido buffer.

Key BindingDescription
M-SPC or s-M-SPCinitiate or leave the transient state
?display help
eopen dired
hdelete backward or parent directory
jnext match
Jsub directory
kprevious match
Kparent directory
lselect match
nnext directory in history
oopen in other window
pprevious directory in history
qquit transient state
sopen in a new horizontal split
topen in other frame
vopen in a new vertical split

NeoTree file tree

Spacemacs provides a quick and simple way to navigate in an unknown project file tree with NeoTree.

To toggle the NeoTree buffer press SPC f t or SPC p t (the latter open NeoTree with the root set to the projectile project root).

The NeoTree window always has the number 0 so it does not shift the current number of the other windows. To select the NeoTree window you then use SPC 0.

VCS integration is supported, the file color will change depending on its current state. With default spacemacs-dark theme:

  • green: new file
  • purple: modified file

NeoTree navigation

Navigation is centered on the hjkl keys with the hope of providing a fast navigation experience like in ranger:

Key BindingDescription
hcollapse expanded directory or go to parent node
Hselect previous sibling
jselect next file or directory
Jselect next expanded directory on level down
kselect previous file or directory
Kselect parent directory, when reaching the root change it to parent directory
l or RETexpand directory
Lselect next sibling
Rmake a directory the root directory

Note: Point is automatically set to the first letter of a node for a smoother experience.

Opening files with NeoTree

By default a file is opened in the last active window. It is possible to choose window number where to open a file by using a numeric argument, for instance 2 l or 2 RET will open the current file in window 2. It is also possible to open the file in a split window with | and -:

Key BindingDescription
l or RETopen file in last active window
# l or # RETopen file in window number #
¦open file in an vertically split window
-open file in an horizontally split window

Other NeoTree key bindings

Key BindingDescription
TABtoggle stretching of the buffer
ccreate a node
Ccopy a node
ddelete a node
stoggle showing of hidden files
q or fdhide NeoTree buffer
rrename a node
?show help

NeoTree mode-line

The mode-line has the following format [x/y] d (D:a, F:b) where:

  • x is the index of the current selected file or directory
  • y the total number of items (file and directory) in the current directory
  • d the name of the current directory
  • a the number of directories in the current directory
  • b the number of files in the current directory

NeoTree Source Control Integration

If you would like NeoTree to show source control information, you can use the setting neo-vc-integration. It is a list containing the possible values:

faceShow information by changing the color of the file/directory name.
charShow information with a character to the left of the file/directory name.

The default is nil (do not show source control information), which is recommended.

For example,

(setq neo-vc-integration 'face)

Note: At this time, it is not recommended to set this to anything other than nil. Otherwise, it will become very slow with larger source trees. See jaypei/emacs-neotree#126 for more information.

NeoTree Theme

You can change the NeoTree theme by using the setting neo-theme. Possible values are:

classicUse an icon to display items - only suitable for gui mode.
asciiThe simplest style, it will use x, - to display fold status.
arrowUse unicode arrows to display fold status.
nerdUse the NERDTree indentation mode and arrows.

The default is classic.

Use nerd if you want it to look most like NERDTree in VIM. For example:

(setq neo-theme 'nerd)


Bookmarks can be set anywhere in a file. Bookmarks are persistent. They are very useful to jump to/open a known project. Spacemacs uses helm-bookmarks to manage them.

Open an helm window with the current bookmarks by pressing: SPC f b

Then in the helm-bookmarks buffer:

Key BindingDescription
C-ddelete the selected bookmark
C-eedit the selected bookmark
C-ftoggle filename location
C-oopen the selected bookmark in another window

To save a new bookmark, just type the name of the bookmark and press RET.

DocView mode

doc-view-mode is a built-in major mode to view DVI, PostScript (PS), PDF, OpenDocument, and Microsoft Office documents.

Key BindingDescription
/search forward
?search backward
gggo to first page
Ggo to last page
gtgo to page number
hprevious page
Hadjust to height
jnext line
kprevious line
Kkill proc and buffer
lnext page
ngo to next search occurrence
Ngo to previous search occurrence
Pfit page to window
Wadjust to width
C-dscroll down
C-kkill proc
C-uscroll up
C-c C-ctoggle display text and image display
C-c C-topen new buffer with doc’s text contents


Frequency of auto-saving

By default auto-saving of files is performed every 300 characters and every 30 seconds of idle time which can be changed by setting to a new value the variables auto-save-interval and auto-save-timeout respectively.

Location of auto-saved files

Auto-save of modified files can be performed in-place on the original file itself or in the cache directory (in this case the original file will remain unsaved). By default Spacemacs auto-save the file in the cache directory.

To modify the location set the variable dotspacemacs-auto-save-file-location to original or cache.

Local files are auto-saved in a sub-directory called site in the cache directory whereas remote files (i.e. files edited over TRAMP) are auto-saved in a sub-directory called dist.

Disable auto-save

To disable auto-saving set the variable dotspacemacs-auto-save-file-location to nil.

You can toggle auto-save in a buffer by calling the command auto-save-mode.


With an external tool

Spacemacs can be interfaced with different search utilities like:

The search commands in Spacemacs are organized under the SPC s prefix with the next key is the tool to use and the last key is the scope. For instance SPC s a b will search in all opened buffers using ag.

If the last key (determining the scope) is uppercase then the current region or symbol under point is used as default input for the search. For instance SPC s a B will search with symbol under point (if there is no active region).

If the tool key is omitted then a default tool will be automatically selected for the search. This tool corresponds to the first tool found on the system of the list dotspacemacs-search-tools, the default order is ag, pt, ack then grep. For instance SPC s b will search in the opened buffers using pt if ag has not been found on the system.

The tool keys are:


The available scopes and corresponding keys are:

opened buffersb
files in a given directoryf
current projectp

It is possible to search in the current file by double tapping the second key of the sequence, for instance SPC s a a will search in the current file with ag.


  • ag and pt are optimized to be used in a source control repository but they can be used in an arbitrary directory as well.
  • It is also possible to search in several directories at once by marking them in the helm buffer.

Beware if you use pt, TCL parser tools also install a command line tool called pt.

Useful key bindings

Key BindingDescription
F3in a helm or ivy buffer, save results to a regular buffer
SPC r lresume the last completion buffer
SPC r s or SPC s lresume search buffer (completion or converted search buffer)
SPC s `go back to the previous place reached with helm-ag
Prefix argumentwill ask for file extensions

When results have been saved in a regular buffer with F3, that buffer supports browsing through the matches with Spacemacs’ next-error and previous-error bindings (SPC e n and SPC e p) as well as the error transient state (SPC e).

Searching in current file

Key BindingDescription
SPC s ssearch with the first found tool
SPC s Ssearch with the first found tool with default input
SPC s a aag
SPC s a Aag with default input
SPC s g ggrep
SPC s g Ggrep with default input

Searching in all open buffers visiting files

Key BindingDescription
SPC s bsearch with the first found tool
SPC s Bsearch with the first found tool with default input
SPC s a bag
SPC s a Bag with default text
SPC s g bgrep
SPC s g Bgrep with default text
SPC s k back
SPC s k Back with default text
SPC s t bpt
SPC s t Bpt with default text

Searching in files in an arbitrary directory

Key BindingDescription
SPC s fsearch with the first found tool
SPC s Fsearch with the first found tool with default input
SPC s a fag
SPC s a Fag with default text
SPC s g fgrep
SPC s g Fgrep with default text
SPC s k fack
SPC s k Fack with default text
SPC s t fpt
SPC s t Fpt with default text

Searching in a project

Key BindingDescription
SPC / or SPC s psearch with the first found tool
SPC * or SPC s Psearch with the first found tool with default input
SPC s a pag
SPC s a Pag with default text
SPC s g pgrep with default text
SPC s k pack
SPC s k Pack with default text
SPC s t ppt
SPC s t Ppt with default text

Hint: It is also possible to search in a project without needing to open a file beforehand. To do so use SPC p p and then C-s on a given project to directly search into it like with SPC s p.

Searching the web

Key BindingDescription
SPC s w gGet Google suggestions in emacs. Opens Google results in Browser.
SPC s w wGet Wikipedia suggestions in emacs. Opens Wikipedia page in Browser.

Persistent highlighting

Spacemacs uses evil-search-highlight-persist to keep the searched expression highlighted until the next search. It is also possible to clear the highlighting by pressing SPC s c or executing the ex command :noh.

Highlight current symbol

Spacemacs supports highlighting of the current symbol on demand (provided by auto-highlight-symbol mode) and adds a transient state to easily navigate and rename this symbol.

It is also possible to change the range of the navigation on the fly to:

  • buffer
  • function
  • visible area

To initiate the highlighting of the current symbol under point press SPC s h.

Navigation between the highlighted symbols can be done with the commands:

Key BindingDescription
*initiate navigation transient state on current symbol and jump forwards
#initiate navigation transient state on current symbol and jump backwards
SPC s eedit all occurrences of the current symbol(/)
SPC s hhighlight the current symbol and all its occurrence within the current range
SPC s Hgo to the last searched occurrence of the last highlighted symbol
SPC t h atoggle automatic highlight of symbol under point after ahs-idle-interval seconds

In ‘Spacemacs’ highlight symbol transient state:

Key BindingDescription
eedit occurrences (*)
ngo to next occurrence
Ngo to previous occurrence
dgo to next definition occurrence
Dgo to previous definition occurrence
rchange range (function, display area, whole buffer)
Rgo to home occurrence (reset position to starting occurrence)
Any other keyleave the navigation transient state

(*) using iedit or the default implementation of auto-highlight-symbol

The transient state text in minibuffer display the following information:

<M> [6/11]* press (n/N) to navigate, (e) to edit, (r) to change range or (R)
for reset

Where <M> [x/y]* is:

  • M: the current range mode
  • <B>: whole buffer range
  • <D>: current display range
  • <F>: current function range
  • x: the index of the current highlighted occurrence
  • y: the total number of occurrences
  • *: appears if there is at least one occurrence which is not currently visible.

Visual Star

With evil-visualstar you can search for the next occurrence of the current selection.

It is pretty useful combined with the expand-region bindings.

Note: If the current state is not the visual state then pressing * uses auto-highlight-symbol and its transient state.

Listing symbols by semantic

Use helm-semantic-or-imenu command from Helm to quickly navigate between the symbols in a buffer.

To list all the symbols of a buffer press: SPC s j


This is very similar to moccur, it displays a helm buffer with all the occurrences of the word under point. You can then change the search query in real-time and navigate between them easily.

You can even edit the occurrences directly in the helm buffer and apply the modifications to the buffer.

Key BindingDescription
SPC s sexecute helm-swoop
SPC s Sexecute helm-multi-swoop
SPC s C-sexecute helm-multi-swoop-all


Paste text

Paste Transient-state

The paste transient state can be enabled by settings the variable dotspacemacs-enable-paste-transient-state to t. By default it is disabled.

When the transient state is enabled, pressing p again will replace the pasted text with the previous yanked (copied) text on the kill ring.

For example if you copy foo and bar then press p the text bar will be pasted, pressing p again will replace bar with foo.

Key BindingDescription
p or Ppaste the text before or after point and initiate the paste transient state
C-jin transient state: replace paste text with the previously copied one
C-kin transient state: replace paste text with the next copied one
Any other keyleave the transient state

Auto-indent pasted text

By default any pasted text will be auto-indented. To paste text un-indented use the universal argument.

It is possible to disable the auto-indentation for specific major-modes by adding a major-mode to the variable spacemacs-indent-sensitive-modes in your dotspacemacs/user-config function.

Text manipulation commands

Text related commands (start with x):

Key BindingDescription
SPC x a &align region at &
SPC x a (align region at (
SPC x a )align region at )
SPC x a ​,​align region at ,
SPC x a .align region at . (for numeric tables)
SPC x a :align region at :
SPC x a ;align region at ;
SPC x a =align region at =
SPC x a aalign region (or guessed section) using default rules
SPC x a calign current indentation region using default rules
SPC x a ralign region using user-specified regexp
SPC x a malign region at arithmetic operators (+-*/)
SPC x a ¦align region at ¦
SPC x ccount the number of chars/words/lines in the selection region
SPC x d wdelete trailing whitespaces
SPC x g lset languages used by translate commands
SPC x g ttranslate current word using Google Translate
SPC x g Treverse source and target languages
SPC x j cset the justification to center
SPC x j fset the justification to full
SPC x j lset the justification to left
SPC x j nset the justification to none
SPC x j rset the justification to right
SPC x Jmove down a line of text (enter transient state)
SPC x Kmove up a line of text (enter transient state)
SPC x l dduplicate line or region
SPC x l ssort lines
SPC x l uuniquify lines
SPC x ouse avy to select a link in the frame and open it
SPC x Ouse avy to select multiple links in the frame and open them
SPC x t cswap (transpose) the current character with the previous one
SPC x t wswap (transpose) the current word with the previous one
SPC x t lswap (transpose) the current line with the previous one
SPC x uset the selected text to lower case
SPC x Uset the selected text to upper case
SPC x w ccount the number of occurrences per word in the select region
SPC x w dshow dictionary entry of word from
SPC x TABindent or dedent a region rigidly

Text insertion commands

Text insertion commands (start with i):

Key bindingDescription
SPC i l linsert lorem-ipsum list
SPC i l pinsert lorem-ipsum paragraph
SPC i l sinsert lorem-ipsum sentence
SPC i uSearch for Unicode characters and insert them into the active buffer.
SPC i U 1insert UUIDv1 (use universal argument to insert with CID format)
SPC i U 4insert UUIDv4 (use universal argument to insert with CID format)
SPC i U Uinsert UUIDv4 (use universal argument to insert with CID format)

Smartparens Strict mode

Smartparens comes with a strict mode which prevents deletion of parenthesis if the result is unbalanced.

This mode can be frustrating for novices, this is why it is not enabled by default.

It is possible to enable it easily for all programming modes with the variable dotspacemacs-smartparens-strict-mode of you ~/.spacemacs.

(setq-default dotspacemacs-smartparens-strict-mode t)



The font size of the current buffer can be adjusted with the commands:
Key BindingDescription
SPC z x +scale up the font and initiate the font scaling transient state
SPC z x =scale up the font and initiate the font scaling transient state
SPC z x -scale down the font and initiate the font scaling transient state
SPC z x 0reset the font size (no scaling) and initiate the font scaling transient state
+increase the font size
=increase the font size
-decrease the font size
0reset the font size
Any other keyleave the font scaling transient state

Note that only the text of the current buffer is scaled, the other buffers, the mode-line and the minibuffer are not affected. To zoom the whole content of a frame use the zoom frame bindings (see next section).


You can zoom in and out the whole content of the frame with the commands:

Key BindingDescription
SPC z f +zoom in the frame content and initiate the frame scaling transient state
SPC z f =zoom in the frame content and initiate the frame scaling transient state
SPC z f -zoom out the frame content and initiate the frame scaling transient state
SPC z f 0reset the frame content size and initiate the frame scaling transient state
+zoom in
=zoom in
-zoom out
0reset zoom
Any other keyleave the zoom frame transient state

Increase/Decrease numbers

Spacemacs uses evil-numbers to easily increase or decrease numbers.

Key BindingDescription
SPC n +increase the number under point by one and initiate transient state
SPC n -decrease the number under point by one and initiate transient state

In transient state:

Key BindingDescription
+increase the number under point by one
-decrease the number under point by one
Any other keyleave the transient state

Tips: you can increase or decrease a value by more that once by using a prefix argument (i.e. 10 SPC n + will add 10 to the number under point).

Spell checking

Spell checking is enabled by including the spell checking layer in your dotfile.

Keybindings are listed in the layer documentation.

Region selection

Vi Visual modes are all supported by evil.


Spacemacs adds another Visual mode via the expand-region mode.
Key BindingDescription
SPC vinitiate expand-region mode then…
vexpand the region by one semantic unit
Vcontract the region by one semantic unit
rreset the region to initial selection
ESCleave expand-region mode

Indent text object

With evil-indent-plus the following text objects are available:

  • ii - Inner Indentation: the surrounding textblock with the same indentation
  • iI - Above and Indentation: ii + the line above with a different indentation
  • iJ - Above, Below and Indentation+: iI + the line below with a different indentation

There are also a variants that include whitespace. Example (| indicates point):

(while (not done)
  (messa|ge "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."))
(1+ 41)
  • vii will select the line with message
  • viI will select the whole while loop
  • viJ will select the whole fragment

Region narrowing

The displayed text of a buffer can be narrowed with the commands (start with n):

Key BindingDescription
SPC n fnarrow the buffer to the current function
SPC n pnarrow the buffer to the visible page
SPC n rnarrow the buffer to the selected text
SPC n wwiden, i.e. show the whole buffer again

Replacing text with iedit

Spacemacs uses the powerful iedit mode through evil-iedit-state to quickly edit multiple occurrences of a symbol or selection.

evil-iedit-state defines two new evil states:

  • iedit state
  • iedit-insert state

The color code for these states is red.

evil-iedit-state has also a nice integration with expand-region for quick editing of the currently selected text by pressing e.

iedit states key bindings

State transitions
Key BindingFromTo
SPC s enormal or visualiedit

To sum-up, in iedit-insert state you have to press ESC twice to go back to the normal state. You can also at any time press C-g or fd to return to normal state.

Note: evil commands which switch to insert state will switch in iedit-insert state.

In iedit state

iedit state inherits from normal state, the following key bindings are specific to iedit state.

Key BindingDescription
ESCgo back to normal state
TABtoggle current occurrence
0go to the beginning of the current occurrence
$go to the end of the current occurrence
#prefix all occurrences with an increasing number (SPC u to choose the starting number).
Ago to the end of the current occurrence and switch to iedit-insert state
Ddelete the occurrences
Frestrict the scope to the function
gggo to first occurrence
Ggo to last occurrence
Igo to the beginning of the current occurrence and switch to iedit-insert state
Jincrease the editing scope by one line below
Kincrease the editing scope by one line above
Lrestrict the scope to the current line
ngo to next occurrence
Ngo to previous occurrence
preplace occurrences with last yanked (copied) text
S(substitute) delete the occurrences and switch to iedit-insert state
Vtoggle visibility of lines with no occurrence
UUp-case the occurrences
C-Udown-case the occurrences

Note: 0, $, A and I have the default Vim behavior when used outside of an occurrence.

In iedit-insert state
Key BindingDescription
ESCgo back to iedit state
C-ggo back to normal state


  • manual selection of several words then replace: v w w SPC s e S "toto" ESC ESC
  • append text to a word on two lines: v i w SPC s e J i "toto" ESC ESC
  • substitute symbol with expand-region: SPC v v e S "toto" ESC ESC
  • replace symbol with yanked (copied) text with expand region: SPC v e p ESC ESC

Replacing text in several files

If you have ag, pt or ack installed, replacing an occurrence of text in several files can be performed via helm-ag.

Say you want to replace all foo occurrences by bar in your current project:

  • initiate a search with SPC /
  • enter in edit mode with C-c C-e
  • go to the occurrence and enter in iedit state with SPC s e
  • edit the occurrences then leave the iedit state
  • press C-c C-c

Note: In Spacemacs, helm-ag despite its name works with ack and pt as well (but not with grep).

Renaming files in a directory

It is possible to batch rename files in a directory using wdired from an helm session:

  • browse for a directory using SPC f f
  • enter wdired with C-c C-e
  • edit the file names and use C-c C-c to confirm the changes
  • use C-c C-k to abort any changes


Comments are handled by evil-nerd-commenter, it’s bound to the following keys.

Key BindingDescription
SPC ;comment operator
SPC c hhide/show comments
SPC c lcomment lines
SPC c Linvert comment lines
SPC c pcomment paragraphs
SPC c Pinvert comment paragraphs
SPC c tcomment to line
SPC c Tinvert comment to line
SPC c ycomment and yank
SPC c Yinvert comment and yank

Tips: To comment efficiently a block of line use the combo SPC ; SPC j l

Regular expressions

Spacemacs uses the packages pcre2el to manipulate regular expressions. It is useful when working with Emacs Lisp buffers since it allows to easily converts PCRE (Perl Compatible RegExp) to Emacs RegExp or rx. It can also be used to “explain” a PCRE RegExp around point in rx form.

The key bindings start with SPC x r and have the following mnemonic structure:

  • SPC x r <source> <target> convert from source to target
  • SPC x r do what I mean
Key BindingFunction
SPC x r /Explain the regexp around point with rx
SPC x r '​Generate strings given by a regexp given this list is finite
SPC x r tReplace regexp around point by the rx form or vice versa
SPC x r xConvert regexp around point in rx form and display the result in the minibuffer
SPC x r cConvert regexp around point to the other form and display the result in the minibuffer
SPC x r e /Explain Emacs Lisp regexp
SPC x r e '​Generate strings from Emacs Lisp regexp
SPC x r e pConvert Emacs Lisp regexp to PCRE
SPC x r e tReplace Emacs Lisp regexp by rx form or vice versa
SPC x r e xConvert Emacs Lisp regexp to rx form
SPC x r p /Explain PCRE regexp
SPC x r p '​Generate strings from PCRE regexp
SPC x r p eConvert PCRE regexp to Emacs Lisp
SPC x r p xConvert PCRE to rx form

Deleting files

Deletion is configured to send deleted files to system trash.

On OS X the trash program is required. It can be installed with homebrew with the following command:

$ brew install trash

To disable the trash you can set the variable delete-by-moving-to-trash to nil in your ~/.spacemacs.

Editing Lisp code

Editing of lisp code is provided by evil-lisp-state.

Commands will set the current state to lisp state where different commands combo can be repeated without pressing on SPC k.

When in lisp state the color of the mode-line changes to pink.


  • to slurp three times while in normal state: SPC k 3 s
  • to wrap a symbol in parentheses then slurp two times: SPC k w 2 s

Note: The lisp state commands are available in any modes! Try it out.

Lisp Key Bindings

Lisp state key bindings

These commands automatically switch to lisp state.

Key BindingFunction
SPC k %evil jump item
SPC k :ex command
SPC k (insert expression before (same level as current one)
SPC k )insert expression after (same level as current one)
SPC k $go to the end of current sexp
SPC k ` khybrid version of push sexp (can be used in non lisp dialects)
SPC k ` phybrid version of push sexp (can be used in non lisp dialects)
SPC k ` shybrid version of slurp sexp (can be used in non lisp dialects)
SPC k ` thybrid version of transpose sexp (can be used in non lisp dialects)
SPC k 0go to the beginning of current sexp
SPC k aabsorb expression
SPC k bforward barf expression
SPC k Bbackward barf expression
SPC k cconvolute expression
SPC k dsdelete symbol
SPC k Dsbackward delete symbol
SPC k dwdelete word
SPC k Dwbackward delete word
SPC k dxdelete expression
SPC k Dxbackward delete expression
SPC k eunwrap current expression and kill all symbols after point
SPC k Eunwrap current expression and kill all symbols before point
SPC k hprevious symbol
SPC k Hgo to previous sexp
SPC k iswitch to insert state
SPC k Igo to beginning of current expression and switch to insert state
SPC k jnext closing parenthesis
SPC k Jjoin expression
SPC k kprevious opening parenthesis
SPC k lnext symbol
SPC k Lgo to next sexp
SPC k ppaste after
SPC k Ppaste before
SPC k rraise expression (replace parent expression by current one)
SPC k sforward slurp expression
SPC k Sbackward slurp expression
SPC k ttranspose expression
SPC k uundo
SPC k Ugot to parent sexp backward
SPC k C-rredo
SPC k vswitch to visual state
SPC k Vswitch to visual line state
SPC k C-vswitch to visual block state
SPC k wwrap expression with parenthesis
SPC k Wunwrap expression
SPC k ycopy expression
Emacs lisp specific key bindings
Key BindingFunction
SPC m e $go to end of line and evaluate last sexp
SPC m e bevaluate buffer
SPC m e cevaluate current form (a def or a set)
SPC m e eevaluate last sexp
SPC m e fevaluate current defun
SPC m e lgo to end of line and evaluate last sexp
SPC m e revaluate region
Key BindingFunction
SPC m g ggo to definition
SPC m g Ggo to definition in another window
SPC m h hdescribe elisp thing at point (show documentation)
SPC m t bexecute buffer tests
SPC m t qask for test function to execute

Mouse usage

There are some added mouse features set for the line number margin (if shown):

  • single click in line number margin visually selects the entire line
  • drag across line number margin visually selects the region
  • double click in line number margin visually select the current code block

Managing projects

Projects in Spacemacs are managed with projectile. In projectile projects are defined implicitly, for instance the root of a project is found when a .git repository or .projectile file is encountered in the file tree.

Helm is used whenever it is possible.

To search in a project see project searching.

projectile commands start with p:

Key BindingDescription
SPC p '​open a shell in project’s root (with the shell layer)
SPC p !run shell command in project’s root
SPC p &run async shell command in project’s root
SPC p %replace a regexp
SPC p atoggle between implementation and test
SPC p bswitch to project buffer
SPC p ccompile project using projectile
SPC p dfind directory
SPC p Dopen project root in dired
SPC p ffind file
SPC p Ffind file based on path around point
SPC p gfind tags
SPC p Gregenerate the project’s etags / gtags
SPC p hfind file using helm
SPC p Iinvalidate the projectile cache
SPC p kkill all project buffers
SPC p orun multi-occur
SPC p pswitch project
SPC p ropen a recent file
SPC p Rreplace a string
SPC p topen NeoTree in projectile root
SPC p Ttest project
SPC p vopen project root in vc-dir or magit
SPC /search in project with the best search tool available
SPC s psee searching in a project
SPC s a prun ag
SPC s g prun grep
SPC s k prun ack
SPC s t prun pt

Note for Windows Users: To enable fast indexing the GNU find or Cygwin find must be in your PATH.


Access commands to the various registers start with r:

Key BindingDescription
SPC r eshow evil yank and named registers
SPC r mshow marks register
SPC r rshow helm register
SPC r yshow kill ring

Errors handling

Spacemacs uses Flycheck to gives error feedback on the fly. The checks are only performed at save time by default.

Errors management commands (start with e):

Key BindingDescription
SPC t stoggle flycheck
SPC e cclear all errors
SPC e hdescribe a flycheck checker
SPC e ltoggle the display of the flycheck list of errors/warnings
SPC e ngo to the next error
SPC e pgo to the previous error
SPC e vverify flycheck setup (useful to debug 3rd party tools configuration)
SPC e .error transient state

The next/previous error bindings and the error transient state can be used to browse errors from flycheck as well as errors from compilation buffers, and indeed anything that supports Emacs’ next-error API. This includes for example search results that have been saved to a separate buffer.

Custom fringe bitmaps:



Spacemacs binds a few commands to support compiling a project.

Key BindingDescription
SPC c cuse helm-make via projectile
SPC c Ccompile
SPC c dclose compilation window
SPC c kkill compilation
SPC c mhelm-make
SPC c rrecompile


Major Mode leader key

Key bindings specific to the current major mode start with SPC m. For convenience a shortcut key called the major mode leader key is set by default on ​,​ which saves one precious keystroke.

It is possible to change the major mode leader key by defining the variable dotspacemacs-major-mode-leader-key in your ~/.spacemacs. For example to setup the key on tabulation:

(setq-default dotspacemacs-major-mode-leader-key "<tab>")


Spacemacs add hjkl navigation to helm buffers:

Key BindingDescription
C-hgo to next source
C-Hdescribe key (replace C-h)
C-jgo to previous candidate
C-kgo to next candidate
C-lsame as return

Emacs Server

Spacemacs starts a server at launch. This server is killed whenever you close your Emacs windows.

Connecting to the Emacs server

You can open a file in Emacs from the terminal using emacsclient. Use emacsclient -c to open the file in Emacs GUI. Use emacsclient -t to open the file in Emacs within the terminal.

If you want your Linux/OS X system to use Emacs by default for any prompt, you need to set it in your shell configuration, e.g. ~/.bashrc or ~/.zshrc:

export EDITOR="emacsclient -c"

Note that if you’re on OS X, you may have to refer to the emacsclient that comes with your GUI Emacs, e.g.:

export EDITOR="/Applications/ -c"

Tip: Remember to use :wq or C-x # after you are done editing the file in Emacs.

See Emacs as a Server in the official Emacs manual for more details.

Keeping the server alive

It is possible to keep the server alive when you close Emacs by setting the variable dotspacemacs-persistent-server to t in your ~./spacemacs.

(setq-default dotspacemacs-persistent-server t)

When this variable is set to t, the only way to quit Emacs and kill the server is to use the following bindings:

SPC q qQuit Emacs and kill the server, prompt for changed buffers to save
SPC q QQuit Emacs and kill the server, lose all unsaved changes.
SPC q rRestart both Emacs and the server, prompting to save any changed buffers
SPC q sSave the buffers, quit Emacs and kill the server
SPC q zKill the current frame


Loading fails

If any errors happen during the loading the mode-line will turn red and the errors should appear inline in the startup buffer. Spacemacs should still be usable; if it is not then restart Emacs with emacs --debug-init and open a Github issue with the backtrace.

Upgrading/Downgrading Emacs version

To ensure that packages are correctly compiled for the new Emacs version you installed, be sure to run the interactive command spacemacs/recompile-elpa with SPC SPC spacemacs/recompile-elpa.



100th issue (PR)danielwuz
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Merged Pull Requests

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Stars, forks and watchers

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Gitter chat

First joiner on the Gitter Chattrishume
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First times

First contributiontrishume
First contribution layertrishume
First blog article on SpacemacsWolfy87
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Special Mentions

Autumnal Cleanup 2015 (wiki)StreakyCobra
Test and debug toolsjustbur
Integration of Ivyjustbur
Transient Statesjustbur
Integration of Persp-modeCestDiego
Cleanest PR (PR #5545)JAremko
Documentation tools and GitHub supportJAremko
Code navigation improvement (jump handlers, generalized next error)TheBB
Better support for GUI using an Emacs daemon (after-display macro)travisbhartwell

Special Titles

The Gunner (18 PRs in a row)ralesi
The Saint (unlocked the holy-mode)trishume
The Artist (logo and theme)nashamri
The Meme Master (doge banner)chrisbarrett
The Helm captain (helm guide)tuhdo
The Master of the Keys (which-key and bind-map)justbur
The PR Patrol Officerrobbyoconnor
The Expert in Latin Language (PR)vijaykiran
The Tiler (eyebrowse integration)bmag
The Geometer (spaceline)TheBB
The Librarian (doc-fmt tool and space-doc mode)JAremko

Thank you

Thank you Richard for this great piece of software.

Thank you to all the contributors and the whole Emacs community from core developers to elisp hackers!