Mirror of the GitLab project Emacs Modified for macOS
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If you are reading this on GitHub, please be advised that the project is now hosted on GitLab. The GitHub repository is just a mirror setup for continuity purposes.

Emacs Modified for macOS

Emacs Modified for macOS is a distribution of GNU Emacs bundled with a few select packages for LaTeX users and R developers, most notably AUCTeX and ESS. The distribution is based on the latest stable release of GNU Emacs compiled by David Caldwell.

Other than the additions mentioned above and some minor configuration, this is a stock distribution of Emacs. Users of Emacs on other platforms will appreciate the similar look and feel of the application.

The official project page provides detailed information on the distribution and links to the binary release.

Repository content

The repository contains a few distribution-specific files and a Makefile to fetch the other components and combine everything into a disk image. The complete source code of Emacs and the extensions is not hosted here.


Building the distribution on macOS requires make, hdiutil, curl, git and a number of standard Unix command line tools. Many of these utilities do not come bundled with the operating system. One first needs to install Xcode from the App Store and, second, to install the Command Line Developer Tools by launching from the Terminal the following command:

$ xcode-select --install

Building the distribution

Edit the Makeconf file to set the version numbers of GNU Emacs, the distribution and the various extensions (more on this below). Then make or make all will launch the following three main steps:

  1. get-packages will fetch the binary release of GNU Emacs from Emacs for Mac OS X; the official releases of ESS, AUCTeX and org; markdown-mode.el, exec-path-from-shell.el and psvn.el from their respective GitHub or Subversion repositories; the snapshot of the master branch of Polymode.

  2. emacs will, in summary, decompress the Emacs for Mac OS X disk image in a temporary directory, add all the extensions into the application tree and build a new signed application bundle.

  3. release will upload the disk image to GitLab, create a release with the a link to the disk image in the release notes, and update the project's web page with the correct version numbers and hyperlinks.

Each of the above three steps is split into smaller recipes, around 20 in total. See the Makefile for details.

Publishing on GitLab

Uploading files and publishing a release on GitLab from the command line involves using the GitLab API. The interested reader may have a look at the upload and create-release recipes in the Makefile to see how we achieved complete automation of the process, including the extraction of the release notes from the NEWS file.

Version numbers of the extensions

The most manual part of the build process has always been to get the version numbers of the latest releases for all the bundled extensions. Here's how I managed to make my life easier using Git Submodules.

In a separate directory, I created a purely local Git repository named emacs-modified-extensions:

$ git init emacs-modified-extensions

In this repository I added the following submodules:

$ git submodule add https://github.com/emacs-ess/ESS/
$ git submodule add http://git.savannah.gnu.org/r/auctex.git
$ git submodule add http://orgmode.org/org-mode.git/
$ git submodule add https://github.com/vspinu/polymode
$ git submodule add https://github.com/jrblevin/markdown-mode
$ git submodule add https://github.com/purcell/exec-path-from-shell

Finally, I created a Makefile with the following content to fetch the version numbers of the latest releases of each of the above submodules (except Polymode, where the date of the latest snapshop of the master branch is used). The script also extracts the latest revision number of psvn.el in the Subversion source code repository.

all :
	git submodule foreach 'git submodule update'
	if [ -f versions.txt ]; then rm versions.txt; fi
	touch versions.txt
	echo ESSVERSION=$(shell git -C ESS describe --tags | cut -d - -f 1 | tr -d v) \
	  >> versions.txt
	echo AUCTEXVERSION=$(shell git -C auctex describe --tags | cut -d - -f 1 | cut -d _ -f 2-3 | tr _ .) \
	  >> versions.txt
	echo ORGVERSION=$(shell git -C org-mode describe --tags | cut -d - -f 1 | cut -d _ -f 2) \
	  >> versions.txt
	echo POLYMODEVERSION=$(shell git -C polymode show -s --format="%ci" HEAD | cut -d " " -f 1) \
	  >> versions.txt
	echo MARKDOWNLOADVERSION=$(shell git -C markdown-mode describe --tags | cut -d - -f 1 | tr -d v) \
	  >> versions.txt
	echo EXECPATHVERSION=$(shell git -C exec-path-from-shell describe --tags | cut -d - -f 1) \
	  >> versions.txt
	echo PSVNVERSION=$(shell svn log -q -l 1 http://svn.apache.org/repos/asf/subversion/trunk/contrib/client-side/emacs/psvn.el \
	  | grep ^r | cut -d " " -f 1 | tr -d r) \
	  >> versions.txt

Running make in this directory yields a file versions.txt containing the variable initialization strings to use in this project's Makeconf file.

This is actually simpler than using git ls-remote.