Emacs Starter Kit
Emacs outshines all other editing software in approximately the same way that the noonday sun does the stars. It is not just bigger and brighter; it simply makes everything else vanish.
– Neal Stephenson, “In the Beginning was the Command Line”
This should provide a saner set of defaults than you get normally with Emacs. It’s intended for beginners, but provides a good elisp initialization structure for all levels of users.
The main advantage of this Emacs Starter Kit are
- better default settings
- inclusion of many useful libraries
- “literate” customization embedded in Org-mode files
- an organizational directory structure
- git provides for version control, backup, and sharing
The latest version is at http://github.com/eschulte/emacs-starter-kit/
This won’t teach you Emacs, but it’ll make it easier to get comfortable. To access the tutorial, press control-h followed by t.
The Emacs Wiki is also very handy.
- Install Emacs (at least version 22) Use your package manager if you
have one. Otherwise, Mac users should get it from Apple, or
install it directly from from source following the instructions in
nextstep/INSTALL. Windows users can get it from GNU.
- Checkout a version of the starter kit using git – if you’re new to
git checkout this git-tutorial, also we’d highly recommend that you
try out magit the Emacs mode for git interaction which comes
bundled in the starter kit.
git clone http://github.com/eschulte/emacs-starter-kit.git
- Move the resulting directory to
- Install the Org-mode submodules with the following
cd ~/.emacs.d/ git submodule init git submodule update
- build Org-mode
cd src/org/ make
- build auctex – for installation help see the auctex installation
instructions, auctex requires a working TeX installation
cd src/auctex ./configure && make
- Launch Emacs!
After setup you may need to restart Emacs a couple of times while it
downloads packages from ELPA – errors parsing html from
*tromey.com:80* can generally be safely ignored.
If you are missing some autoloads after an update (should manifest itself as “void function: foobar” errors) try M-x regen-autoloads.
If you want to keep your regular ~/.emacs.d in place and just launch a single instance using the starter kit, try the following invocation:
emacs -q -l ~/src/emacs-starter-kit/init.el
Note that having a ~/.emacs file might override the starter kit loading, so if you’ve having trouble loading it, make sure that file is not present.
The init.el file is where everything begins. It’s the first file to get loaded. Additional customization embedded in this file provides what I consider to be better defaults, both for different programming languages and for built-in Emacs features like bindings or registers.
Files that are pending submission to ELPA are bundled with the starter kit under the directory elpa-to-submit/. The understanding is that these are bundled just because nobody’s gotten around to turning them into packages, and the bundling of them is temporary. For these libraries, autoloads will be generated and kept in the loaddefs.el file. This allows them to be loaded on demand rather than at startup. Additionally any emacs-lisp packages located under the src/ directory will be added to the load-path.
There are also a few files that are meant for code that doesn’t belong in the Starter Kit, they are described below in Customization.
The many defaults built into the starter kit are only the beginning of most users customization of Emacs to suite their needs. The starter kit provides a number of places for additional user and system specific customization. These are designed in such a way that it will be easy for you to continue tracking your own personal customization inside the starter-kit while retaining your ability to pull down general starter-kit updates without conflict.
- The first step to user-specific customization is (like
in any git project) to MAKE A BRANCH FOR YOUR LOCAL CHANGES.
Save the master branch for pulling down new versions of the
starter kit, and save all of your personal information in a
personal branch. That way you never have to worry about
git push‘ing up a patch with all of your gnus email passwords.
- User specific config
- Your personal configuration information can
be stored in a user-specific-config file. This is the file named
after your user with the extensions
.org. If you’re unsure of your user name evaluate the following code block to find out.
If your configuration starts to feel cramped in a single file (although with the nested headlines of an Org-mode file, that could take a while) and you want to stretch your config’s legs, you can also create a directory named after your system user name. If a such a directory exists, it will be added to the load-path, and any elisp or org-mode w/embedded elisp files in it will be loaded.
- System specific config
- Finally, you may want to configure
different settings for different machines. The Starter Kit will
look for a file named after the current hostname ending in
.orgwhich will allow host-specific configuration. If you’re unsure of your hostname the following can be executed to find out.
- Installing more elisp libraries
- While the starter kit include
many useful Emacs lisp libraries, you are bound to find more that
you will want to install. The easiest way to install new
libraries is through the Emacs Lisp Package Archive (see ELPA).
When a library is not available through ELPA you can grab it’s
source and place it directly in the
srcdirectory. Any packages found there will automatically be added to your load-path when Emacs starts up, and are guaranteed not to conflict with future starter-kit updates.
Some additional miscellaneous configuration and getting started suggestions
- First off see the Customization node in the Emacs manual. Available
online or through the
infocommand (run with
grep‘ing through the
starter-kit-*files in this directory can provide useful examples for how to do things like install major modes, define keybindings, etc..
- read the following Key-Binding-Conventions before defining too many personal key bindings
- The starter-kit comes pre-bundled with a variety of color themes. See Color Themes for instructions on how to change the colors used by Emacs.
Emacs Lisp Package Archive
Libraries from ELPA are preferred when available since dependencies are handled automatically, and the burden to update them is removed from the user. In the long term, ideally everything would be installed via ELPA, and only package.el would need to be distributed with the starter kit. (Or better yet, package.el would come with Emacs…) See @<a href=”* Starter Kit ELPA”>Starter Kit ELPA for a list of libraries that are pending submission to ELPA. Packages get installed in the elpa/ directory.
There’s no vendor/ directory in the starter kit because if an external library is useful enough to be bundled with the starter kit, it should be useful enough to submit to ELPA so that everyone can use it, not just users of the starter kit. However any packages included in the src/ directory will be added to the load-path, for tracking bleeding edge packages.
Sometimes packages are removed from the Starter Kit as they get added to ELPA itself. This has occasionally caused problems with certain packages. If you run into problems with such a package, try removing everything from inside the elpa/ directory and invoking M-x starter-kit-elpa-install in a fresh instance.
If you know your way around Emacs, please try out the starter kit as a replacement for your regular dotfiles for a while. If there’s anything you just can’t live without, add it or let me know so I can add it. Take a look at what happens in init.el to get started.
Also: see the Tasks section in this document. Helping submit new libraries to ELPA is the easiest way to help out. There are two ways you can do this: either take new libraries and make them ready for ELPA, dropping them in the elpa-to-submit directory or take files that are already in elpa-to-submit, ensuring all their dependencies are correctly loaded into ELPA, and sending them to the ELPA maintainer. There are details at http://tromey.com/elpa/upload.html for how ELPA submission works. Grep the project for TODO for other things.
Files are licensed under the same license as Emacs unless otherwise specified. See the file COPYING for details.
The latest version is at http://github.com/technomancy/emacs-starter-kit/
/home/$USER/.emacs.d, on windows
Settings/%your user name%/Application Data
This section contains all code implementing the Emacs Starter Kit. Implementation
Starter kit basics
Load path etc.
(setq dotfiles-dir (file-name-directory (or load-file-name (buffer-file-name)))) (add-to-list 'load-path dotfiles-dir) (add-to-list 'load-path (concat dotfiles-dir "/elpa-to-submit")) (add-to-list 'load-path (concat dotfiles-dir "/elpa-to-submit/jabber")) (setq autoload-file (concat dotfiles-dir "loaddefs.el")) (setq package-user-dir (concat dotfiles-dir "elpa")) (setq custom-file (concat dotfiles-dir "custom.el"))
These should be loaded on startup rather than autoloaded on demand since they are likely to be used in every session
(require 'cl) (require 'saveplace) (require 'ffap) (require 'uniquify) (require 'ansi-color) (require 'recentf)
Emacs 22 Backport
backport some functionality to Emacs 22 if needed
Function for loading/compiling starter-kit-*
(defun starter-kit-load (file) "This function is to be used to load starter-kit-*.org files." (org-babel-load-file (expand-file-name file dotfiles-dir)))
(defun starter-kit-compile (&optional arg) "Tangle and Byte compile all starter-kit files." (interactive "P") (flet ((age (file) (float-time (time-subtract (current-time) (nth 5 (or (file-attributes (file-truename file)) (file-attributes file))))))) (mapc (lambda (file) (when (string= "org" (file-name-extension file)) (let ((el-file (concat (file-name-sans-extension file) ".el"))) (when (or arg (not (and (file-exists-p el-file) (> (age file) (age el-file))))) (org-babel-tangle-file file el-file "emacs-lisp") (byte-compile-file el-file))))) (apply #'append (mapcar (lambda (d) (when (and (file-exists-p d) (file-directory-p d)) (mapcar (lambda (f) (expand-file-name f d)) (directory-files d)))) (list (concat dotfiles-dir user-login-name) dotfiles-dir))))))
ELPA (Emacs Lisp Package Manager)
Load up ELPA, the Emacs Lisp package manager
(require 'package) (add-to-list 'package-archives '("original" . "http://tromey.com/elpa/")) (add-to-list 'package-archives '("technomancy" . "http://repo.technomancy.us/emacs/") t) ;; (add-to-list 'package-archives ;; '("marmalade" . "http://marmalade-repo.org/packages/") t) (package-initialize) (starter-kit-load "starter-kit-elpa.org")
Work around OS X bug
Work around a bug on OS X where system-name is FQDN
(if (eq system-type 'darwin) (setq system-name (car (split-string system-name "\\."))))
System/User specific customizations
You can keep system- or user-specific customizations here in either raw emacs-lisp files or as embedded elisp in org-mode files (as done in this document).
(setq system-specific-config (concat dotfiles-dir system-name ".el") system-specific-literate-config (concat dotfiles-dir system-name ".org") user-specific-config (concat dotfiles-dir user-login-name ".el") user-specific-literate-config (concat dotfiles-dir user-login-name ".org") user-specific-dir (concat dotfiles-dir user-login-name)) (add-to-list 'load-path user-specific-dir)
You can keep elisp source in the
src directory. Packages loaded
from here will override those installed by ELPA. This is useful if
you want to track the development versions of a project, or if a
project is not in elpa.
(setq elisp-source-dir (concat dotfiles-dir "src")) (add-to-list 'load-path elisp-source-dir)
Starter kit and Gnus
If you would like help setting up the gnus email client, checkout Starter Kit Gnus, a starter kit file that is not loaded by default.
Load the rest of the starter kit core
The following files contain the remainder of the core of the Emacs Starter Kit. All of the code in this section should be loaded by everyone using the starter kit.
Starter kit defuns
Starter kit function definitions in starter-kit-defuns
Starter kit bindings
Key Bindings in starter-kit-bindings
Starter kit misc
Miscellaneous settings in starter-kit-misc
Starter kit registers
Registers for jumping to commonly used files in starter-kit-registers
Language/Mode Specific Files
These sections pertain to specific languages or modes. Feel free to turn off these sections if you don’t plan on using the related mode or language.
Starter kit yasnippet
yasnippet is yet another snippet expansion system for Emacs. It is inspired by TextMate’s templating syntax.
load the yasnippet bundle
(add-to-list 'load-path (expand-file-name "yasnippet" (expand-file-name "src" dotfiles-dir))) (require 'yasnippet) (yas/initialize)
load the snippets defined in the
(yas/load-directory (expand-file-name "snippets" dotfiles-dir))
Starter kit Org-mode
Located in starter-kit-org
Starter kit eshell
Located in starter-kit-eshell
Starter kit lisp
Located in starter-kit-lisp
Starter kit Haskell
Located in starter-kit-haskell
Starter kit ruby
Located in starter-kit-ruby
Starter kit JS
Located in starter-kit-js
Starter Kit Perl
Located in starter-kit-perl
Starter Kit Python
Located in starter-kit-python
Starter Kit Latex
Located in starter-kit-latex
;; (starter-kit-load "starter-kit-latex.org")
Load User/System Specific Files
Settings from M-x customize
(load custom-file 'noerror)
After we’ve loaded all the Starter Kit defaults, lets load the User’s stuff.
(if (file-exists-p elisp-source-dir) (let ((default-directory elisp-source-dir)) (normal-top-level-add-subdirs-to-load-path))) (if (file-exists-p system-specific-config) (load system-specific-config)) (if (file-exists-p system-specific-literate-config) (org-babel-load-file system-specific-literate-config)) (if (file-exists-p user-specific-config) (load user-specific-config)) (if (file-exists-p user-specific-literate-config) (org-babel-load-file user-specific-literate-config)) (when (file-exists-p user-specific-dir) (let ((default-directory user-specific-dir)) (mapc #'load (directory-files user-specific-dir nil ".*el$")) (mapc #'org-babel-load-file (directory-files user-specific-dir nil ".*org$"))))
Frequently asked questions. FAQ
Please share anything that you have come across which you think could
be helpful, either in the form of a pull request, a patch, or just an
email to me at
Some users wish to run org-mode straight from the sources, since the compiled source can make reading backtraces difficult. Whatever your reason may be, you use the starter kit this way. How do I use the starter kit without compiling org-mode?
make step in the Installation section. Instead, follow
org-install.elis required by the starter kit. To make it, navigate to the
src/orgdirectory and enter
make lisp/org-install.elat the command prompt.
- Updating the documentation is probably a good idea. Enter
make info. Optionally, you can update the system-wide org documentation by entering
make install-info. If you want a PDF version of the manual, you can enter
make doc/org.pdfand find the resulting file in the doc directory.
I recently updated the starter kit, but org is an old version. How do I fix this?
git pull and
git submodule update will not be
enough. Go to the
src/org directory and enter
make clean to get
rid of the old version. Then, enter
make, or follow the
I changed my personal init file,
username.org, but the starter kit didn’t pick up the changes. What do I do now?
Some users may find it useful to remove the tangled version of init files. If you find a particular file is not loading as expected, remove the elisp version of that file and restart Emacs.
For example, if your $USER is “johndoe”, you could issue
johndoe.el to remove the tangled output from the previous time
johndoe.org was loaded by org-babel.
Under no circumstances should you issue
rm *.el! This will remove
init.el file, which is perhaps the most crucial startup file in
the starter kit. Use some regexp magic if you want to remove all elisp
files except this one. For example, this works nicely:
Hey! The org info manual isn’t showing up in emacs. What gives?
Sometimes, info manuals can be a real headache, but some users prefer them. If the org info manual isn’t showing up, or the info manual is displaying the wrong version of the org-mode documentation (Emacs ships with an older version of org-mode than the one the starter kit uses), the problem most likely resides in your local setup.
- The shell’s $INFOPATH variable
Have you set the shell’s INFOPATH variable? The starter kit should
not be ignoring this variable. This variable is copied into the
Info-default-directory-listwhen emacs starts up. The starter kit then copies
Info-directory-listwithout losing any changes you may have made to this variable. This is the next place to look.
Info-directory-listIs the doc directory for the starter kit version of org-mode at the top of this list? If not, open a ticket and describe what the variable looks like.
If you installed the starter kit to
~/.emacs.d/then the directory
~/.emacs.d/src/org/docshould be at the top of
- Did you
makethe manual? Especially if you choose not to compile org-mode, you may need to compile the documentation. Regardless of whether or not you compiled org, it may be helpful to try this solution out before opening a ticket.
Navigate to the
src/orgdirectory of the starter kit. At the command prompt, type
make info make install-info
where the last step is optional, and only required if you want to update the site-wide documentation of org-mode.
To check if this fixed the issue, first close any Info buffers in emacs and call the Info index with
C-h ithen choose org-mode.
 If you already have a directory at ~/.emacs.d move it out of the way and put this there instead.