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22. Compiling and Testing Programs

The previous chapter discusses the Emacs commands that are useful for making changes in programs. This chapter deals with commands that assist in the larger process of developing and maintaining programs.

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22.1 Running “make”, or Compilers Generally

Emacs can run compilers for non-interactive languages like C and Fortran as inferior processes, feeding the error log into an Emacs buffer. It can also parse the error messages and visit the files in which errors are found, moving point to the line where the error occurred.

M-x compile

Run a compiler asynchronously under Emacs, with error messages to ‘*compilation*’ buffer.

M-x grep

Run grep asynchronously under Emacs, with matching lines listed in the buffer named ‘*compilation*’.

M-x kill-compilation

Kill the process made by the M-x compile command.

M-x kill-grep

Kill the running compilation or grep subprocess.

C-x `

Visit the next compiler error message or grep match.

To run make or another compiler, type M-x compile. This command reads a shell command line using the minibuffer, then executes the specified command line in an inferior shell with output going to the buffer named ‘*compilation*’. By default, the current buffer’s default directory is used as the working directory for the execution of the command; therefore, the makefile comes from this directory.

When the shell command line is read, the minibuffer appears containing a default command line (the command you used the last time you typed M-x compile). If you type just <RET>, the same command line is used again. The first M-x compile provides make -k as the default. The default is taken from the variable compile-command; if the appropriate compilation command for a file is something other than make -k, it can be useful to have the file specify a local value for compile-command (see section Local Variables in Files).

When you start a compilation, the buffer ‘*compilation*’ is displayed in another window but not selected. Its mode line displays the word ‘run’ or ‘exit’ in the parentheses to tell you whether compilation is finished. You do not have to keep this buffer visible; compilation continues in any case.

To kill the compilation process, type M-x kill-compilation. The mode line of the ‘*compilation*’ buffer changes to say ‘signal’ instead of ‘run’. Starting a new compilation also kills any running compilation, as only one can occur at any time. Starting a new compilation prompts for confirmation before actually killing a compilation that is running.

To parse the compiler error messages, type C-x ` (next-error). The character following C-x is the grave accent, not the single quote. The command displays the buffer ‘*compilation*’ in one window and the buffer in which the next error occurred in another window. Point in that buffer is moved to the line where the error was found. The corresponding error message is scrolled to the top of the window in which ‘*compilation*’ is displayed.

The first time you use C-x ` after the start of a compilation, it parses all the error messages, visits all the files that have error messages, and creates markers pointing at the lines the error messages refer to. It then moves to the first error message location. Subsequent uses of C-x ` advance down the data set up by the first use. When the preparsed error messages are exhausted, the next C-x ` checks for any more error messages that have come in; this is useful if you start editing compiler errors while compilation is still going on. If no additional error messages have come in, C-x ` reports an error.

C-u C-x ` discards the preparsed error message data and parses the ‘*compilation*’ buffer again, then displays the first error. This way, you can process the same set of errors again.

Instead of running a compiler, you can run grep and see the lines on which matches were found. To do this, type M-x grep with an argument line that contains the same arguments you would give to grep: a grep-style regexp (usually in single quotes to quote the shell’s special characters) followed by filenames, which may use wildcard characters. The output from grep goes in the ‘*compilation*’ buffer. You can use C-x ` to find the lines that match as if they were compilation errors.

Note: a shell is used to run the compile command, but the shell is not run in interactive mode. In particular, this means that the shell starts up with no prompt. If you find your usual shell prompt making an unsightly appearance in the ‘*compilation*’ buffer, it means you have made a mistake in your shell’s initialization file (‘.cshrc’ or ‘.shrc’ or …) by setting the prompt unconditionally. The shell initialization file should set the prompt only if there already is a prompt. Here’s how to do it in csh:

if ($?prompt) set prompt = ...

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22.2 Major Modes for Lisp

Emacs has four different major modes for Lisp. They are the same in terms of editing commands, but differ in the commands for executing Lisp expressions.

Emacs-Lisp mode

The mode for editing source files of programs to run in Emacs Lisp. This mode defines C-M-x to evaluate the current defun. See section Libraries of Lisp Code for Emacs.

Lisp Interaction mode

The mode for an interactive session with Emacs Lisp. It defines C-j to evaluate the sexp before point and insert its value in the buffer. See section Lisp Interaction Buffers.

Lisp mode

The mode for editing source files of programs that run in other dialects of Lisp than Emacs Lisp. This mode defines C-M-x to send the current defun to an inferior Lisp process. See section Running an External Lisp.

Inferior Lisp mode

The mode for an interactive session with an inferior Lisp process. This mode combines the special features of Lisp mode and Shell mode (see section Shell Mode).

Scheme mode

Like Lisp mode but for Scheme programs.

Inferior Scheme mode

The mode for an interactive session with an inferior Scheme process.

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22.3 Libraries of Lisp Code for Emacs

Lisp code for Emacs editing commands is stored in files whose names conventionally end in ‘.el’. This ending tells Emacs to edit them in Emacs-Lisp mode (see section Major Modes for Lisp).

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22.3.1 Loading Libraries

M-x load-file file

Load the file file of Lisp code.

M-x load-library library

Load the library named library.

M-x locate-library library &optional nosuffix

Show the full path name of Emacs library library.

To execute a file of Emacs Lisp, use M-x load-file. This command reads the file name you provide in the minibuffer, then executes the contents of that file as Lisp code. It is not necessary to visit the file first; in fact, this command reads the file as found on disk, not the text in an Emacs buffer.

Once a file of Lisp code is installed in the Emacs Lisp library directories, users can load it using M-x load-library. Programs can load it by calling load-library, or with load, a more primitive function that is similar but accepts some additional arguments.

M-x load-library differs from M-x load-file in that it searches a sequence of directories and tries three file names in each directory. The three names are: first, the specified name with ‘.elc’ appended; second, the name with ‘.el’ appended; third, the specified name alone. A ‘.elc’ file would be the result of compiling the Lisp file into byte code; if possible, it is loaded in preference to the Lisp file itself because the compiled file loads and runs faster.

Because the argument to load-library is usually not in itself a valid file name, file name completion is not available. In fact, when using this command, you usually do not know exactly what file name will be used.

The sequence of directories searched by M-x load-library is specified by the variable load-path, a list of strings that are directory names. The elements of this list may not begin with "‘~’", so you must call expand-file-name on them before adding them to the list. The default value of the list contains the directory where the Lisp code for Emacs itself is stored. If you have libraries of your own, put them in a single directory and add that directory to load-path. nil in this list stands for the current default directory, but it is probably not a good idea to put nil in the list. If you start wishing that nil were in the list, you should probably use M-x load-file for this case.

The variable is initialized by the EMACSLOADPATH environment variable. If no value is specified, the variable takes the default value specified in the file ‘paths.h’ when Emacs was built. If a path isn’t specified in ‘paths.h’, a default value is obtained from the file system, near the directory in which the Emacs executable resides.

Like M-x load-library, M-x locate-library searches the directories in load-path to find the file that M-x load-library would load. If the optional second argument nosuffix is non-nil, the suffixes ‘.elc’ or ‘.el’ are not added to the specified name library (like calling load instead of load-library).

You often do not have to give any command to load a library, because the commands defined in the library are set up to autoload that library. Running any of those commands causes load to be called to load the library; this replaces the autoload definitions with the real ones from the library.

If autoloading a file does not finish, either because of an error or because of a C-g quit, all function definitions made by the file are undone automatically. So are any calls to provide. As a consequence, the entire file is loaded a second time if you use one of the autoloadable commands again. This prevents problems when the command is no longer autoloading but is working incorrectly because the file was only partially loaded. Function definitions are undone only for autoloading; explicit calls to load do not undo anything if loading is not completed.

The variable after-load-alist takes an alist of expressions to be evaluated when particular files are loaded. Each element has the form (filename forms...). When load is run and the filename argument is filename, the forms in the corresponding element are executed at the end of loading.

filename must match exactly. Normally filename is the name of a library, with no directory specified, since that is how load is normally called. An error in forms does not undo the load, but it does prevent execution of the rest of the forms.

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22.3.2 Compiling Libraries

Emacs Lisp code can be compiled into byte-code which loads faster, takes up less space when loaded, and executes faster.

M-x batch-byte-compile

Run byte-compile-file on the files remaining on the command line.

M-x byte-compile-buffer &optional buffer

Byte-compile and evaluate contents of buffer (default is current buffer).

M-x byte-compile-file

Compile a file of Lisp code named filename into a file of byte code.

M-x byte-compile-and-load-file filename

Compile a file of Lisp code named filename into a file of byte code and load it.

M-x byte-recompile-directory directory

Recompile every ‘.el’ file in directory that needs recompilation.

M-x disassemble

Print disassembled code for object on (optional) stream.

M-x make-obsolete function new

Make the byte-compiler warn that function is obsolete and new should be used instead.

byte-compile-file creates a byte-code compiled file from an Emacs-Lisp source file. The default argument for this function is the file visited in the current buffer. The function reads the specified file, compiles it into byte code, and writes an output file whose name is made by appending ‘c’ to the input file name. Thus, the file ‘rmail.el’ would be compiled into ‘rmail.elc’. To compile a file of Lisp code named filename into a file of byte code and then load it, use byte-compile-and-load-file. To compile and evaluate Lisp code in a given buffer, use byte-compile-buffer.

To recompile all changed Lisp files in a directory, use M-x byte-recompile-directory. Specify just the directory name as an argument. Each ‘.el’ file that has been byte-compiled before is byte-compiled again if it has changed since the previous compilation. A numeric argument to this command tells it to offer to compile each ‘.el’ file that has not been compiled yet. You must answer y or n to each offer.

You can use the function batch-byte-compile to invoke Emacs non-interactively from the shell to do byte compilation. When you use this function, the files to be compiled are specified with command-line arguments. Use a shell command of the form:

emacs -batch -f batch-byte-compile files...

Directory names may also be given as arguments; in that case, byte-recompile-directory is invoked on each such directory. batch-byte-compile uses all remaining command-line arguments as file or directory names, then kills the Emacs process.

M-x disassemble explains the result of byte compilation. Its argument is a function name. It displays the byte-compiled code in a help window in symbolic form, one instruction per line. If the instruction refers to a variable or constant, that is shown, too.

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22.4 Evaluating Emacs-Lisp Expressions

Lisp programs intended to be run in Emacs should be edited in Emacs-Lisp mode; this will happen automatically for file names ending in ‘.el’. By contrast, Lisp mode itself should be used for editing Lisp programs intended for other Lisp systems. Emacs-Lisp mode can be selected with the command M-x emacs-lisp-mode.

For testing of Lisp programs to run in Emacs, it is useful to be able to evaluate part of the program as it is found in the Emacs buffer. For example, if you change the text of a Lisp function definition and then evaluate the definition, Emacs installs the change for future calls to the function. Evaluation of Lisp expressions is also useful in any kind of editing task for invoking non-interactive functions (functions that are not commands).


Read a Lisp expression in the minibuffer, evaluate it, and print the value in the minibuffer (eval-expression).

C-x C-e

Evaluate the Lisp expression before point, and print the value in the minibuffer (eval-last-sexp).


Evaluate the defun containing point or after point, and print the value in the minibuffer (eval-defun).

M-x eval-region

Evaluate all the Lisp expressions in the region.

M-x eval-current-buffer

Evaluate all the Lisp expressions in the buffer.

M-<ESC> (eval-expression) is the most basic command for evaluating a Lisp expression interactively. It reads the expression using the minibuffer, so you can execute any expression on a buffer regardless of what the buffer contains. When evaluation is complete, the current buffer is once again the buffer that was current when M-<ESC> was typed.

M-<ESC> can easily confuse users, especially on keyboards with autorepeat, where it can result from holding down the <ESC> key for too long. Therefore, eval-expression is normally a disabled command. Attempting to use this command asks for confirmation and gives you the option of enabling it; once you enable the command, you are no longer required to confirm. See section Disabling Commands.

In Emacs-Lisp mode, the key C-M-x is bound to the function eval-defun, which parses the defun containing point or following point as a Lisp expression and evaluates it. The value is printed in the echo area. This command is convenient for installing in the Lisp environment changes that you have just made in the text of a function definition.

The command C-x C-e (eval-last-sexp) performs a similar job but is available in all major modes, not just Emacs-Lisp mode. It finds the sexp before point, reads it as a Lisp expression, evaluates it, and prints the value in the echo area. It is sometimes useful to type in an expression and then, with point still after it, type C-x C-e.

If C-M-x or C-x C-e are given a numeric argument, they print the value by inserting it into the current buffer at point, rather than in the echo area. The argument value does not matter.

The most general command for evaluating Lisp expressions from a buffer is eval-region. M-x eval-region parses the text of the region as one or more Lisp expressions, evaluating them one by one. M-x eval-current-buffer is similar, but it evaluates the entire buffer. This is a reasonable way to install the contents of a file of Lisp code that you are just ready to test. After finding and fixing a bug, use C-M-x on each function that you change, to keep the Lisp world in step with the source file.

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22.5 The Emacs-Lisp Debugger

XEmacs contains a debugger for Lisp programs executing inside it. This debugger is normally not used; many commands frequently get Lisp errors when invoked in inappropriate contexts (such as C-f at the end of the buffer) and it would be unpleasant to enter a special debugging mode in this case. When you want to make Lisp errors invoke the debugger, you must set the variable debug-on-error to non-nil. Quitting with C-g is not considered an error, and debug-on-error has no effect on the handling of C-g. However, if you set debug-on-quit to be non-nil, C-g will invoke the debugger. This can be useful for debugging an infinite loop; type C-g once the loop has had time to reach its steady state. debug-on-quit has no effect on errors.

You can make Emacs enter the debugger when a specified function is called or at a particular place in Lisp code. Use M-x debug-on-entry with argument fun-name to have Emacs enter the debugger as soon as fun-name is called. Use M-x cancel-debug-on-entry to make the function stop entering the debugger when called. (Redefining the function also does this.) To enter the debugger from some other place in Lisp code, you must insert the expression (debug) there and install the changed code with C-M-x. See section Evaluating Emacs-Lisp Expressions.

When the debugger is entered, it displays the previously selected buffer in one window and a buffer named ‘*Backtrace*’ in another window. The backtrace buffer contains one line for each level of Lisp function execution currently going on. At the beginning of the buffer is a message describing the reason that the debugger was invoked, for example, an error message if it was invoked due to an error.

The backtrace buffer is read-only and is in Backtrace mode, a special major mode in which letters are defined as debugger commands. The usual Emacs editing commands are available; you can switch windows to examine the buffer that was being edited at the time of the error, and you can switch buffers, visit files, and perform any other editing operations. However, the debugger is a recursive editing level (see section Recursive Editing Levels); it is a good idea to return to the backtrace buffer and explicitly exit the debugger when you don’t want to use it any more. Exiting the debugger kills the backtrace buffer.

The contents of the backtrace buffer show you the functions that are executing and the arguments that were given to them. It also allows you to specify a stack frame by moving point to the line describing that frame. The frame whose line point is on is considered the current frame. Some of the debugger commands operate on the current frame. Debugger commands are mainly used for stepping through code one expression at a time. Here is a list of them:


Exit the debugger and continue execution. In most cases, execution of the program continues as if the debugger had never been entered (aside from the effect of any variables or data structures you may have changed while inside the debugger). This includes entry to the debugger due to function entry or exit, explicit invocation, and quitting or certain errors. Most errors cannot be continued; trying to continue an error usually causes the same error to occur again.


Continue execution, but enter the debugger the next time a Lisp function is called. This allows you to step through the subexpressions of an expression, and see what the subexpressions do and what values they compute.

When you enter the debugger this way, Emacs flags the stack frame for the function call from which you entered. The same function is then called when you exit the frame. To cancel this flag, use u.


Set up to enter the debugger when the current frame is exited. Frames that invoke the debugger on exit are flagged with stars.


Don’t enter the debugger when the current frame is exited. This cancels a b command on a frame.


Read a Lisp expression in the minibuffer, evaluate it, and print the value in the echo area. This is equivalent to the command M-<ESC>, except that e is not normally disabled like M-<ESC>.


Terminate the program being debugged; return to top-level Emacs command execution.

If the debugger was entered due to a C-g but you really want to quit, not to debug, use the q command.


Return a value from the debugger. The value is computed by reading an expression with the minibuffer and evaluating it.

The value returned by the debugger makes a difference when the debugger was invoked due to exit from a Lisp call frame (as requested with b); then the value specified in the r command is used as the value of that frame.

The debugger’s return value also matters with many errors. For example, wrong-type-argument errors will use the debugger’s return value instead of the invalid argument; no-catch errors will use the debugger value as a throw tag instead of the tag that was not found. If an error was signaled by calling the Lisp function signal, the debugger’s return value is returned as the value of signal.

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22.6 Lisp Interaction Buffers

The buffer ‘*scratch*’, which is selected when Emacs starts up, is provided for evaluating Lisp expressions interactively inside Emacs. Both the expressions you evaluate and their output goes in the buffer.

The ‘*scratch*’ buffer’s major mode is Lisp Interaction mode, which is the same as Emacs-Lisp mode except for one command, C-j. In Emacs-Lisp mode, C-j is an indentation command. In Lisp Interaction mode, C-j is bound to eval-print-last-sexp. This function reads the Lisp expression before point, evaluates it, and inserts the value in printed representation before point.

The way to use the ‘*scratch*’ buffer is to insert Lisp expressions at the end, ending each one with C-j so that it will be evaluated. The result is a complete typescript of the expressions you have evaluated and their values.

The rationale for this feature is that Emacs must have a buffer when it starts up, but that buffer is not useful for editing files since a new buffer is made for every file that you visit. The Lisp interpreter typescript is the most useful thing I can think of for the initial buffer to do. M-x lisp-interaction-mode will put any buffer in Lisp Interaction mode.

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22.7 Running an External Lisp

Emacs has facilities for running programs in other Lisp systems. You can run a Lisp process as an inferior of Emacs, and pass expressions to it to be evaluated. You can also pass changed function definitions directly from the Emacs buffers in which you edit the Lisp programs to the inferior Lisp process.

To run an inferior Lisp process, type M-x run-lisp. (You need to the ‘os-utils’ package installed for this.) This runs the program named lisp, the same program you would run by typing lisp as a shell command, with both input and output going through an Emacs buffer named ‘*lisp*’. In other words, any “terminal output” from Lisp will go into the buffer, advancing point, and any “terminal input” for Lisp comes from text in the buffer. To give input to Lisp, go to the end of the buffer and type the input, terminated by <RET>. The ‘*lisp*’ buffer is in Inferior Lisp mode, which has all the special characteristics of Lisp mode and Shell mode (see section Shell Mode).

Use Lisp mode to run the source files of programs in external Lisps. You can select this mode with M-x lisp-mode. It is used automatically for files whose names end in ‘.l’ or ‘.lisp’, as most Lisp systems usually expect.

When you edit a function in a Lisp program you are running, the easiest way to send the changed definition to the inferior Lisp process is the key C-M-x. In Lisp mode, this key runs the function lisp-send-defun, which finds the defun around or following point and sends it as input to the Lisp process. (Emacs can send input to any inferior process regardless of what buffer is current.)

Contrast the meanings of C-M-x in Lisp mode (for editing programs to be run in another Lisp system) and Emacs-Lisp mode (for editing Lisp programs to be run in Emacs): in both modes it has the effect of installing the function definition that point is in, but the way of doing so is different according to where the relevant Lisp environment is found. See section Major Modes for Lisp.

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22.8 Packages

The XEmacs 21 distribution comes only with a very basic set of built-in modes and packages. Most of the packages that were part of the distribution of earlier versions of XEmacs are now available separately. The installer as well as the user can choose which packages to install; the actual installation process is easy. This gives an installer the ability to tailor an XEmacs installation for local needs with safe removal of unnecessary code.

NOTE: For detailed information about how the package hierarchies work, See (lispref)Package Overview section ‘Package Overview’ in XEmacs Lisp Reference Manual.

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Package Terminology:

22.8.1 Package Flavors

There are two main flavors of packages.

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22.8.2 Package Distributions

XEmacs Lisp packages are distributed in two ways, depending on the intended use. Binary Packages are for installers and end-users that can be installed directly into an XEmacs package directory. Source Packages are for developers and include all files necessary for rebuilding bytecompiled lisp and creating tarballs for distribution.

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22.8.3 Binary Packages

Binary packages may be installed directly into an XEmacs package hierarchy.

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22.8.4 Source Packages

Source packages contain all of the Package author’s (where appropriate in regular packages) source code plus all of the files necessary to build distribution tarballs (Unix Tar format files, gzipped for space savings).

Currently, source packages are only available via CVS. See http://cvs.xemacs.org/ for details.

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Installing Packages:

22.8.5 Getting Started

When you first download XEmacs 21, you will usually first grab the core distribution, a file called ‘xemacs-21.x.x.tar.gz’. (Replace the 21.x.x by the current version number.) The core distribution contains the sources of XEmacs and a minimal set of Emacs Lisp files, which are in the subdirectory named ‘lisp’. This subdirectory used to contain all Emacs Lisp files distributed with XEmacs. Now, to conserve disk space, most non-essential packages were made optional.

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22.8.6 Choosing the Packages You Need

The Normal Packages can currently be found in the same ftp directory where you grabbed the core distribution from, and are located in the subdirectory ‘packages’. Package file names follow the naming convention ‘<package-name>-<version>-pkg.tar.gz’.

If you have EFS (EFS), packages can be installed over the network. Alternatively, if you have copies of the packages locally, you can install packages from a local disk or CDROM.

The file ‘etc/PACKAGES’ in the core distribution contains a list of the Normal Packages at the time of the XEmacs release.

You can also get a list of available packages, and whether or not they are installed, using the visual package browser and installer. You can access it via the menus:

Tools -> Packages -> List and Install

Or, you can get to it via the keyboard:

M-x pui-list-packages

Hint to system administrators of multi-user systems: it might be a good idea to install all packages and not interfere with the wishes of your users.

If you can’t find which package provides the feature you require, try using the package-get-package-provider function. Eg., if you know that you need thingatpt, type:

M-x package-get-package-provider RET thingatpt

which will return something like ‘(fsf-compat "1.08")’. You can the use one of the methods above for installing the package you want.

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22.8.7 XEmacs and Installing Packages

There are three main ways to install packages:

But regardless of the method you use to install packages, they can only be used by XEmacs after a restart unless the package in question has not been previously installed.

Automatic Package Installation:

XEmacs comes with some tools to make the periodic updating and installing easier. It will notice if new packages or versions are available and will fetch them from the FTP site.

Unfortunately this requires that a few packages are already in place. You will have to install them by hand as above or use a SUMO tarball. This requirement will hopefully go away in the future. The packages you need are:

   efs          - To fetch the files from the FTP site or mirrors.
   xemacs-base  - Needed by efs.

and optionally:

   mailcrypt    - To do PGP verification of the ‘package-index’

After installing these by hand, fire up XEmacs and follow these steps.

  1. Choose a download site. via menu: Tools -> Packages -> Set Download Site via keyb: M-x customize-variable RET package-get-remote RET (put in the details of remote host and directory)

    If the package tarballs _AND_ the package-index file are in a local directory, you can: M-x pui-set-local-package-get-directory RET

  2. Obtain a list of packages and display the list in a buffer named ‘*Packages*’. menu: Tools -> Packages -> List & Install keyb: M-x pui-list-packages RET

    XEmacs will now connect to the remote site and download the latest package-index file.

    The visual package browser will then display a list of all packages. Help information will be displayed at the very bottom of the buffer; you may have to scroll down to see it. You can also press ? to get the same help. From this buffer, you can tell the package status by the character in the first column:


    The package has not been installed.


    The package has been installed, but a newer version is available. The current version is out-of-date.


    The package has been marked for installation/update.

    If there is no character in the first column, the package has been installed and is up to date.

    From here, you can select or unselect packages for installation using the <RET> key, the Mouse-2 button or selecting "Select" from the Popup Mouse-3 Menu. Once you’ve finished selecting the packages, you can press the x key (or use the menu) to actually install the packages. Note that you will have to restart XEmacs for XEmacs to recognize any new packages.

    Key summary:


    Display simple help.


    Toggle between selecting and unselecting a package for installation.


    Install selected packages.


    View, in the minibuffer, additional information about the package, such as the package date (not the build date) and the package author. Moving the mouse over a package name will also do the same thing.


    Toggle between verbose and non-verbose package display.


    Refresh the package display.


    Kill the package buffer.

    Moving the mouse over a package will also cause additional information about the package to be displayed in the minibuffer. If you have balloon-help enabled a balloon-help frame will pop up and display additional package information also.

  3. Choose the packages you wish to install. mouse: Click button 2 on the package name. keyb: RET on the package name
  4. Make sure you have everything you need. menu: Packages -> Add Required keyb: r

    XEmacs will now search for packages that are required by the ones that you have chosen to install and offer to select those packages also.

    For novices and gurus alike, this step can save your bacon. It’s easy to forget to install a critical package.

  5. Download and install the packages. menu: Packages -> Install/Remove Selected keyb: x

You can also install packages using a semi-manual interface:

M-x package-get-all <return>

Enter the name of the package (e.g., prog-modes), and XEmacs will search for the latest version and install it and any packages that it depends upon.

Keeping Packages Up To Date:

Once you have the packages you want installed (using any of the above methods) you’ll want to keep them up to date. You can do this easily from the menubar:

Tools -> Packages -> Set Download Site
Tools -> Packages -> Update Installed Packages

Manual Package Installation:

Fetch the packages from the FTP site, CD-ROM whatever. The filenames have the form ‘name-<version>-pkg.tar.gz’ and are gzipped tar files. For a fresh install it is sufficient to untar the file at the top of the package hierarchy.

NOTE: If you are upgrading packages already installed, it’s best to remove the old package first Removing Packages.

For example if we are installing the ‘xemacs-base’ package (version 1.48):

   mkdir $prefix/share/xemacs/xemacs-packages RET # if it does not exist yet
   cd $prefix/share/xemacs/xemacs-packages RET
   gunzip -c /path/to/xemacs-base-1.48-pkg.tar.gz | tar xvf - RET

Or if you have GNU tar, the last step can be:

   tar zxvf /path/to/xemacs-base-1.48-pkg.tar.gz RET

For MULE related packages, it is best to untar into the mule-packages hierarchy, i.e. for the ‘mule-base’ package, version 1.37:

   mkdir $prefix/share/xemacs/mule-packages RET # if it does not exist yet
   cd $prefix/share/xemacs/mule-packages RET
   gunzip -c /path/to/mule-base-1.37-pkg.tar.gz | tar xvf - RET

Or if you have GNU tar, the last step can be:

   tar zxvf /path/to/mule-base-1.37-pkg.tar.gz RET

NOTE: For more detailed information about how the package hierarchies work, See (lispref)Package Overview section ‘Package Overview’ in XEmacs Lisp Reference Manual.

Installing the Sumo Packages:

Those with little time, cheap connections and plenty of disk space can install all the packages at once using the sumo tarballs. Download the file: ‘xemacs-sumo.tar.gz

For an XEmacs compiled with Mule you also need: ‘xemacs-mule-sumo.tar.gz

N.B. They are called ’Sumo Tarballs’ for good reason. They are currently about 19MB and 4.5MB (gzipped) respectively.

Install them by:

cd $prefix/share/xemacs ; gunzip -c <tarballname> | tar xvf - RET

Or, if you have GNU tar:

cd $prefix/share/xemacs ; tar zxvf /path/to/<tarballname> RET

As the Sumo tarballs are not regenerated as often as the individual packages, it is recommended that you use the automatic package tools afterwards to pick up any recent updates.

Which Packages to Install:

This is difficult to say. When in doubt install a package. If you administrate a big site it might be a good idea to just install everything. A good minimal set of packages for XEmacs-latin1 would be

xemacs-base, xemacs-devel, c-support, cc-mode, debug, dired, efs, edit-utils, fsf-compat, mail-lib, net-utils, os-utils, prog-modes, text-modes, time, mailcrypt

If you are using the XEmacs package tools, don’t forget to do:

Packages -> Add Required

To make sure you have everything that the packages you have chosen to install need.

See also Normal Packages for further descriptions of the individual packages.

Removing Packages:

Because the exact files and their locations contained in a package may change it is recommended to remove a package first before installing a new version. In order to facilitate removal each package contains an ‘pkginfo/MANIFEST.pkgname’ file which lists all the files belonging to the package.

No need to panic, you don’t have to go through the ‘pkginfo/MANIFEST.pkgname’ and manually delete the files. Instead, use M-x package-get-delete-package RET.

Note that the interactive package tools included with XEmacs already do this for you.

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Building Packages:

Currently, source packages are only available via anonymous CVS. See http://cvs.xemacs.org/ for details of checking out the ‘xemacs-packages’ module.

22.8.8 Prerequisites for Building Source Packages

GNU cp
GNU install

(or a BSD compatible install program).

GNU make

(3.75 or later preferred).


(4.2 from GNU texinfo 4.2 or later required).

GNU tar

(or equivalent).

GNU gzip

(or equivalent).

A properly configured ‘Local.rules’ file.

Local.rules File.

And of course, XEmacs 21.0 or higher.

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22.8.9 What You Can Do With Source Packages

The packages CVS sources are most useful for creating XEmacs package tarballs for installation into your own XEmacs installations or for distributing to others.

For a list and description of the different ‘Makefile’ targets, See (lispref)Makefile Targets section ‘Makefile Targets’ in XEmacs Lisp Reference Manual.

The Local.rules File:

This file is used when building and installing packages from source. In the top level of the CVS module, ‘packages’, contains the file, ‘Local.rules.template’. Simply copy that to ‘Local.rules’ and edit it to suit your needs.

For a complete discussion of the ‘Local.rules’ file, See (lispref)Local.rules File section ‘Local.rules File’ in XEmacs Lisp Reference Manual.

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Available Packages:

This section lists the Lisp packages that are currently available from xemacs.org and it’s mirrors. If a particular package that you are looking for isn’t here, please send a message to the XEmacs Beta list.

This data is up to date as of June 27, 2003.

22.8.10 Normal Packages

A very broad selection of elisp packages.


Support for Sparcworks.


Ada language support.


A Portable Emacs Library. Used by XEmacs MIME support.


Basic TeX/LaTeX support.


The Big Brother Data Base: a rolodex-like database program.


Build XEmacs using custom widgets.


Basic single-file add-ons for editing C code.


Emacs calculator.


Calendar and diary support.


C, C++ and Java language support.


Support for the Clearcase version control system.


"Fortune cookie"-style messages. Includes Spook (suspicious phrases) and Yow (Zippy quotes).


Crisp/Brief emulation.


GUD, gdb, dbx debugging support.


Interface to RFC2229 dictionary servers.


The DIRectory EDitor is for manipulating, and running commands on files in a directory.


DocBook editing support.


Crypto functionality in Emacs Lisp.


A Lisp debugger.


Interface over patch.


Single file lisp packages for various XEmacs goodies. Load this and weed out the junk you don’t want.


DEC EDIT/EDT emulation.


Treat files on remote systems the same as local files.


Enhanced Implementation of Emacs Interpreted Objects.


Portable Emacs Lisp utilities library.


Another interface over patch.


Command shell implemented entirely in Emacs Lisp.


ESS: Emacs Speaks Statistics.


Terminal emulator.


Emacs Unified Directory Client (LDAP, PH).


Footnoting in mail message editing modes.


Forms editing support (obsolete, use the built-in Widget instead).


Fortran language support.


Provide a WM icon based on major mode.


GNU Emacs compatibility files.


Tetris, Sokoban, and Snake.


General documentation. Presently, empty.


XEmacs bug reports.


The Gnus Newsreader and Mailreader.


Haskell language support.


HTML editing.


Advanced replacement for buffer-menu.


Editing and Shell mode for the Interactive Data Language.


Enhanced front-end for Grep.


Front-end for interacting with Inferior Lisp (external lisps).


Spell-checking with ispell.


Java language and development support.


IRC (Internet Relay Chat) client for Emacs.


Fundamental lisp files for providing email support.


Support for messaging encryption with PGP.


Messaging in an Emacs World; a MIME-based email program.


Front end support for MH.


Elisp implementation of the game ’Minehunt’.


Other amusements and diversions.


Support for Multiple Major Modes within a single buffer.


Miscellaneous Networking Utilities. This is a single-file package and files may be deleted at will.


Objective Caml editing support.


Miscellaneous single-file O/S utilities, for printing, archiving, compression, remote shells, etc.


PC style interface emulation.


CVS frontend.


Provides programmatic completion.


Perl language support.


Emacs interface to various PGP implementations.


Miscellaneous single-file lisp files for various programming languages.


Print buffers to PostScript printers.


Validated HTML/SGML editing.


A collection of DTDs for psgml. Note that this package is deprecated and will be removed in the future, most likely Q2/2003. Instead of using this, you should install needed DTDs yourself.


Python language support.


Emacs support for LaTeX cross-references, citations.


An obsolete Emacs mailer. If you do not already use it don’t start.


Ruby language support.


Simple Authentication and Security Layer (SASL) library.


Front-end support for Inferior Scheme.


Semantic bovinator.


SGML/Linuxdoc-SGML editing.


Support for editing shell scripts.


Manage Sieve email filtering scripts.


User interface tool.


Standard ML editing support.


XEmacs Sun sound files.


XEmacs Microsoft sound files.


Provides a separate frame with convenient references.


Mouse enhancement utility.


An Emacs citation tool. Useful with all Emacs Mailers and Newsreaders.


XEmacs TeXinfo support.


Various single file lisp packages for editing text files.


Single-file TeX support.


Display time & date on the modeline.


Emacs MIME support. Not needed for Gnus >= 5.8.0


Support for building with Tooltalk.


DEC EDIT/TPU support.


Remote shell-based file editing. This is similar to EFS or Ange-FTP, but works with rsh/ssh and rcp/scp.


Version Control for Free systems.


Version Control for ClearCase. This package will shortly be replaced with clearcase.el


Support for VHDL.


A Unix process browsing tool.


VI emulation support.


An Emacs mailer.


A Web browser.


Semi WYSIWYG for LaTeX, HTML, etc, using additional fonts.


Fundamental XEmacs support. Install this unless you wish a totally naked XEmacs.


XEmacs Lisp developer support. This package contains utilities for supporting Lisp development. It is a single-file package so it may be tailored.


XSL editing support.


A minor mode for (X)Emacs which allows running an XSLT processor on a buffer.



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22.8.11 Mule Support (mule)

MULti-lingual Enhancement. Support for world scripts such as Latin, Arabic, Cyrillic, Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Hebrew etc. To use these packages your XEmacs must be compiled with Mule support.


Lisp Interface to EDICT, Kanji Dictionary.


Wnn (4.2 and 6) support. SJ3 support. Must be installed prior to XEmacs build.


Unify character sets in a buffer. When characters belong to disjoint character sets, this attempts to translate the characters so that they belong to one character set. If the buffer coding system is not sufficient, this suggests different coding systems.


Quail. Used for everything other than English and Japanese.


Used for localized menubars (French and Japanese) and localized splash screens (Japanese).


Dictionary support. (This isn’t an English dictionary program)


Basic Mule support. Must be installed prior to building with Mule.


Extended coding systems (including Unicode) for XEmacs.


Another Japanese Language Input Method. Can be used without a separate process running as a dictionary server.

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