xemacs man page

xemacs — Emacs: The Next Generation


xemacs [ command-line switches ] [ files ... ]


XEmacs is a version of Emacs, compatible with and containing many improvements over GNU Emacs, written by Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation. It was originally based on an early release of GNU Emacs Version 19, and has tracked subsequent releases of GNU Emacs as they have become available.

The primary documentation of XEmacs is in the XEmacs Reference Manual, which you can read on-line using Info, a subsystem of XEmacs. Please look there for complete and up-to-date documentation. Complete documentation on using Emacs Lisp is available on-line through the XEmacs Lisp Programmer's Manual. Both manuals also can be printed out nicely using the TeX formatting package.

The user functionality of XEmacs encompasses everything other Emacs editors do, and it is easily extensible since its editing commands are written in Lisp.

XEmacs has an extensive interactive help facility, but the facility assumes that you know how to manipulate XEmacs windows and buffers. CTRL-h enters the Help facility. Help Tutorial (CTRL-h t) requests an interactive tutorial which can teach beginners the fundamentals of XEmacs in a few minutes. Help Apropos (CTRL-h a) helps you find a command given its functionality, Help Key Binding (CTRL-h k) describes a given key sequence's effect, and Help Function (CTRL-h f) describes a given Lisp function specified by name. You can also look up key sequences in the XEmacs Reference Manual using Lookup Key Binding (CTRL-h CTRL-k), and look up Lisp functions in the XEmacs Lisp Programmer's Manual using Lookup Function (CTRL-h CTRL-f). All of these help functions, and more, are available on the Help menu if you are using a window system.

XEmacs has extensive GUI (graphical user interface) support when running under a window system such as X, including multiple frames (top-level windows), a menubar, a toolbar, horizontal and vertical scrollbars, dialog boxes, and extensive mouse support.

XEmacs has full support for multiple fonts and colors, variable-width fonts, and variable-height lines, and allows for pixmaps to be inserted into a buffer. (This is used in the W3 web-browsing package and in some of the debugger and outlining interfaces, among other things.)

XEmacs's Undo can undo several steps of modification to your buffers, so it is easy to recover from editing mistakes.

XEmacs's many special packages handle mail reading (VM, MH-E and RMail) and sending (Mail), Usenet news reading and posting (GNUS), World Wide Web browsing (W3), specialized modes for editing source code in all common programming languages, syntax highlighting for many languages (Font-Lock), compiling (Compile), running subshells within XEmacs windows (Shell), outline editing (Outline), running a Lisp read-eval-print loop (Lisp-Interaction-Mode), and automated psychotherapy (Doctor).

There is an extensive reference manual, but users of other Emacsen should have little trouble adapting even without a copy. Users new to Emacs will be able to use basic features fairly rapidly by studying the tutorial and using the self-documentation features.

XEmacs Options

XEmacs accepts all standard X Toolkit command line options when run in an X Windows environment. In addition, the following options are accepted (when options imply a sequence of actions to perform, they are performed in the order encountered):

-t file
Use specified file as the terminal instead of using stdin/stdout. This implies -nw.
Edit in batch mode. The editor will send messages to stdout. You must use the -l, -f, and -eval options to specify files to execute and functions to call.
Inhibit the use of any window-system-specific display code: use the current TTY.
Enter the debugger if an error occurs loading the init file.
Do not map the initial frame.
Do not load the site-specific init file (site-start.el).
-q, -no-init-file
Do not load an init file.
Do not process the early packages.
Load no extra files at startup. Equivalent to the combination of -q, -no-site-file, and -no-early-packages.
-u user, -user user
Load user's init file.
Edit file.
Go to the line specified by number (do not insert a space between the "+" sign and the number).
Print a help message and exit.
-V, -version,
Print the version number and exit.
-f function, -funcall function
Execute the lisp function function.
-l file, -load file
Load the Lisp code in the file file.
-eval form
Evaluate the Lisp form form.
-i file, -insert file
Insert file into the current buffer.
Exit XEmacs (useful with -batch).

Using XEmacs with X Windows

XEmacs has been tailored to work well with the X window system. If you run XEmacs from under X windows, it will create its own X window to display in.

XEmacs can be started with the following standard X options:

-visual <visualname><bitdepth>
Select the visual that XEmacs will attempt to use. <visualname> should be one of the strings "StaticColor", "TrueColor", "GrayScale", "PseudoColor" or "DirectColor", and <bitdepth> should be the number of bits per pixel (example, "-visual TrueColor24" for a 24bit TrueColor visual) See X(1) for more information.
Require XEmacs to create and use a private colormap for display. This will keep XEmacs from taking colors from the default colormap and keeping them from other clients, at the cost of causing annoying flicker when the focus changes. Use this option only if your X server does not support 24 bit visuals.
-geometry ##x##+##+##
Specify the geometry of the initial window. The ##'s represent a number; the four numbers are width (characters), height (characters), X offset (pixels), and Y offset (pixels), respectively. Partial specifications of the form ##x## or +##+## are also allowed. (The geometry specification is in the standard X format; see X(1) for more information.)
Specifies that the initial window should initially appear iconified.
-name name
Specifies the program name which should be used when looking up defaults in the user's X resources.
-title title, -T title, -wn title
Specifies the title which should be assigned to the XEmacs window.
-d displayname, -display displayname
Create the XEmacs window on the display specified by displayname. Must be the first option specified in the command line.
-font font, -fn font
Set the XEmacs window's font to that specified by font. You will find the various X fonts in the /usr/lib/X11/fonts directory. XEmacs works with either fixed- or variable-width fonts, but will probably look better with a fixed-width font.
-scrollbar-width pixels
Specify the width of the vertical scrollbars.
-scrollbar-height pixels
Specify the height of the horizontal scrollbars.
-bw pixels, -borderwidth pixels
Set the XEmacs window's border width to the number of pixels specified by pixels. Defaults to one pixel on each side of the window.
-ib pixels, -internal-border-width pixels
Specify the width between a frame's border and its text, in pixels. Defaults to one pixel on each side of the window.
-fg color, -foreground color

Sets the color of the text.

See the file /usr/share/X11/rgb.txt for a list of valid color names.

-bg color, -background color
Sets the color of the window's background.
-bd color, -bordercolor color
Sets the color of the window's border.
-mc color
Sets the color of the mouse pointer.
-cr color
Sets the color of the text cursor.
-rv, -reverse
Reverses the foreground and background colors (reverse video). Consider explicitly setting the foreground and background colors instead of using this option.
-xrm argument
This allows you to set an arbitrary resource on the command line. argument should be a resource specification, as might be found in your .Xresources or .Xdefaults file.

You can also set resources, i.e. X default values, for your XEmacs windows in your .Xresources or .Xdefaults file (see xrdb(1)). Use the following format:




where value specifies the default value of keyword. (Some resources need the former format; some the latter.)

You can also set resources for a particular frame by using the format


where framename is the resource name assigned to that particular frame. (Certain packages, such as VM, give their frames unique resource names, in this case "VM".)

XEmacs lets you set default values for the following keywords:

default.attributeFont (class Face.AttributeFont)
Sets the window's text font.
default.attributeForeground (class Face.AttributeForeground)
Sets the window's text color.
default.attributeBackground (class Face.AttributeBackground)
Sets the window's background color.
face.attributeFont (class Face.AttributeFont)
Sets the font for face, which should be the name of a face. Common face names are

default Normal text.

bold Bold text.

italic Italicized text.

bold-italic Bold and italicized text.

modeline Modeline text.

zmacs-region Text selected with the mouse.

highlight Text highlighted when the mouse passes over.

left-margin Text in the left margin.

right-margin Text in the right margin.

isearch Text highlighted during incremental search.

info-node Text of Info menu items.

info-xref Text of Info cross references.
face.attributeForeground (class Face.AttributeForeground)
Sets the foreground color for face.
face.attributeBackground (class Face.AttributeBackground)
Sets the background color for face.
face.attributeBackgroundPixmap (class Face.AttributeBackgroundPixmap)
Sets the background pixmap (stipple) for face.
face.attributeUnderline (class Face.AttributeUnderline)
Whether face should be underlined.
reverseVideo (class ReverseVideo)
If set to on, the window will be displayed in reverse video. Consider explicitly setting the foreground and background colors instead of using this resource.
borderWidth (class BorderWidth)
Sets the window's border width in pixels.
internalBorderWidth (class InternalBorderWidth)
Sets the window's internal border width in pixels.
borderColor (class BorderColor)
Sets the color of the window's border.
cursorColor (class Foreground)
Sets the color of the window's text cursor.
pointerColor (class Foreground)
Sets the color of the window's mouse cursor.
emacsVisual (class EmacsVisual)
Sets the default visual XEmacs will try to use (as described above).
privateColormap (class PrivateColormap)
If set, XEmacs will default to using a private colormap.
geometry (class Geometry)
Sets the geometry of the XEmacs window (as described above).
iconic (class Iconic)
If set to on, the XEmacs window will initially appear as an icon.
menubar (class Menubar)
Whether the XEmacs window will have a menubar. Defaults to true.
initiallyUnmapped (class InitiallyUnmapped)
Whether XEmacs will leave the initial frame unmapped when it starts up.
barCursor (class BarCursor)
Whether the cursor should be a bar instead of the traditional box.
title (class Title)
Sets the title of the XEmacs window.
iconName (class Title)
Sets the icon name for the XEmacs window icon.
scrollBarWidth (class ScrollBarWidth)
Sets the width of the vertical scrollbars, in pixels. A width of 0 means no vertical scrollbars.
scrollBarHeight (class ScrollBarHeight)
Sets the height of the horizontal scrollbars, in pixels. A height of 0 means no horizontal scrollbars.
scrollBarPlacement (class ScrollBarPlacement)
Sets the position of vertical and horizontal scrollbars. Should be one of the strings "top-left", "bottom-left", "top-right", or "bottom-right". The default is "bottom-right" for the Motif and Lucid scrollbars and "bottom-left" for the Athena scrollbars.
topToolBarHeight (class TopToolBarHeight)
Sets the height of the top toolbar, in pixels. 0 means no top toolbar.
bottomToolBarHeight (class BottomToolBarHeight)
Sets the height of the bottom toolbar, in pixels. 0 means no bottom toolbar.
leftToolBarWidth (class LeftToolBarWidth)
Sets the width of the left toolbar, in pixels. 0 means no left toolbar.
rightToolBarWidth (class RightToolBarWidth)
Sets the width of the right toolbar, in pixels. 0 means no right toolbar.
topToolBarShadowColor (class TopToolBarShadowColor)
Sets the color of the top shadows for the toolbars. (For all toolbars, not just the toolbar at the top of the frame.)
bottomToolBarShadowColor (class BottomToolBarShadowColor)
Sets the color of the bottom shadows for the toolbars. (For all toolbars, not just the toolbar at the bottom of the frame.)
topToolBarShadowPixmap (class TopToolBarShadowPixmap)
Sets the pixmap of the top shadows for the toolbars. (For all toolbars, not just the toolbar at the top of the frame.) If set, this resource overrides the corresponding color resource.
bottomToolBarShadowPixmap (class BottomToolBarShadowPixmap)
Sets the pixmap of the bottom shadows for the toolbars. (For all toolbars, not just the toolbar at the bottom of the frame.) If set, this resource overrides the corresponding color resource.
toolBarShadowThickness (class ToolBarShadowThickness)
Thickness of the shadows around the toolbars, in pixels.
visualBell (class VisualBell)
Whether XEmacs should flash the screen rather than making an audible beep.
bellVolume (class BellVolume)
Volume of the audible beep. Range is 0 through 100.
useBackingStore (class UseBackingStore)
Whether XEmacs should set the backing-store attribute of the X windows it creates. This increases the memory usage of the X server but decreases the amount of X traffic necessary to update the screen, and is useful when the connection to the X server goes over a low-bandwidth line such as a modem connection.
textPointer (class Cursor)
The cursor to use when the mouse is over text.
selectionPointer (class Cursor)
The cursor to use when the mouse is over a mouse-highlighted text region.
spacePointer (class Cursor)
The cursor to use when the mouse is over a blank space in a buffer (that is, after the end of a line or after the end-of-file).
modeLinePointer (class Cursor)
The cursor to use when the mouse is over a mode line.
gcPointer (class Cursor)
The cursor to display when a garbage-collection is in progress.
scrollbarPointer (class Cursor)
The cursor to use when the mouse is over the scrollbar.
pointerColor (class Foreground)
The foreground color of the mouse cursor.
pointerBackground (class Background)
The background color of the mouse cursor.

Using the Mouse

The following lists the mouse button bindings for the XEmacs window under X11.


left Set point or make a text selection.

middle Paste text.

right Pop up a menu of options.

SHIFT-left Extend a selection.

CTRL-left Make a selection and insert it at point.

CTRL-middle Set point and move selected text there.

CTRL-SHIFT-left Make a selection, delete it, and insert it at point.

META-left Make a rectangular selection.


Lisp code is read at startup from the user's init file, $HOME/.xemacs/init.el. If this file does not exist then $HOME/.emacs will be read if it is present.

/usr/local/info - files for the Info documentation browser (a subsystem of XEmacs) to refer to. The complete text of the XEmacs Reference Manual and the XEmacs Lisp Programmer's Manual is included in a convenient tree structured form.

/usr/local/lib/xemacs-$VERSION/info - the Info files may be here instead.

/usr/local/lib/xemacs-$VERSION/lisp/* - Lisp source files and compiled files that define most editing commands. The files are contained in subdirectories, categorized by function or individual package. Some are preloaded; others are autoloaded from these directories when used.

/usr/local/lib/xemacs-$VERSION/etc - some files of information, pixmap files, other data files used by certain packages, etc.

/usr/local/lib/xemacs-$VERSION/$CONFIGURATION - various programs that are used with XEmacs.

/usr/local/lib/xemacs-$VERSION/$CONFIGURATION/DOC - contains the documentation strings for the Lisp primitives and preloaded Lisp functions of XEmacs. They are stored here to reduce the size of XEmacs proper.

/usr/local/lib/xemacs/site-lisp - locally-provided Lisp files.

Bugs and Help

There is a newsgroup, comp.emacs.xemacs, for reporting XEmacs bugs and fixes and requesting help. But before reporting something as a bug, please try to be sure that it really is a bug, not a misunderstanding or a deliberate feature. We ask you to read the section “Reporting XEmacs Bugs” near the end of the reference manual (or Info system) for hints on how and when to report bugs. Also, include the version number of the XEmacs you are running and the system you are running it on in every bug report that you send in. Finally, the more you can isolate the cause of a bug and the conditions it happens under, the more likely it is to be fixed, so please take the time to do so.

The newsgroup is bidirectionally gatewayed to and from the mailing list xemacs@xemacs.org. You can read the list instead of the newsgroup if you do not have convenient Usenet news access. To request to be added to the mailing list, send mail to xemacs-request@xemacs.org. (Do not send mail to the list itself.)

The XEmacs maintainers read the newsgroup regularly and will attempt to fix bugs reported in a timely fashion. However, not every message will get a response from one of the maintainers. Note that there are many people other than the maintainers who read the newsgroup, and will usually be of assistance in helping with any problems encountered.

If you need more personal assistance than can be provided by the newsgroup, look in the SERVICE file (see above) for a list of people who offer it.

For more information about XEmacs mailing lists, see the file /usr/local/lib/xemacs-$VERSION/etc/MAILINGLISTS.


XEmacs is free; anyone may redistribute copies of XEmacs to anyone under the terms stated in the XEmacs General Public License, a copy of which accompanies each copy of XEmacs and which also appears in the reference manual.

Copies of XEmacs may sometimes be received packaged with distributions of Unix systems, but it is never included in the scope of any license covering those systems. Such inclusion violates the terms on which distribution is permitted. In fact, the primary purpose of the General Public License is to prohibit anyone from attaching any other restrictions to redistribution of XEmacs.

See Also

X(1), xlsfonts(1), xterm(1), xrdb(1), emacs(1), vi(1)


XEmacs was written by Steve Baur <steve@xemacs.org>, Martin Buchholz <martin@xemacs.org>, Richard Mlynarik <mly@adoc.xerox.com>, Hrvoje Niksic <hniksic@xemacs.org>, Chuck Thompson <cthomp@xemacs.org>, Ben Wing <ben@xemacs.org>, Jamie Zawinski <jwz@jwz.org>, and many others. It was based on an early version of GNU Emacs Version 19, written by Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.org> of the Free Software Foundation, and has tracked subsequent releases of GNU Emacs as they have become available. It was originally written by Lucid, Inc. (now defunct) and was called Lucid Emacs.

Chuck Thompson wrote the XEmacs redisplay engine, maintains the XEmacs FTP and WWW sites, and has put out all releases of XEmacs since 19.11 (the first release called XEmacs). Ben Wing wrote the Asian-language support, the on-line documentation (including this man page and much of the FAQ), the external widget code, and retooled or rewrote most of the basic, low-level XEmacs subsystems. Jamie Zawinski put out all releases of Lucid Emacs, from the first (19.0) through the last (19.10), and was the primary code contributor for all of these releases. Richard Mlynarik rewrote the XEmacs Lisp-object allocation system, improved the keymap and minibuffer code, and did the initial synching of XEmacs with GNU Emacs Version 19.

Many others have also contributed significantly. For more detailed information, including a long history of XEmacs from multiple viewpoints and pretty pictures and bios of the major XEmacs contributors, see the XEmacs About Page (the About XEmacs option on the Help menu).

More Information

For more information about XEmacs, see the XEmacs About Page (mentioned above), look in the file /usr/local/lib/xemacs-$VERSION/etc/NEWS, or point your Web browser at


for up-to-the-minute information about XEmacs.

The XEmacs FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) can be found at the Web site just listed. A possibly out-of-date version is also accessible through the Info system inside of XEmacs.

The latest version of XEmacs can be downloaded using anonymous FTP from


or from a mirror site near you. Mirror sites are listed in the file etc/FTP in the XEmacs distribution or see the Web site for an up-to-date list of mirror sites.


Copyright (C) 2004 Shyamal Prasad
Copyright (C) 1998, 2000 Martin Buchholz
Copyright (C) 1998 Andreas Jaeger
Copyright (C) 1998 Michael Sperber
Copyright (C) 1997, 1998 SL Baur
Copyright (C) 1992-1997 Ben Wing

This file is part of XEmacs.

XEmacs is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

XEmacs is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with XEmacs. If not, see <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/>.

Referenced By

bgltags(1), clisp(1), gnuserv(1), lbdbq(1).

Explore man page connections for xemacs(1).

xemacs-nox(1) and xemacs-xft(1) are aliases of xemacs(1).