Prelude is an enhanced Emacs 24 distribution that should make your experience with Emacs both more pleasant and more powerful.

License GPL 3 Gratipay Team

Emacs Prelude

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Prelude is an Emacs distribution that aims to enhance the default Emacs experience. Prelude alters a lot of the default settings, bundles a plethora of additional packages and adds its own core library to the mix. The final product offers an easy to use Emacs configuration for Emacs newcomers and lots of additional power for Emacs power users.

Prelude is compatible ONLY with GNU Emacs 24.4+. In general you’re advised to always run Prelude with the latest Emacs - currently 24.5.

You can support the development of Prelude via Salt and Gratipay.

Support via Gratipay

Table of Contents

Fast Forward

Assuming you’re using an Unix-like OS (*BSD, GNU/Linux, OS X, Solaris, etc), you already have Emacs 24 installed, as well as git & curl you can skip the whole manual and just type in your favorite shell the following command:

curl -L | sh

You can now power up your Emacs, sit back and enjoy Prelude, forgetting about the rest of this manual.

There are two environment variables you can use to control the source repository and the installation directory. To change the installation directory:

export PRELUDE_INSTALL_DIR="$HOME/.emacs.d" && curl -L | sh

To change the source repository:

export PRELUDE_URL="" && curl -L | sh

Note that the installer will back up any existing .emacs file or .emacs.d since it will unpack Prelude’s code in .emacs.d. If you’re doing a manual install make sure you don’t have a .emacs file or back up your existing .emacs.d directory manually.

Don’t forget to adjust your prelude-modules.el file once the installation is done. By default most of the modules that ship with Prelude are not loaded.

Installing Emacs 24

Obviously to use the Emacs Prelude you have to install Emacs 24 first. Have a look at the WikEmacs articles on installing Emacs.



You can install Emacs Prelude via the command line with either curl or wget. Naturally git is also required.

Via Curl

If you’re using curl type the following command:

curl -L | sh

Via Wget

If you’re using wget type:

wget --no-check-certificate -O - | sh


git clone git:// path/to/local/repo
ln -s path/to/local/repo ~/.emacs.d
cd ~/.emacs.d

If you are using Windows, you should check what Emacs thinks the ~ directory is by running Emacs and typing C-x d ~/<RET>, and then adjust the command appropriately.

Updating Prelude

Manual update

The update procedure is fairly straightforward and consists of 3 steps:

Update all bundled packages

Just run M-x package-list-packages RET U x.

Update Prelude’s code

cd path/to/prelude/installation
git pull

The path/to/prelude/installation is usually ~/.emacs.d (at least on Unix systems).

Restart Prelude

It’s generally a good idea to stop Emacs after you do the update. The next time Prelude starts it will install any new dependencies (if there are such).

Automatic update

Simply run M-x prelude-update from Emacs itself and restart Emacs afterwards.

Enabling additional modules

By default most of the modules that ship with Prelude are not loaded. For more information on the functionality provided by these modules visit the docs.

;;; Uncomment the modules you'd like to use and restart Prelude afterwards

(require 'prelude-c)
;; (require 'prelude-clojure)
;; (require 'prelude-coffee)
;; (require 'prelude-common-lisp)
;; (require 'prelude-css)
(require 'prelude-emacs-lisp)
(require 'prelude-erc)
;; (require 'prelude-erlang)
;; (require 'prelude-elixir)
;; (require 'prelude-haskell)
(require 'prelude-js)
;; (require 'prelude-latex)
(require 'prelude-lisp)
;; (require 'prelude-mediawiki)
(require 'prelude-org)
(require 'prelude-perl)
;; (require 'prelude-python)
;; (require 'prelude-ruby)
;; (require 'prelude-scala)
(require 'prelude-scheme)
;; (require 'prelude-scss)
;; (require 'prelude-web)
(require 'prelude-xml)

You’ll need to adjust your prelude-modules.el file once the installation is done. If you are doing a manual install then you first need to copy the prelude-modules.el available in the sample directory to the root of path/to/prelude/installation and then adjust that one.

After you’ve uncommented a module you should either restart Emacs or evaluate the module require expression with C-x C-e.


Nothing fancy here. Just start Emacs as usual. Personally I run Emacs in daemon mode:

emacs --daemon

Afterwards I connect to the server with either a terminal or a GUI client like this:

emacsclient -t
emacsclient -c

You’d probably do well to put a few aliases in your .zshrc (or .bashrc):

alias e='emacsclient -t'
alias ec='emacsclient -c'
alias vim='emacsclient -t'
alias vi='emacsclient -t'

The last two aliases are helpful if you’re used to editing files from the command line using vi(m).

Also you can open a file with cursor on choosen line:

emacsclient somefile:1234

This will open file ‘somefile’ and set cursor on line 1234.

Getting to know Prelude

Certainly the best way to understand how Prelude enhances the default Emacs experience is to peruse Prelude’s source code (which is obviously written in Emacs Lisp). Understanding the code is not necessary of course. Prelude includes a prelude-mode minor Emacs mode which collects some of the additional functionality added by Prelude. It also adds an additional keymap that binds many of those extensions to keybindings.



Keybinding Description
C-x \ align-regexp
C-+ Increase font size(text-scale-increase).
C– Decrease font size(text-scale-decrease).
C-x O Go back to previous window (the inverse of other-window (C-x o)).
C-^ Join two lines into one(crux-top-join-line).
C-x p Start proced (manage processes from Emacs; works only in Linux).
C-x m Start eshell.
C-x M-m Start your default shell.
C-x C-m Alias for M-x.
M-X Like M-x but limited to commands that are relevant to the active major mode.
C-h A Run apropos (search in all Emacs symbols).
C-h C-m Display key bindings of current major mode and descriptions of every binding.
M-/ Run hippie-expand (a replacement for the default dabbrev-expand).
C-x C-b Open ibuffer (a replacement for the default buffer-list).
F11 Make the window full screen.
F12 Toggle the Emacs menu bar.
C-x g Open Magit’s status buffer.
C-x M-g Open Magit’s popup of popups.
M-Z Zap up to char.
C-= Run expand-region (incremental text selection).
C-a Run crux-move-beginning-of-line. Read this for details.

Prelude Mode

Keybinding Description
C-c o Open the currently visited file with an external program.
C-c i Search for a symbol, only for buffers that contain code
C-c g Search in Google for the thing under point (or an interactive query).
C-c G Search in GitHub for the thing under point (or an interactive query).
C-c y Search in YouTube for the thing under point (or an interactive query).
C-c U Search in Duckduckgo for the thing under point (or an interactive query).
C-S-RET or Super-o Insert an empty line above the current line and indent it properly.
S-RET or M-o Insert an empty line and indent it properly (as in most IDEs).
C-S-up or M-S-up Move the current line or region up.
C-S-down or M-S-down Move the current line or region down.
C-c n Fix indentation in buffer and strip whitespace.
C-c f Open recently visited file.
C-M-\ Indent region (if selected) or the entire buffer.
C-c u Open a new buffer containing the contents of URL.
C-c e Eval a bit of Emacs Lisp code and replace it with its result.
C-c s Swap two active windows.
C-c D Delete current file and buffer.
C-c d Duplicate the current line (or region).
C-c M-d Duplicate and comment the current line (or region).
C-c r Rename the current buffer and its visiting file if any.
C-c t Open a terminal emulator (ansi-term).
C-c k Kill all open buffers except the one you’re currently in.
C-c TAB Indent and copy region to clipboard
C-c I Open user’s init file.
C-c S Open shell’s init file.
C-c . + Increment integer at point. Default is +1.
C-c . - Decrement integer at point. Default is -1.
C-c . * Multiply integer at point. Default is *2.
C-c . / Divide integer at point. Default is /2.
C-c . \ Modulo integer at point. Default is modulo 2.
C-c . ^ Power to the integer at point. Default is ^2.
C-c . < Left-shift integer at point. Default is 1 position to the left.
C-c . > Right-shift integer at point. Default is 1 position to the right.
C-c . # Convert integer at point to specified base. Default is 10.
C-c . % Replace integer at point with another specified integer.
C-c . ‘ Perform arithmetic operations on integer at point. User specifies the operator.
Super-g Toggle between God mode and non-God mode
Super-r Recent files
Super-j Join lines
Super-k Kill whole line
Super-m m Magit status
Super-m l Magit log
Super-m f Magit file log
Super-m b Magit blame mode

Note: For various arithmetic operations, the prefix C-c . only needs to be pressed once for the first operation. For subsequent operations, only the appropriate operations (i.e. +, -, *, /… needs to be pressed).

OSX modifier keys

Prelude does not mess by default with the standard mapping of Command (to Super) and Option (to Meta).

If you want to swap them add this to your personal config:

(setq mac-command-modifier 'meta)
(setq mac-option-modifier 'super)

You can also temporarily swap them with C-c w (M-x prelude-swap-meta-and-super).


Here’s a list of functionality provided by Projectile:

Keybinding Description
C-c p f Display a list of all files in the project. With a prefix argument it will clear the cache first.
C-c p d Display a list of all directories in the project. With a prefix argument it will clear the cache first.
C-c p T Display a list of all test files(specs, features, etc) in the project.
C-c p s g Run grep on the files in the project.
M– C-c p s g Run grep on projectile-grep-default-files in the project.
C-c p b Display a list of all project buffers currently open.
C-c p o Runs multi-occur on all project buffers currently open.
C-c p r Runs interactive query-replace on all files in the projects.
C-c p i Invalidates the project cache (if existing).
C-c p R Regenerates the projects TAGS file.
C-c p k Kills all project buffers.
C-c p D Opens the root of the project in dired.
C-c p e Shows a list of recently visited project files.
C-c p s a Runs ack on the project. Requires the presence of ack-and-a-half.
C-c p s s Runs ag on the project. Requires the presence of ag.el.
C-c p a Switch between files with the same name but different extensions.
C-c p c Runs a standard compilation command for your type of project.
C-c p P Runs a standard test command for your type of project.
C-c p z Adds the currently visited to the cache.
C-c p p Display a list of known projects you can switch to.

Prelude adds an extra keymap prefix S-p (S stands for Super), so you can use S-p instead of C-c p.

If you ever forget any of Projectile’s keybindings just do a:

C-c p C-h


Helm is setup according to this guide: A Package in a league of its own: Helm.

You can learn Helm usage and key bindings following the guide. C-c h is Prelude’s default prefix key for Helm. If you don’t remember any key binding, append C-h after C-c h for a list of key bindings in Helm.

If you love Helm and want to use Helm globally with enhanced helm-find-files, helm-buffer-lists…, you will have to also add (require 'prelude-helm-everywhere). When prelude-helm-everywhere is activated, Helm enables these global key bindings:

Key binding Description
M-x Run helm-M-x, an interactive version of M-x.
M-y Run helm-show-kill-ring, shows the content of kill-ring.
C-x b Run helm-mini, an interactive version of C-x b with more features.
C-x C-f Run helm-find-files, an interactive version of find-file with more features.
C-h f Run helm-apropos, an interactive version of apropos-command.
C-h r Run helm-info-emacs, an interactive version of info-emacs-manual.
C-h C-l Run helm-locate-library that can search for locations of any file loaded into Emacs.

This key binding is activated in shell-mode:

Key Binding Description
C-c C-l Run helm-comint-input-ring that shows shell history using Helm interface.

This key bindings is activated in eshell-mode:

Key Binding Description
C-c C-l Run helm-eshell-history that shows eshell history using Helm interface.

If you prefer Ido in everywhere, you should not add prelude-helm-everywhere, so you can use Helm along with Ido and Prelude’s default commands.

You can always reactivate Helm with (prelude-global-helm-global-mode-on).

NOTICE: In helm-M-x, you have to pass prefix argument AFTER you run helm-M-x, because your prefix argument will be displayed in the modeline when in helm-M-x buffer. Passing prefix argument BEFORE =helm-M-x= has no effect.


Key-chords are available only when the prelude-key-chord module has been enabled.

Keybinding Description
jj Jump to the beginning of a word(avy-goto-word-1)
jk Jump to a character(avy-goto-char)
jl Jump to the beginning of a line(avy-goto-line)
JJ Jump back to previous buffer(crux-switch-to-previous-buffer)
uu View edits as a tree(undo-tree-visualize)
xx Executed extended command(execute-extended-command)
yy Browse the kill ring(browse-kill-ring)
Disabling key-chords

In some cases you may not want to have a key-chord that is defined by prelude, in which case you can disable the binding in your personal.el file by setting its command to nil. For example, to disable the jj key-chord add the following line:

(key-chord-define-global "jj" nil)

If you’re an evil-mode user you’ll probably do well to disable key-chord-mode altogether:

(key-chord-mode -1)

vim emulation

If you want to use vim inside of emacs enable the prelude-evil module which provides support for evil-mode.

Automatic package installation

The default Prelude installation comes with a bare minimum of functionality. It will however install add-ons for various programming languages and frameworks on demand. For instance - if you try to open a .clj file clojure-mode, cider and Prelude’s enhanced Lisp configuration will be installed automatically for you.

You can, of course, install anything you wish manually as well.

Color Themes

Emacs 24 ships with a new theming facility that effectively renders the old color-theme package obsolete. Emacs 24 provides a dozen of built-in themes you can use out-of-the-box by invoking the M-x load-theme command.

Zenburn is the default color theme in Prelude, but you can change it at your discretion. Why Zenburn? I (and lots of hackers around the world) find it pretty neat for some reason. Personally I find the default theme pretty tiresome for the eyes, that’s why I took that “controversial” decision to replace it. You can, of course, easily go back to the default (or select another theme entirely).

To disable Zenburn just put in your personal config the following line:

(disable-theme 'zenburn)

Or you can use another theme altogether by adding something in personal/preload like:

(setq prelude-theme 'solarized-dark)

P.S. Solarized is not available by default - you’ll have to install it from MELPA first (M-x package-install RET solarized-theme).

Finally, if you don’t want any theme at all, you can add this to your personal/preload:

(setq prelude-theme nil)


Fork the official Prelude repo and add your own touch to it. You’re advised to avoid changing stuff outside of the personal folder to avoid having to deal with git merge conflicts in the future.

If you’d like to add some auto installation of packages in your personal config use the following code:

(prelude-require-packages '(some-package some-other-package))

If you require just a single package you can also use:

(prelude-require-package 'some-package)

Preloading personal config

Sometimes you might want to load code before Prelude has started loading. Prelude will automatically preload all Emacs Lisp files in your personal/preload directory. Note that at this point you can’t using anything from Prelude, except a few variables like prelude-dir, etc (since nothing is yet loaded).

Disabling whitespace-mode

Although whitespace-mode is awesome some people might find it too intrusive. You can disable it in your personal config with the following bit of code:

(setq prelude-whitespace nil)

If you like whitespace-mode but prefer it to not automatically cleanup your file on save, you can disable that behavior by setting prelude-clean-whitespace-on-save to nil in your config file with:

(setq prelude-clean-whitespace-on-save nil)

The prelude-clean-whitespace-on-save setting can also be set on a per-file or directory basis by using a file variable or a .dir-locals.el file.

Disable flyspell-mode

If you’re not fond of spellchecking on the fly:

(setq prelude-flyspell nil)

Caveats & Pitfalls

Updating bundled packages

Generally it’s a good idea to do a package update before running updating Prelude, since the latest Prelude code might depend on newer versions of the bundled packages than you would currently have installed.

If you’re doing manual Prelude updates you should always do a package update first.

M-x package-list-packages RET U x

That’s not necessary if you’re using M-x prelude-update, since it will automatically update the installed packages.

Problems with flyspell-mode

Prelude makes heavy use of the flyspell-mode package for spell checking of various things. The proper operation of flyspell depends on the presence of the aspell program and an en dictionary on your system. You can install aspell and the dictionary on OS X with homebrew like this:

brew install aspell --with-lang=en

On Linux distros - just use your distro’s package manager.

Ugly colors in the terminal Emacs version

If your Emacs looks considerably uglier in a terminal (compared to the GUI version) try adding this to your .bashrc or .zshrc:

export TERM=xterm-256color

Source the .bashrc file and start Emacs again.

MELPA error on initial startup

If you get some http connection error related to the MELPA repo just do a manual M-x package-refresh-contents and restart Emacs afterwards.

Warnings on arrow navigation in editor buffers

This is not a bug - it’s a feature! I firmly believe that the one true way to use Emacs is by using it the way it was intended to be used (as far as navigation is concerned at least).

If you’d like to be take this a step further and disable the arrow key navigation completely put this in your personal config:

(setq guru-warn-only nil)

To disable guru-mode completely add the following snippet to your personal Emacs config:

(setq prelude-guru nil)

Customized C-a behavior

Prelude overrides C-a to behave as described here. If you don’t like that simply add this to your personal config:

(global-set-key [remap move-beginning-of-line]

Poor ido matching performance on large datasets

Prelude swaps the default ido flex matching with the more powerful ido-flx.

The sorting algorithm flx uses is more complex, but yields better results.

On slower machines, it may be necessary to lower flx-ido-threshold to ensure a smooth experience.

(setq flx-ido-threshold 1000)

You can always disable the improved sorting algorithm all together like this:

(flx-ido-mode -1)

Windows compatibility

While everything in Prelude should work fine in Windows, I test it only with Linux & OSX, so there are Windows related problems from time to time. This situation will probably improve over time.

Known issues

Check out the project’s issue list a list of unresolved issues. By the way - feel free to fix any of them and send me a pull request. :-)


Support is available via the Prelude Google Group [email protected].

There’s also a Freenode channel you can visit - #prelude-emacs.


Here’s a list of all the people who have contributed to the development of Emacs Prelude.

Bugs & Improvements

Bug reports and suggestions for improvements are always welcome. GitHub pull requests are even better! :-)


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