I've normally used
~/.emacs for my config file, but I've noticed others using
~/.emacs.d/init.el. Are there advantages to the
init.el location? Any disadvantages?
I've normally used
Yes, there are. Quoting lunaryorn on Reddit:
It keeps the
$HOMEdirectory uncluttered, because all of Emacs' files are neatly contained in a single directory. For the same reason, all modern Emacs packages write their caches, histories, etc. into
It makes version control easier, especially if you split your init.el into different files in
~/.emacs.d. You can just commit
init.ellike every other file, and
git clone /my/emacs/config.git ~/.emacs.don a new system gives you all of your Emacs configuration, without having to link a file into
4How does it make version control easier? You can split your init file without using
.emacs.d. Sep 23, 2014 at 19:01
4It doesn't make version control easier if you only have .emacs file, but if you have other emacs files in .emacs.d, it does. For example
customsaves files into .emacs.d and if you keep init.el in their all of your version controlled emacs files are in one directory. Sep 23, 2014 at 19:38
4By versioning your .emacs.d/ directory completely, you can also keep under version control the packages you install via packages.el (ELPA, MELPA…). This make easier to share your configuration between multiple computers and to find where a regression was introduced in your configuration (you track your dependencies). The bad side is that it makes a pretty heavy repository.– tuxellaSep 23, 2014 at 20:40
13Version control systems don't version just one file -- they want to version a folder. So you version
~/, and add just your
.emacs. But now, you have to make sure you don't commit any other files, so you .hgignore or .gitignore every other file in
~/. But now you can't track any other files in
~/.bash_aliases.– zckSep 23, 2014 at 21:38
1Related: github.com/RichiH/vcsh– wcharginJan 5, 2016 at 5:40
One additional advantage: if everything is in
.emacs.d, you can keep your Emacs configuration on Dropbox (or an alternative) and symlink the whole configuration to your home directory. That makes syncing across computers trivial.
If all you need to set up Emacs the way you like is an init file, it doesn't make a difference if it's
~/.emacs.d/init.el. But it makes sense to create a directory the moment you start splitting your init file, or adding Emacs-related configs, a Cask file for example. Also, it's the place where you'll save the file with abbrev definitions, the file for custom options (
M-x customize), etc.
Keep everything neatly tucked in
Emacs 27 will introduce a new initialisation file
user-emacs-directory, namely at
~/.emacs.d/early-init.el. So a further benefit to using
~/.emacs.d/init.el instead of
user-init-file is that the former will place both initialisation files under the same roof, for consistency.
Until Emacs 27 is released, you can find the documentation for this new feature in the following files of the Emacs source tree:
(emacs) Early Init File
Not sure if this really makes a difference in terms of speed, but you can byte-compile your setup more easily if your configuration is in
~/.emacs.elis also a valid init filename. Jan 24, 2018 at 12:01
Emacs manual: Byte-compiling your init file is not recommended. It generally does not speed up startup very much, and often leads to problems when you forget to recompile the file. A better solution is to use the Emacs server to reduce the number of times you have to start Emacs (see Emacs Server). Nov 28, 2019 at 13:08
~/.emacs.d/init.el and just symlink that file to
~/.emacs, just in case some other programs / plugins expect to find .emacs.
On a macOS or GNU/Linux system, the command would be:
ln -s ~/.emacs.d/init.el ~/.emacs
This way you get all the benefits of VC of your
~/emacs.d directory structure and you'll be able to use a shorter name when you need to edit the init.el file through
~/.emacs instead of typing
What are these mysterious "other programs / plugins" which "expect to find .emacs" ? I don't think that's a real concern. Sep 16, 2019 at 21:53
1One example could be Quicklisp, if you do a (ql:add-to-init-file) it defaults to ~/.emacs Sep 16, 2019 at 22:47
2How curious. I would say that any such cases would warrant bug reports -- Emacs has supported a variety of init file names for an extremely long time, and the priority sequence is clearly documented, so there's no good reason for other programs not to be getting that right. I wasn't anticipating an actual example at all, though :) Cheers. Sep 17, 2019 at 0:27
user-init-file. This will be
.emacsif you already had a
init.elif you used that instead.
~/.emacs.d/init.elneglecting the disadvantages. I'll answer that part: it has no disadvantages at all!
~/.emacs.d/. IIUC, if the former exists, the latter will not be looked at.
(info "(emacs) Find Init")says "
~/.emacsare always preferred if they exist, which means that you must delete or rename them in order to use the XDG location".