I am new to emacs. I'm trying to use cask to manage emacs packages.

This is my ~/.emacs.d/init.el:

(require 'cask "~/etsi/cask/cask.el")
(cask-initialize "~/etsi")

(require 'evil)
(evil-mode 1)

~/etsi/Cask file:

(source "melpa" "http://melpa.milkbox.net/packages/")
(source "gnu" "http://elpa.gnu.org/packages/")

(depends-on "evil")

However, it does not seem to work. For example, whenever I open a file, there seems to be no evil mode. (Yes I add cask binary to $PATH and ran cask install.)

Looking at other people's publicly available dotfiles, I see they use Cask too and do the same or similar things, so I'm not sure what I did wrong.

I also tried the following for ~/.emacs.d/init.el:

(require 'package)
(require 'cask "~/etsi/cask/cask.el")
(cask-initialize "~/etsi")

(require 'evil)
(evil-mode 1)

which also does not work.


Because I am new to emacs, perhaps I'm doing it wrong, and explaining what exactly I'm trying to achieve might bring forward a more straightforward solution.

Instead of manually M-x package-install RET <package-name> RET for each and every package, I want to simply put a list of them somewhere (in a text file), and have something automatically install them all (and take care of initalization). This is because I want to replicate my emacs setup across multiple machines, and obviously doing M-x package-install RET <package-name> RET for each package on each machine is not desirable.

I thought cask was the correct tool for this, since you can have a Cask file to list your packages. And just use the cask install command to install them. When I ran cask install, it did download and "install" (to .cask directory) evil and its dependencies. But emacs does not seem to load it?

I also tried (add-to-list 'load-path (cask-load-path ((cask-initialize "~/etsi")))) instead of (cask-initialize "~/etsi"), but that did not work either.

Is el-get the right tool for the job instead? Reading the introductory documentation, it wasn't clear that it was, hence why I chose clask, because their documentation specifically said "If you are using Cask for your Emacs configuration [...]".

Edit: Maybe I'm checking for evil mode wrong? Is there a reliable way to check for the existence of a package, i.e. whether or not it has been loaded? I'm checking for evil by just pressing j, or searching for evil mode help with C-h evil.

  • 1
    Why do you think you need cask? The default package manager is shorter and simpler. I use only the cask shell script for testing.
    – abo-abo
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 14:18
  • 1
    Because of what I said under the why section? Can I do it with the default package manager? If so, how?
    – vyp
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 14:25
  • 2
    I believe that most people have their Cask file within their .emacs.d folder vs. an external folder. Did you give it a shot? If that doesn't work, I believe that it's worth creating a Github issue for your problem? I've never used cask-initialize with arguments.
    – rimero
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 18:07
  • 1
    Do you see an error message when starting Emacs?
    – user227
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 19:15
  • 2
    Okay figured it out, ~/.emacs and ~/.emacs.d/init.el (or I guess any other startup file) are mutually exclusive. I had one line .emacs file. I thought there was a load order or something. i.e. init.el loads before .emacs. For anyone reading in the future, solved by removing ~/.emacs file (or transferring the contents of that too init.el and then deleting).
    – vyp
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 8:07

1 Answer 1


Here's how I do it: packages.el.

Cite some code, it's nothing too complex:

;; install required
(dolist (package ora-packages)
  (unless (package-installed-p package)
    (package-install package)))
;; upgrade installed
  (package-list-packages t)
  (condition-case nil
      (package-menu-execute t)

And how to use it:

emacs -batch -l packages.el

That's it, after this single shell command all packages from the ora-packages variable will be installed/upgraded.

I have this tied into my Emacs startup, if I want to start Emacs with an upgrade, I type make up. To start without an upgrade, I type make run.

  • I've seen something like this here and here, but can this be used to install specific versions/hashes? Does ELPA even support installing specific revisions?
    – vyp
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 15:04
  • 1
    Specific revisions aren't supported. I don't miss them too much. If you look at my config, I'm using git submodules for that sort of stuff.
    – abo-abo
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 15:24
  • I see, I will have to "fallback" anyway to using package.el, but would you know why cask does not seem to work here still? (Say I want to use it for package development or something later.)
    – vyp
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 15:35
  • 1
    For package development, I only use the cask python script. I never actually install cask into Emacs.
    – abo-abo
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 15:59
  • Okay cool. :) I will wait to see if anyone else answers, or if I can figure out it myself, or figure out something else. Otherwise I'll accept your answer.
    – vyp
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 16:01

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