I have a program which can run as a command in bash.

Can I run the program in emacs, in some way similar to run emacs' command (i.e.M-x , e.g. M-x occur), instead of first explicitly running a shell in a buffer of emacs and then running the program in the shell?



M-! runs the command shell-command. This will prompt you for the actual command to run in the minibuffer, which then runs. You can run it in the background by putting a & at the end, just as you would in a terminal. alternatively, you can use M-&, async-shell-command.

The output from the shell command will be placed in a temporary buffer. If you want it inserted in the current buffer, use a prefix argument. (i.e., C-u M-!.

A very useful related function is shell-command-on-region, bound to M-| by default. This will run a shell command on the contents of the region. The output will go in a temporary buffer, or, as with M-!, if you use a prefix argument the selected region will be replaced by the output of the shell command.

See (emacs) Single Shell in the manual for more details.

  • @p_wiersig I rejected your edit because I don't fully understand how Compile mode works in this context. With more details, and/or an example, it is probably worth making a separate answer for that!
    – Tyler
    Apr 12 '16 at 20:37

As mentioned in another answer, shell-command and async-shell-command are the generic way to go.

However, there are also a few tools that can be better in specific contexts.


This one will give you a completion similar to your DE's start menu, allowing to start a usually graphical application, provided it has a configured *.desktop file.

Available from the counsel package on MELPA and here.


If you have a complicated recipe for transforming a file or a set of files into other files, make-it-so might be useful for you. It's on MELPA as well.

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