Q: How often/quickly is the official Emacs manual updated?

The release announcement of Emacs 24.4 has a blurb at the bottom stating that the FSF's official Emacs manual has been updated to correspond to version 24.2. It also notes that buying the manual is a good way to support the FSF's work.

Now, aside from donating, buying the paper copy of the manual seems like a decent way to support the FSF, even though it's possible to download a PDF copy for free.

Roughly speaking, how frequently is the manual updated (in terms of dates and/or Emacs versions)? I'd be happy to throw some money the FSF's way on this, but I'd be less happy if the manual were updated to, say, version 24.4 a month after I bought a copy of this version.

UPDATE: The plot thickens. The paper copy available from the FSF store corresponds to Emacs version 24.2. Yet there is also an updated PDF version of the manual that corresponds to Emacs version 24.4. (Oddly enough, it's about 40 pages shorter than the 24.2 version.)

  • 1
    A personal note: I bought a paper copy of the Emacs manual about 2-3 years ago. It corresponds to version 23.3, which feels ancient at this point... But I still use it regularly. Of course, it lacks information about the newest features, but at almost 700 pages it seems that there is always new stuff to discover. Also, I haven't really run into a situation where features I read about in the manual turned out to be missing from a newer version of Emacs. So I'd say, investing in a paper copy of the Emacs manual is money well spent, even if it targets a slightly older version of Emacs.
    – itsjeyd
    Commented Oct 21, 2014 at 22:02
  • Thanks for the thoughts -- again, it strikes me as a nice way to support the work the FSF is doing.
    – Dan
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 22:46

2 Answers 2


The Info (hypertext) manual that is distributed with Emacs and available from Emacs by C-h r is updated periodically by fixing doc bugs. It is also updated for each Emacs release, to be accurate with respect to changes in the program, including new features.

If you see something that needs to be improved, please file an enhancement request or bug report, using M-x report-emacs-bug.

(Non-Info versions of the manual are something else again. I don't have a good answer for your query about that. If you don't get a satisfactory answer here, try asking in a mail message to [email protected] or [email protected].)


In answer to the question of how often the paper copy of the manual is updated, the kind folks in the FSF sales department responded with the following (circa late-October 2014 for future reference; quoted with their permission):

Thank you for supporting the Free Software Foundation.

So, we usually order a new version of the Emacs manual when the older version sells out. Based on our inventory, I am not sure if the next version will be 24.4 or 24.5, but it will be another couple months at least. When we release a new version of the Emacs manual, we announce it in the Free Software Supporter and in the GNU Press mailing list. I am told that 24.2's documentation is almost entirely compatible. Thank you!

In a follow-up email, they reported:

I looked back at my documentation, and it seems we release a new edition every couple years.

TL;DR: They update the paper manual when they sell out of the old copy, which for the jump from 24.2 will be at least a couple of months.

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