I know how to display line numbers (and columns) in the mode-line, but I'd like emacs to display the line numbers for all the lines on the left-hand side. I've seen this done in vim and other text editors. How do I do this for emacs?


9 Answers 9


For Emacs version >= 26 you should use display-line-numbers-mode or global-display-line-numbers-mode.

You can run the command with M-xdisplay-line-numbers-modeRET or M-xglobal-display-line-numbers-modeRET to try it.

Another good idea is to use (add-hook 'prog-mode-hook 'display-line-numbers-mode) in your init.el to automatically enable that mode in all programming modes.

See EmacsWiki

  • 3
    You might also find (global-display-line-numbers-mode) useful. Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 13:15
  • I'm not sure what init.el is, but I assume you can add that to your ~/.emacs file Commented Aug 13, 2022 at 10:38

M-x linum-mode will do the trick. If you wish to effect this for all buffers, then M-x global-linum-mode will do this.

  • Do you know a way I can make this permanent? Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 22:09
  • 2
    (per the suggestion of nispio and mgoszcz2) addition of (global-linum-mode) to your .emacs.d/init.el file will make it permanent. I find global-linum-mode to be a bit excessive, and mgoszcz2's suggestion for enabling it only in certain modes is a good one.
    – Eric Brown
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 22:24

If you are using Emacs 26 or newer, you can use display-line-numbers-mode.

from etc/NEWS.26:

** Emacs now supports optional display of line numbers in the buffer. This is similar to what 'linum-mode' provides, but much faster and doesn't usurp the display margin for the line numbers. Customize the buffer-local variable 'display-line-numbers' to activate this optional display. Alternatively, you can use the 'display-line-numbers-mode' minor mode or the global 'global-display-line-numbers-mode'. When using these modes, customize 'display-line-numbers-type' with the same value as you would use with 'display-line-numbers'.

  • 3
    I like it so much, but my muscle memory still goes M-x linum-mode - so I did (advice-add 'linum-mode :override 'display-line-numbers-mode). Commented Jun 21, 2021 at 22:10

nlinum-mode is another option. It has the same interface as linum-mode, so you can use the same hooks, but it uses a different technology to be more performant. Quote from nlinum.el:

;; This is like linum-mode, but uses jit-lock to be (hopefully) more efficient.

You can install it via GNU Elpa via the usual list-packages.



Certainly linum-mode is a good choice. If you don't always want to see line numbers, like me, you can use this trick from the excellent What the .emacs.d!? blog.

This temporarily enables linum-mode when you run goto-line.

Here's the code from his blog:

(global-set-key [remap goto-line] 'goto-line-with-feedback)

(defun goto-line-with-feedback ()   "Show line numbers temporarily, while prompting for the line number input"   (interactive)   (unwind-protect
        (linum-mode 1)
        (goto-line (read-number "Goto line: ")))
    (linum-mode -1)))

This is what my teacher tells us to set line-display-mode always on. Add this in your .emacs file.

(add-hook 'c++-mode-hook 'display-line-numbers-mode)
(add-hook 'c-mode-hook 'display-line-numbers-mode)
(setq linum-format "%3d ")

OTTO: Professor William Knottenbelt


Press M-x and type just linum (or even linu will work), then press Enter to automatically execute linum-mode. No need to type the longer linum-mode.

Also, usually you just want to go to one chosen line of interest because of an error message. Then press M-x, type goto-line, press Enter and type the line of choice.


A better way may be is to use prog-mode as a whole instead of doing for all programming language.

(add-hook 'prog-mode-hook 'display-line-numbers-mode)

Though it doesn't work for mode other than programming langauges. But it is what i need.


To have it always enabled by default in Emacs 26+


;; Display line numbers
(global-display-line-numbers-mode 1)
  • Welcome! I think this point is already covered by the previous answers.
    – Dan
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 3:08
  • @Dan They mention what can be used but it is not as clear as my answer.
    – rbento
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 5:10

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