I'm interested in naming Emacs buffers. In particular I'd like to give names to shell buffers that I've started. That way I can easily tell them apart when switching buffers.

  • What about using the current directory of the shell?
    – choroba
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 7:54
  • 5
    I would normally call C-u M-x shell - in this way Emacs offers to name the buffer it creates. But if I forget, there's always the M-x rename-buffer. Or are you asking for an advise on what that name should be?
    – wvxvw
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 8:59
  • 1
    @wvxvw: Please consider posting that as an answer.
    – Drew
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 14:03
  • 1
    FWIW, I bind rename-buffer to a key (and I use it fairly often).
    – Drew
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 14:04
  • @Drew I'm not sure if OP wants the technical "how to rename shell buffer" answer, or "what should I name shell buffer to make it unique / meaningfull" kind of answer (eg. Emacs will append <...> to buffer names if both are visiting a file with the same name based on some quite complex heuristic). In the later case, I don't quite have a good answer, but one possibility would be to update the name of the buffer using some meaningful part of the shell command ran in that buffer.
    – wvxvw
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 15:15

3 Answers 3


Go to the buffer you want to rename, in your case *shell*. Then type M-x rename-buffer and enter the new name for this buffer.


If you use Helm. Just press M-R in helm buffer list.

It calls helm-buffer-run-rename-buffer which will call emacs rename-buffer function.


Add a function to your init.el, and create a keybinding:

(defun unique-shell ()
  (call-interactively 'shell)

(global-set-key "\C-z" 'unique-shell)

Now every time you press ctrl+z, it will launch a shell with a new name.

  • I suppose (add-hook 'shell-mode-hook 'rename-uniquely) would work too.
    – jagrg
    Commented May 20, 2020 at 19:10
  • Wouldn't the (interactive) line already handle the (call-interactively...) part, or do these do something different?
    – DLAN
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 17:59
  • You need the interactive call to use the optional argument (e.g. C-u M-x unique-shell). I was also getting an error from (advice-add 'shell :after (lambda (_)...), but I see the argument is optional so I probably should've used (advice-add 'shell :after (lambda (&optional _)...).
    – jagrg
    Commented May 23, 2020 at 18:37

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