Whenever I issue $ emacs, I am greeted by the startup screen. I like this.

However, when I issue $ emacs foo.txt, emacs opens foo.txt and the startup screen in a split screen. I do not like this.

Is it possible to disable the startup screen only when emacs is used to open a file?

I am not asking whether or not I can disable the startup screen (this is addressed here)

  • The problem with trying to fiddle with startup.el is that the code is baked into the Emacs executable. It may be possible to catch a function in the startup process and redefine it, but it may also not be possible. This is why I build my own Emacs and have my own startup.el so that I can control exactly how and when things happen when starting Emacs. It would be easier to just close the Welcome window after calling emacs foo.txt with the after-init-hook or the emacs-startup-hook, or putting the delete-other-windows at the tail end of the .emacs file.
    – lawlist
    May 18, 2017 at 3:35
  • I assumed this would be possible, since this is exactly how $ emacs -nw foo.txt behaves. May 18, 2017 at 4:55

1 Answer 1


One possible approach is to exploit the hooks command-line-functions, which are called with variable argi dynamically bound to any unrecognised command-line options. The following are some of the many possible options; you can of course implement any logic you like.

The calls to ignore (always returning nil) indicate that our custom hooks have not "processed" the corresponding command-line argument. That is, we only want to effect a state change in the presence of unrecognised command-line arguments, not handle them manually.

Option 1

Assume all unrecognised options are files worthy of inhibiting the startup screen for. This option probably corresponds the most to what the default startup procedure is like.

(defun my-inhibit-startup-screen-always ()
  "Startup screen inhibitor for `command-line-functions`.
Inhibits startup screen on the first unrecognised option."
  (ignore (setq inhibit-startup-screen t)))

(add-hook 'command-line-functions #'my-inhibit-startup-screen-always)

Option 2

Only inhibit startup screen when existing files are passed as arguments.

(defun my-inhibit-startup-screen-file ()
  "Startup screen inhibitor for `command-line-functions`.
Inhibits startup screen on the first unrecognised option which
names an existing file."
   (setq inhibit-startup-screen
          (expand-file-name argi command-line-default-directory)))))

(add-hook 'command-line-functions #'my-inhibit-startup-screen-file)

Option 3

Only inhibit startup screen when an unrecognised option has a file extension.

(defun my-inhibit-startup-screen-ext ()
  "Startup screen inhibitor for `command-line-functions`.
Inhibits startup screen on the first unrecognised option which
has a file name extension."
  (ignore (setq inhibit-startup-screen (file-name-extension argi))))

(add-hook 'command-line-functions #'my-inhibit-startup-screen-ext)
  • 1
    Very cool! Option 2 is now in my .emacs. May 18, 2017 at 17:55
  • 1
    @BrianFitzpatrick I just read the documentation for the customisable variable initial-buffer-choice and it relates to this startup procedure; I recommend you have a look.
    – Basil
    May 21, 2017 at 9:02
  • None of the above options in the "accepted" solution work for me using GNU Emacs 27.0.50 (2019 Jan) on Mac OS. A solution that works is the one offered here, where this command is to be added to the init.el file in the ~/.emacs.d directory: (setq inhibit-startup-screen t) Jan 14, 2019 at 17:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.