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I use precompiled Emacs binaries (24.3) right now. AFAIK, v24.4 is already available as binaries, so there is no incentive for me to compile Emacs myself to stay current. I'm thinking, however, whether there are not other advantages of building Emacs myself, especially in terms of performance and/or learning (i.e., the possibility of inspecting C source code easily).

So: what do I gain if I compile Emacs myself?

  • 1
    The last step I do when building is copy over portions of the source code (i.e., src folder) so that I can find function or find variable. The variable find-function-C-source-directory lets me set the location of the copied src folder for purposes of searching. You could download the source and copy it over to a pre-built Emacs if you would prefer not building, or save it / copy it to anywhere on your hard drive for that matter. – lawlist Nov 8 '14 at 16:13
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  • Deploy different versions of Emacs at the same machine (for Emacs plugin development)
  • If your OS is too old and you are not a super user, install the latest stable Emacs at your $HOME is the only solution.

There is no performance advantage if you compile it by yourself.

  • Thanks! Re: performance: not using GTK+ on an old netbook really won't make any difference? – mbork Nov 8 '14 at 10:37
  • well, I cannot answer your question. basically I ONLY use Emacs in terminal, so I don't know whether GUI Emacs is more laggy or not. I have no problem to use emacs 24.3 on eeepc 701 for one year by tweaking emacs.d carefully. – chen bin Nov 8 '14 at 10:46
  • I haven't had lag problems with Emacs in a decade or so, modern machines have way outstripped it. The only thing that might cause a difference on a really old or slow machine is antialiased text. But you can change that without compiling it. – Alan Shutko Nov 8 '14 at 14:40
  • @AlanShutko: so it seems that I do have an old/slow machine... – mbork Nov 8 '14 at 17:02

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