I want to use several emacs configurations/versions simultaneously so that no configuration disturbs each other, each with their own configuration directory and elpa repository. I heard about the trick with symlinking ~/.emacs.d and ~/.emacs, but that is not what I want, because it'd be best if I can run my default emacs installation and simultaneously a testing installation (new emacs releases) or another setup like Spacemacs or Prelude.

Is there any decent way to do this?


I just did that using chemacs.

Considering you don't have an .emacs file in your home folder you can follow this instruction to install it:

Clone the Git repository, and run install.sh

$ git clone https://github.com/plexus/chemacs.git
$ cd chemacs
$ ./install.sh

you should get this message:

OK      Creating symlink ~/.emacs -> /home/arne/chemacs/.emacs

If you already have an .emacs file, rename or move it somewhere.

Next step, create the file: .emacs-profiles.el in your home folder:

$ touch .emacs-profiles.el

Here is an example of the this file:

(("default" . ((user-emacs-directory . "~/.emacs.d")))
 ("spacemacs" . ((user-emacs-directory . "~/spacemacs"))))

Mine looks like this:

(("default" . ((user-emacs-directory . "~/.emacs.d"))) ;; DoomEmacs, my default emacs
 ("prelude" . ((user-emacs-directory . "~/emacsprelude/.emacs.d"))) ;; Prelude
 ("goodemacs" . ((user-emacs-directory . "~/myemacs/.emacs.d")))    ;; my own config
 ("spacemacs" . ((user-emacs-directory . "~/spacemacs/.emacs.d")))) ;; Spacemacs

Here I create the file ~/myemacs/.emacs.d/init.el, for my own config.

Now to use a config, I run one of the following command:

$ emacs --with-profile 
$ emacs --with-profile myemacs 
$ emacs --with-profile prelude
$ emacs --with-profile spacemacs 

Hope this help.


I wanted the same and stumbled across a tip at the Spacemacs Github site, so I came up with the following script, which assumes that alternate configurations are stored in ~/alternate-emacsen/NAME-OF-CONFIG. I use this eg. to test emacs26 pre-release while working with a plain emacs25 and being able to use spacemacs, doom emacs or any variant configuration whenever I want to.

The script resides in ~/bin and assumes that <name-of-config> and the name of the softlink which calls it are identical; eg. if you want to launch the config stored in ~/alternate-emacsen/deepin-emacs you need a softlink ~/bin/deepin-emacs.

Be sure to put .emacs.d inside the <name-of-config> directory since the latter is used as a fake home directory, so that the actual ~/.emacs.d and ~/.emacs do not get touched.

If you think this is useful or suits your needs, feel free to use it.


# alternate-emacsen ––  A bash  script to launch  Emacs in  completely different
#                      configurations,   like   GNU   default,   Deepin   Emacs,
#                      Spacemacs, CL  server,… from  their own  config directory
#                      trees.
# Usage:
# – create  a  directory  $HOME/alternate-emacsen/name-of-config,  containing  an
#   .emacs.d with all the base configuration  inside it.  Put the init file into
#   <name-of-config> if necessary.
# – create a link  to this script, eg.
#           ln -s $HOME/bin/alternate-emacsen.sh $HOME/bin/emacs-unstable
#           ln -s $HOME/bin/alternate-emacsen.sh $HOME/bin/spacemacs
#           ln -s $HOME/bin/alternate-emacsen.sh $HOME/bin/doom-emacs
#           ln -s $HOME/bin/alternate-emacsen.sh $HOME/bin/deepin-emacs
#           ln -s $HOME/bin/alternate-emacsen.sh $HOME/bin/prelude-emacs
#           ln -s $HOME/bin/alternate-emacsen.sh $HOME/bin/emacsstarterkit
#           ln -s $HOME/bin/alternate-emacsen.sh $HOME/bin/exwm
#           ln -s $HOME/bin/alternate-emacsen.sh $HOME/bin/clemacsd
# – set  $emacsbin below to   the  emacs  version  you  prefer/use.  or   set  it  to
#   /usr/bin/emacs  for  the  system's  default.   I  use  emacs-25.2  with  the
#   Athena/Lucid X widget set  as my default GUI (not GTK because  I do not like
#   it for several reasons), so it is set as default.
# – edit the  emacs2x entries to reflect  your preferences like in  the previous
#   step.

self="emacs config launcher";
emacsconfig=`basename -- "$0"`;

test -d "$HOME" || { \
             echo >&2 "$self: ERROR –– $HOME does not exist!";
             exit 1;

# On my system, Emacs 23.2/GTK2 (in /usr/bin) is the default, but I prefer Emacs
# 25  with pure  X11  Lucid interface.   Also, the  system  default uses  partly
# incompatible ELisp packages (both to Emacs 23  and Emacs 25), so I ignore them
# by not using /usr/share/* at all (the  other Emacsen are compiled to reside in
# /usr/local and thus ignore the outer /usr tree).

case $emacsconfig in
       ;; # use emacsbin as defined in the settings

export HOME;
unset userhome;
cd "$HOME";
if test -e "$emacsbin"; then
    $emacsbin "$@"
  echo >&2 "$self: ERROR –– not found: $emacsbin";
  exit 1
  • I don't think an image is useful here, but if you want to put one, you can (and should) use the image upload button (or Ctrl+G) in the editor here. This uploads to a site that's associated with Stack Exchange so the images don't disappear when an image host goes under. – Gilles Oct 25 '17 at 9:49
  • I was a bit hesitant, too, and still not convinced to do it. But thanks for the key combo –– I didn't find anything except for the option of embedding an image link. – user17303 Oct 25 '17 at 12:56
  • @gilles: thanks for the edit, by the way, with the right tags it looks much nicer (I admit that I was too lazy to try the code tag) ;-) – user17303 Oct 25 '17 at 13:10

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