every time I git clone my configuration of Emacs into a new machine and start Emacs, there will be error message in Emacs:

error: Unable to activate package 'company-auctex'.
Required package 'auctex-11.87' is unavailable

I know I can fix this problem by package-install auctex manually, but is there a way that I can check if activating company-auctex package failed and then install auctex automatically?

  • 1
    Maybe it helps if you run (unless (package-installed-p 'auctex '(11 87)) (package-install 'auctex)) in your init-file.
    – Tobias
    May 4, 2018 at 13:40
  • I did this, but it keeps saying the same error, and it won't install auctex. (BTW, the version of the auctex is not important).
    – CodyChan
    May 7, 2018 at 2:44

1 Answer 1


If you're open to a sliiiightly different approach, may I heartily recommend use-package? Rather than "attempt to use, check for error, install if error," use-package will, on first install, check if the package exists at all and install it if needed. It's also effectively a deferred require, which can be very nice for managing package existence without bogging down loading.

This does, of course, mean you have to be sure use-package is installed properly, but the up-side is you only have to manually ensure a single package. I do this as @Tobias suggested, with an addition:

;; Be sure we've fetched the package archive at least once before
;; attempting to install anything.
(unless package-archive-contents

;; Manually check for `use-package`, install if needed
(unless (package-installed-p 'use-package)
  (package-install 'use-package))

Do note: in the case of auctex specifically, the use-package declaration takes a particular form:

(use-package tex
 :ensure auctex)

This is due to an idiosyncracy of auctex itself; see this question and very thorough answer for details.

  • I know everyone is recommending use-package, and I've noticed this package and recommendations years ago, I've tried to use it several times, although it shouldn't be but it is really complicated to me, I don't fully understand how to use it for my init.el(my init.el is a mess) according the docs I've seen. And if I turn all my init.el into using use-package, that would be a lot of work. I'll consider your suggestion and may take a look at the use-package docs again and change my whole init.el once for all.
    – CodyChan
    May 7, 2018 at 2:56
  • Very reasonable. It can be used partially -- that is, you don't have to convert all-or-nothing. If usage examples are helpful, my emacs configs use use-package extensively: github.com/Gastove/orary/blob/master/init.el
    – Gastove
    May 7, 2018 at 14:18

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