I know there are some other questions like this on the site, but none of them seem to work.

I am trying to enable relative line numbers with a package, and when I do M-x eval-buffer, the mode is enabled, but when I just launch emacs it does not get enabled. I checked and made sure that the location of init.el is the one that emacs is using, and I know that it is at least partially working because I can install packages in it and use them through M-x.

Here is my init.el

(require 'package)
(let* ((no-ssl (and (memq system-type '(windows-nt ms-dos))
                    (not (gnutls-available-p))))
       (proto (if no-ssl "http" "https")))
  (when no-ssl
    (warn "\
Your version of Emacs does not support SSL connections,
which is unsafe because it allows man-in-the-middle attacks.
There are two things you can do about this warning:
1. Install an Emacs version that does support SSL and be safe.
2. Remove this warning from your init file so you won't see it again."))
  ;; Comment/uncomment these two lines to enable/disable MELPA and MELPA Stable as desired
  (add-to-list 'package-archives (cons "melpa" (concat proto "://melpa.org/packages/")) t)
  (add-to-list 'package-archives
             '("melpa-stable" . "https://stable.melpa.org/packages/"))
  ;;(add-to-list 'package-archives (cons "melpa-stable" (concat proto "://stable.melpa.org/packages/")) t)
  (when (< emacs-major-version 24)
    (add-to-list 'package-archives (cons "gnu" (concat proto "://elpa.gnu.org/packages/")))))
 '(package-selected-packages (quote (linum-relative markdown-mode))))
(setq linum-relative-backend 'display-line-numbers-mode)

Specifically, (linum-relative-mode) doesn't work when launching emacs.

To recreate, set the file above as your init.el / .emacs file and launch emacs. Notice that there are no relative line numbers. Now run M-x eval-buffer and see that it adds the buffer just fine. My question is why launching emacs is not evaluating the .emacs file as it should?

  • 2
    Please don't just post your init file. Narrow it down, removing everything that's just noise - unnecessary to show/reproduce the problem you want to ask about. And please provide a step-by-step recipe to reproduce the problem. Thx.
    – Drew
    Jan 8, 2019 at 18:31
  • Native relative line numbers are built-in to Emacs 26+, with no additional packages needed.
    – lawlist
    Jan 8, 2019 at 19:01
  • Thanks for narrowing it down.
    – Drew
    Jan 9, 2019 at 2:09

1 Answer 1


linum-relative-mode will be a buffer-local mode, just like linum-mode. Hence when you evaluate the code, it activates for the current buffer (only).

Regular linum provides a global mode global-linum-mode, so try global-linum-relative-mode ?

or, as lawlist points out, if you are on Emacs 26+ then you should definitely use global-display-line-numbers-mode instead (and see M-x customize-group RET display-line-numbers for options).

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