I use shell mode, often. I use the c-xc-f. Most of the time, the start directory for looking for file, correspond to the PWD of the emacs shell buffer. Can i set that it is always the case/or reset it?

  • shell-dirtrack-mode ought to be enabled and providing this behaviour by default in shell buffers. Do you have it disabled?
    – phils
    Jan 29, 2019 at 19:35
  • If it is enabled, but not working, see if M-x shell-resync-dirs helps (use when the shell buffer is at the shell prompt).
    – phils
    Jan 29, 2019 at 19:40
  • Failing all of that, see C-h f shell-directory-tracker and C-h i g (emacs)Directory Tracking and start investigating the related variables -- chances will be that your particular shell output is not being recognised by Emacs, and you'll need to do some tweaking to resolve that.
    – phils
    Jan 29, 2019 at 19:44

1 Answer 1


If you want the shell to always start from a specific directory, you can use the shell-mode-hook. Code stored in a mode hook is executed after the mode is loaded.

We want to send a command to change the directory once the shell process has started. There isn't a stock function to send commands to a shell process. However, there's a great StackOverflow response which provides one1:

(defun sh-send-command (command)
  "Send COMMAND to current shell process.  Create shell process
if none exists."
  (let ((proc (get-process "shell"))
    (unless proc
      (let ((currbuff (current-buffer)))
        (switch-to-buffer currbuff)
        (setq proc (get-process "shell"))
    (setq pbuff (process-buffer proc))
    (setq command-and-go (concat command "\n"))
    (with-current-buffer pbuff
      (goto-char (process-mark proc))
      (insert command-and-go)
      (move-marker (process-mark proc) (point))
    (process-send-string proc command-and-go)

This can be used in the shell-mode-hook like:

(add-hook 'shell-mode-hook (lambda () (interactive) (sh-send-command "cd /path/to/start/at")))

This creates an anonymous function which calls the shell command cd to change directory to the given path. Note that you'll need to quote a path containing spaces. To do this, escape the inner quotes using a backslash: \".

If you're interested in setting a default directory across all of Emacs, and not just shell, you might be interested in this SO question: set a global default directory.

1If you like this function, give user VitoshKa an upvote!

  • Hi. My apolgies. I want that if I change a directory in the shell, and, from the shell, execute open file, that the directory shall be the new directory that the shell is. Jan 30, 2019 at 9:04
  • No need to apologize! Thank you for more detail. I'm confused now, though. How does the standard behavior differ from what you expect? Do you want the find-file prompt to always match what directory *shell* is in? Jan 30, 2019 at 13:48
  • Hi Lorem, this is exactly what I want. Thanks. Feb 4, 2019 at 10:27
  • Fantastic! I'm glad I could help! Feb 4, 2019 at 12:59
  • If the answer worked for you, please click the check mark ✓ beneath the up/down vote arrows to accept it. That gives me points which make me happy! :) Feb 5, 2019 at 14:21

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