In shell-mode when you exit the shell process (e.g. by typing exit) the buffer still hangs around (with the message "Process shell<1> finished").

How can I automatically kill the shell buffer when the shell process exits?

(1) Is there a package available for this?

(2) How do I write the correct piece of function advice for it? Noticing that 'shell-write-history-on-exit is called on exit I tried:

(defun leo-kill-shell-buffer-on-exit ()

(advice-add 'shell-write-history-on-exit :after #'leo-kill-shell-buffer-on-exit)

but nothing happens. What's going wrong?

  • Your advice function should take the arguments &rest _.
    – Tobias
    Mar 13, 2019 at 7:07
  • Please have a look into shell-mode. You need to have comint-input-ring-file-name set if you want to use shell-write-history-on-exit.
    – Tobias
    Mar 13, 2019 at 7:12
  • shell-mode tries to set comint-input-ring-file-name from the environment variable HISTFILE or if that does not exist it tries to set it to some defaults like ~/.bash_history. The automagic setting did not work for me, but (setenv "HISTFILE" "~/.bash-history") before starting the shell did work. Nevertheless your add-on sentinel did not run yet.
    – Tobias
    Mar 13, 2019 at 7:28
  • 1
    Just to check, did you confirm that shell-write-history-on-exit is called? That sentinel is set only for shells matching shell-dumb-shell-regexp
    – phils
    Mar 13, 2019 at 7:29

1 Answer 1


Use a process sentinel when you want to react to a process exiting. e.g.:

Refer to C-hig (elisp)Sentinels

In this case shell only calls shell-mode when (and after) starting the inferior process, so we can use shell-mode-hook to add the sentinel.

As @Tobias points out in the comments, set-process-sentinel will clobber any existing sentinel for that process. shell will always have a sentinel (exactly what it is can vary), and we can call it first.

(defun my-shell-mode-hook ()
  "Custom `shell-mode' behaviours."
  ;; Kill the buffer when the shell process exits.
  (let* ((proc (get-buffer-process (current-buffer)))
         (sentinel (process-sentinel proc)))
     `(lambda (process signal)
        ;; Call the original process sentinel first.
        (funcall #',sentinel process signal)
        ;; Kill the buffer on an exit signal.
        (and (memq (process-status process) '(exit signal))
             (buffer-live-p (process-buffer process))
             (kill-buffer (process-buffer process)))))))

(add-hook 'shell-mode-hook 'my-shell-mode-hook)

Alternatively, @Tobias has provided an alternative using advice-add:

(defun add-process-sentinel (sentinel &optional process)
PROCESS defaults to the process of the current buffer.
Use this function with care.
If there is already a process sentinel SENTINEL is used as after-advice.
That can fail if the process sentinel is reset by some other function."
  (unless process
    (setq process (get-buffer-process (current-buffer))))
  (let ((old (process-sentinel process)))
     ((symbolp old)
      (advice-add old :after sentinel))
     ((null old)
      (set-process-sentinel process sentinel))
     (t (warn "Cannot set sentinel %S for process %S." sentinel process)))))

(defun my-shell-mode-hook ()
  "Custom `shell-mode' behaviours."
  ;; Kill the buffer when the shell process exits.
   (lambda (process signal)
     (and (memq (process-status process) '(exit signal))
          (buffer-live-p (process-buffer process))
          (kill-buffer (process-buffer process))))))

(add-hook 'shell-mode-hook 'my-shell-mode-hook)
  • 1
    No good. This deactivates the process sentinel installed by shell-mode itself, e.g., shell-write-history-on-exit. If the OP set comint-input-ring-file-name the method of advising shell-write-history-on-exit is the right way of installing the additional sentinel. (AFAIK)
    – Tobias
    Mar 13, 2019 at 7:09
  • Even if there is no shell-write-history-on-exit there is an internal-default-process-sentinel. But, if you just exit maybe you can override that one.
    – Tobias
    Mar 13, 2019 at 7:45
  • I've added add-process-sentinel which is hopefully working under all present circumstances for this question. Roll back or edit if you see problems with this add-on.
    – Tobias
    Mar 13, 2019 at 7:52
  • @Tobias, I suggest you write that as a separate answer?
    – phils
    Mar 13, 2019 at 7:53
  • I consider add-process-sentinel really only as an add-on to your answer. I would only split it off if you insist. Note, that I know that the current version of add-process-sentinel is fragile. It does not work for the general case where there is already a lambda as a sentinel. One could take that lambda and call it from the new sentinel, but I did not want to go that far.
    – Tobias
    Mar 13, 2019 at 7:54

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