For the life of me, I cannot get this functionality to work:


I've run (add-hook 'shell-mode-hook 'compilation-shell-minor-mode) in my .emacs file as the only line, hoping that it would allow me to click (or otherwise navigate) on a file path while in the shell and have that file opened, as is suggested in the link.

I hoped that this would work both for output of programs like stack traces or even things like symlinks when doing ls -l.

  • 1
    Can you write what you've tried, and what you want to achieve?
    – user12563
    Jun 30, 2019 at 10:50
  • 1
    It works for output with very specific format such as filename:line:column:, some compilers use the format to report errors, you can also try grep -nH or simply echo /path/to/file:10:5:. With some Emacs Lisp experience, it's not hard to make the output of ls clickable, though it does not worth if you use Dired.
    – xuchunyang
    Jun 30, 2019 at 12:22
  • Agreed that ls isn't the most useful example, but debug or log output is great. Do you have any idea if there's a hook or configuration of some kind that allows one to tweak the file format? If you make an answer out of this comment I will accept it, and I also urge you to add this to the wiki for posterity.
    – alecvn
    Jun 30, 2019 at 15:44

1 Answer 1


The Elisp code below makes ls output of eshell clickable. It is basing on a method proposed on emacswiki.

If you click the mouse-button-2 (e.g., the middle mouse button/scroll-wheel) you get a pop up menu offering you to find the file in Emacs, to copy the file path, or to copy the path of the containing directory.

(require 'em-ls)
(require 'easymenu)

(defun eshellTZA-set-face-attribute (face-re &rest args)
  "Apply `set-face-attribute' to all faces that match FACE-RE."
  (cl-loop for face in (face-list)
           if (string-match face-re (face-name face))
           (apply #'set-face-attribute face nil args)))

(defface eshell-ls-normal '((((class color) (background light)) (:background "Light Yellow"))
    (((class color) (background dark)) (:background "Dark Yellow")))
  "The face used for highlighting normal files."
  :group 'eshell-ls)

(eshellTZA-set-face-attribute "^eshell-ls-" :background "Light Yellow")

(defvar-local eshellTZA-ls-dir nil
  "The eshell command `eshell/ls' calls indirectly `eshell-ls-dir' for each directory it lists.
The :filter-args advice `eshellTZA-ls-dir' of `eshell-ls-dir' sets this variable
to the absolute path of the directory that is actually listed
for each arg of `eshell/ls' that is an directory.")

(defun eshellTZA-ls-dir (args)
  "Filter-args advice for `eshell-ls-dir' with ARGS.
Set the variable `eshellTZA-ls-dir' to the directory listed next."
  (let ((dir (car-safe (car args)))
        (insert-name (nth 1 args))
        (root-dir default-directory))
    (setq eshellTZA-ls-dir (or (and (null insert-name)
                                    (stringp dir)
                                    (expand-file-name dir root-dir))

(advice-add #'eshell-ls-dir :filter-args #'eshellTZA-ls-dir)

(defvar eshellTZA-file-menu nil
  "Menu for <down-mouse-2> on ls-entries in eshell buffers.")

(setq eshellTZA-file-menu
      (let ((map (make-sparse-keymap "File Menu")))
        (easy-menu-add-item map nil ["Find File" find-file :keys ""])
        (easy-menu-add-item map nil ["Copy Absolute Path" kill-new :keys ""])
        (easy-menu-add-item map nil ["Copy Containing Dir" (lambda (f) (kill-new (file-name-directory f))) :keys ""])
        map)) ;

(defvar eshellTZA-ls-keymap nil
  "Value of the text property 'keymap for file names printed by eshell/ls.")

(setq eshellTZA-ls-keymap
      (let ((map (make-sparse-keymap)))
        (define-key map (kbd "RET")      'eshellTZA-ls-open-menu-at-point)
        (define-key map (kbd "<return>") 'eshellTZA-ls-open-menu-at-point)
        (define-key map (kbd "<mouse-2>") 'eshellTZA-ls-open-menu-at-mouse)

(defun eshellTZA-ls-open-menu-at-point (point)
  "Press return on Eshell's `ls' output to open `eshellTZA-file-menu'."
  (interactive "d")
  (eshellTZA-ls-open-menu point))

(defun eshellTZA-ls-open-menu-at-mouse (event)
  "Middle click on Eshell's `ls' output to open `eshellTZA-file-menu'.
Corresponding to ideas from https://www.emacswiki.org/emacs/EshellEnhancedLS"
  (interactive "e")
  (eshellTZA-ls-open-menu event))

(defun eshellTZA-ls-open-menu (&optional event-or-pos)
  "Middle click on Eshell's `ls' output to open `eshellTZA-file-menu'.
EVENT-OR-POS can be a mouse event or a point position.
Corresponding to ideas from https://www.emacswiki.org/emacs/EshellEnhancedLS"
  (unless event-or-pos
    (setq event-or-pos (point)))
  (let* ((event-posn (and (mouse-event-p event-or-pos) (event-end event-or-pos)))
     (point (if event-posn
              (select-window (posn-window event-posn))
              (posn-point event-posn))
     (position (window-absolute-pixel-position point))
     (position (if (mouse-event-p event-or-pos)
             (list (list (car position) (cdr position)) (selected-window))))
     (props (text-properties-at point))
     (fname (plist-get props 'eshellTZA-ls-file))
     (dir (plist-get props 'eshellTZA-ls-dir))
     (menu-item (x-popup-menu position eshellTZA-file-menu))
     (fun (lookup-key eshellTZA-file-menu (apply 'vector menu-item))))
    (when (and menu-item (stringp fname))
       ((functionp fun)
    (funcall fun (expand-file-name fname dir)))

(defun eshellTZA-ls-decorate (filename)
  "Advice for `eshell-ls-decorate' that adds
a popup menu to the string FNAME."
  (add-text-properties 0 (length filename)
                       (list 'help-echo "mouse-2: File Menu"
                             'mouse-face 'highlight
                             'keymap eshellTZA-ls-keymap
                             'eshellTZA-ls-file filename
                             'eshellTZA-ls-dir eshellTZA-ls-dir
  (unless (get-text-property 0 'face filename)
    (add-text-properties 0 (length filename)
                         (list 'face 'eshell-ls-normal)

(advice-add #'eshell-ls-decorated-name :filter-return #'eshellTZA-ls-decorate)

I've tested it with Emacs 26.2 running emacs -Q.

For testing you can copy-paste the code into your scratch buffer and evaluate it with M-x eval-buffer.

If you like the result you can put the code into your init file.

  • Thanks for sharing this code, it looks super useful. I'm going to work through it. @xuchunyang's comment is a little more related to my question since it answers what I can expect from Shell mode though.
    – alecvn
    Jun 30, 2019 at 15:48
  • +1, including for sharing the Emacs Wiki link.
    – Drew
    Jun 30, 2019 at 20:52
  • 1
    @skepticscript Note, that this is about 14% of my eshell setup (counted in lines). I had to remove some treatment of special cases to make it work and I did not have much time to do that. So, if you recognize some strange stuff in it or if something does not work as expected just inform me.
    – Tobias
    Jun 30, 2019 at 21:34
  • The colors "Light Yellow" and "Dark Yellow" are not valid color specs on Emacs built --with-ns. See M-x list-colors-display for available choices. On the one hand, this helped me locate a bug in a patch I'm working on that analyzes the color attribute to convert it to another form; but, on the other hand, other functions in Emacs C or Lisp may also have problems ...
    – lawlist
    Dec 18, 2020 at 19:02

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