What am I trying to achieve

I want to use emacsclient (not emacs) as my default text editor on Debian Buster.

What have I tried so far

  • Alternatives:

    > sudo update-alternatives --config editor`
    There are 3 choices for the alternative editor (providing /usr/bin/editor).
    Selection    Path                Priority   Status
      0            /bin/nano            40        auto mode
      1            /bin/nano            40        manual mode
      2            /usr/bin/emacs       0         manual mode
    * 3            /usr/bin/vim.basic   30        manual mode

    Emacs is listed here, but when I choose 2, and test using git rebase -i HEAD~3 (in a git directory) it launches a new emacs instance.


    I added these 2 lines in my .bashrc:

    EDITOR="emacsclient -nw"

    I can confirm the values are set but git rebase -i HEAD~3 still opens a vim. (This is despite the fact the documentation saying that $EDITOR & $VISUAL are taken into account )

How can I set my default editor to be emacsclient, both for terminal & GUI? (Preferably without changing my system in too many places)

1 Answer 1


I figured out why .bashrc solution didn't work. I had to actually export the variables:

export EDITOR="emacsclient -nw"

I use -nw both for $EDITOR & $VISUAL since I don't want to involve my emacs frame as much as possible.

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