I work on a Mac 10.9.5 and use Emacs 24.4 (installed with macports).

This question is related to https://stackoverflow.com/questions/27778836/customizing-emacs-open-new-files-tabs-and-properly-storing-back-up-files?noredirect=1#comment43984459_27778836 .There I was advised to split the "whole-question" into different questions, and also post it here, so here is the 1st of 3 emacs related questions, , hopefully in a better format and in a more adequate stack exchange.

open an empty, brand new file in a new Emacs window, from terminal.

at the moment, when I type in my terminal (or XQuartz), for example:

>emacs new.py &
The file ~/new.py does not exist.

which, effectively, does not exist, but I would like Emacs to open an empty file called new.py. Of course, I can always get around by typing:

>emacs &

then start coding and save it as new.py. I simply would like to be able to do that from terminal. Also, once emacs is open, if I type >emacs& on terminal, I "land" in the file already open and I have to do : Cmd-N + C-x C-f to open a brand new file. So my first question is: Is there something to be added to my .emacs file so I open a brand new file from terminal?

  • Do we understand the emacs & command the same way? Launch command in background?
    – Nsukami _
    Jan 6, 2015 at 13:22
  • It should just work. When I type emacs newfile.txt -Q (the -Q to prevent loading the init file to confirm that it's vanilla Emacs), Emacs pops open with a buffer for newfile.txt.
    – Dan
    Jan 6, 2015 at 13:35
  • Hi Nsukami. Thanks for answering. Ignore the & if you want. Typing emacs new.py without the & does return the message new.py does not exist as well. For example, the fink emacs installation seems to do it by default.
    – Javier
    Jan 6, 2015 at 13:36
  • @Dan, thanks. However, emacs newfile.txt -Q returns open: invalid option -- Q
    – Javier
    Jan 6, 2015 at 13:42
  • Do you have emacs defined as an alias or a shell script? Seems like you are not invoking Emacs directly.
    – glucas
    Jan 6, 2015 at 14:22

2 Answers 2


I suspect this has to do with the way Emacs is being packaged as an OS X GUI app (MacPorts) and called via an alias. I'm not on an OS X machine at the moment but it looks like the arguments you are passing from the shell are being processed by the OS X opencommand rather than Emacs itself.

The wiki page here http://www.emacswiki.org/emacs/EmacsForMacOS#toc20 suggests that what you want to do is:

open -a /Applications/MacPorts?Emacs.app <file-name> 

A potentially nicer option would be to start the Emacs GUI app and call (server-start) (say, in your init file) to start a server. Then you can use emacsclient from the shell when you want to open something. Take a look at the Emacs Server manual page for details.


For future readers who don't skim the comments below, @Javier solved the problem by defining his own emacs alias to call the app directly, e.g. in .tcshr

alias emacs  /Applications/MacPorts/Emacs.app/Contents/MacOS/Emacs 
  • Hi glucas, thanks for your answer. Still, open -a /Applications/MacPorts?Emacs.app new.txt returns open: No match, since new.txt does not exist (I want emacs to create it, as if I typed for example, mvim foo.txt). I will dig into the emacsclient as I have never used it, thanks again.
    – Javier
    Jan 6, 2015 at 15:03
  • Looks like a common question, see stackoverflow.com/questions/18808201/… and the other SO thread it references.
    – glucas
    Jan 6, 2015 at 15:09
  • Thanks for the post, problem solved. I just included in my .tcshr file a direct call to the application: alias emacs /Applications/MacPorts/Emacs.app/Contents/MacOS/Emacs and it works. Thanks again glucas
    – Javier
    Jan 6, 2015 at 15:24

You can use:

emacs -a new.py

This creates the new file and opens it in Emacs window.

  • -a is not a legal option here
    – Qudit
    Mar 31, 2018 at 5:43

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