I'm running Emacs on Ubuntu 20.04.04 LTS with the GNOME desktop and Xorg window system. I launch a file previewer located at /usr/bin/sushi with:

(start-process "proc-name" nil "/usr/bin/sushi" FILENAME)

After the previewer application launches successfully and remains open, the the Emacs process finishes and there are no active processes running through Emacs. I.e., M-x list-processes shows nothing active.

The process associated with sushi can be seen with M-x proced with a line as follows:

lawlist 13352  5.5  0.9  11:06 00:00 /usr/bin/gjs /usr/libexec/org.gnome.NautilusPreviewer

The above-process can be killed manually using the M-x proced buffer interface.

Using Emacs, how can I programmatically test for whether this particular process is running and, and if so, kill it programmatically?

2 Answers 2


You can use list-system-processes and process-attributes (untested):

(let ((pid (delq nil
                  (lambda (pid)
                    (if (string-equal
                           'comm (process-attributes pid) nil ""))
  (if pid (signal-process (car pid) 'INT)))
  • Using the sushi example, the cons cell for the comm key is (comm . org.gnome.Nauti), and the cons cell for the args key is (args . /usr/bin/gjs /usr/libexec/org.gnome.NautilusPreviewer). Once those expected values are ascertained, either cons cell can be tested. Prior to initiating the question of this particular thread, I had to spin my wheels for quite a bit of time to figure out that the sushi application launches the ...NautilusPreviewer ..., as I had been looking for the word sushi in the active list of processes. Thank you for your help -- greatly appreciated!
    – lawlist
    Sep 4, 2022 at 20:18

The following approach uses a command-line utility pgrep with the -f argument to search for a process matching a specified command line, and the utility kill is used to terminate a known PID:

(let* ((command "pgrep -f \"/usr/bin/gjs /usr/libexec/org.gnome.NautilusPreviewer\"")
       (pid (replace-regexp-in-string "\n$" "" (shell-command-to-string command))))
  (if (not (equal "" pid))
    (call-process shell-file-name nil nil nil shell-command-switch
                  ;;; Yes, we could have just used:  (concat "kill " pid)
                  (mapconcat 'identity (list "kill" pid) " "))
    (message "Cannot locate PID!")))

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