My current workflow is often to do things in a terminal and open/change relevant files in a text editor. Transitioning from VSCode to Emacs I am looking for a similar workflow that I got used to when using VSCode. One of these things was navigating my directories in a VSCode terminal to search for the relevant file and simply opening it in the editor, i.e. code file.txt, and proceed to make changes.

I experienced a similar workflow using Emacs term, where I could simply navigate my folders and use C-x C-f (or rather C-c C-f when in the term-buffer) to open file as it defaulted to the current directory of term. However, when trying out vterm as I needed a better terminal emulato, I found that C-x C-f does not default to the current directory in vterm. This means that I have to manually navigate to the file I want to open in Emacs, which can be quite cumbersome.

Is there a way to configure vterm to export the current directory to the find-file functionality of Emacs? Or should I use term for simple directory navigation and vterm for more complex terminal emulation?

  • This sounds like you might want to enable dirtrack-mode. Alternatively, you can enable the emacs server, and then use emacsclient <file> from within vterm to edit files.
    – rpluim
    Sep 22, 2022 at 11:02
  • dirtrack-mode does not seem to work out of the box, but emacsclient <file> does appear to work! Sep 22, 2022 at 11:37
  • Yes, dirtrack-mode only works with modes derived from comint, which vterm isn't. But I found a better option, which I'll add as an answer
    – rpluim
    Sep 22, 2022 at 11:48

1 Answer 1


The README shipped with vterm describes how to do this in detail by sending special escape sequences in your prompt.

Cribbed from there:

    if [ -n "$TMUX" ] && ([ "${TERM%%-*}" = "tmux" ] || [ "${TERM%%-*}" = "screen" ] ); then
        # Tell tmux to pass the escape sequences through
        printf "\ePtmux;\e\e]%s\007\e\\" "$1"
    elif [ "${TERM%%-*}" = "screen" ]; then
        # GNU screen (screen, screen-256color, screen-256color-bce)
        printf "\eP\e]%s\007\e\\" "$1"
        printf "\e]%s\e\\" "$1"

    vterm_printf "51;A$(whoami)@$(hostname):$(pwd)"
  • 1
    This works great! It had never occurred to me that packages installed with package-install contain README files in the ~/.emacs.d/elpa/<package> directory. This will undoubtedly be useful in the future. Sep 22, 2022 at 12:47
  • Is there a way to do the vice versa? As in, I have an already running vterm process and want to open a vterm starting in same directory as my current buffer's? Mar 9 at 6:57
  • @user129393192 I'm not sure I understand: M-x vterm switches to an existing vterm, C-u M-x vterm creates a new session in the same directory as the current buffer.
    – rpluim
    Mar 11 at 13:17

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