I'd like to tangle the emacs configuration externally, instead of doing it from inside emacs.

It's really hard to debug if the tangle is done in init.el

How can I tangle the configuration org-file from outside of Emacs, then call that .el file from init.el?;)

1 Answer 1


Org literate configs rely on babel to tangle their source into a .el file that emacs reads. That means that, luckily for us, there is no reason that the tangling process has to stay within just emacs. There are plenty of org-tangle implementations available online to choose from.

I will show a method available to Doom Emacs users, since that project has an accessible on/off switch for literate configs. The org-tangle script can be used from the command line. (If you are using doom emacs, org-tangle is provided in .emacs.d/bin/org-tangle.)

From the docstring of org-tangle:

;; Usage: org-tangle [[-l|--lang] LANG] some-file.org another.org
;; Examples:
;;   org-tangle -l sh modules/some/module/README.org > install_module.sh
;;   org-tangle -l sh modules/lang/go/README.org | sh
;;   org-tangle --and tagA --and tagB my/literate/config.org

In summary: Use a org-tangle script from your terminal to tangle your config outside emacs.

Edit: As @mmmmmm has noted in the comments below, the tanglers I posted here do not have noweb support for references. This may pose limitations on certain use cases for tangling outside emacs. If you know of an org-tangler with noweb_ref support, please post a comment to this answer.

  • 1
    Unfortunately no of these support noweb references so are in effect not of much use.
    – mmmmmm
    Oct 26, 2022 at 17:05
  • great, but how about calling this org-tangle from inside emacs, but actually calling the resulting .el file for the config? That would mean emacs could give sensible errors when something goes wrong?;) Oct 26, 2022 at 18:46
  • Like any other shell command, you can use M-x shell-command to run a script from emacs. You can then load your resulting config using (setq user-init-file "path/here") and (load user-init-file). If you aren't looking to load the config (I am not sure what "run the resulting file" means for elisp source), you can run a standard eval command with the expected file name as input.
    – Malle Yeno
    Oct 26, 2022 at 21:43
  • @mmmmmm If noweb is needed, I found worgle which claims to support noweb. I have not tested it myself so I can't confirm the claim, but here's the link: paulbatchelor.github.io/proj/worgle
    – Malle Yeno
    Oct 26, 2022 at 21:49
  • 1
    @MalleYeno That does not seem to allow noweb_ref - just names via NAME
    – mmmmmm
    Oct 26, 2022 at 21:54

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